Paul “ReDeYe” Chaloner, co-founder of Code Red Esports, has pretty much seen and done it all in the esports world. He’s one of the most experienced people in the industry and continues to be an example to many in the hosting realm.
We’re just three weeks into 2017 and the esteemed host has already covered a $250,000 (£203,500) Dota 2 tournament in Malaysia before heading to Leipzig to work a $100,000 (£81,400) CS:GO competition.
Recently he’s announced the launch of Code Red Esports with Ben Woodward, Luke Cotton and Austin “Capitalist” Walsh. The company not only serves as a talent management agency but has a wide ranging esports consultancy arm as well.
We sat down with Paul to discuss the company, how it came about and the plans for the future.
The first of our two pieces on Code Red focuses mainly on the foundations of the company and the talent management side. The second piece, published early next week, talks more about the consultancy arm.
How did Code Red Esports come about? Tell us a bit about the company.
We had already launched the consultancy part of Code Red when I left Gfinity at the end of February last year when Ben Woodward, Luke Cotton and I had been discussing a little bit about what I would do next.
I had decided that I would carry on hosting and casting for as long as I could and for as long as people will hire me. In the background I wanted something more long term that would have elements that I could focus on outside of casting and hosting. Equally, I wanted to exploit some of the skills and experiences that I have built up over the last fifteen years so the consultancy arm was a natural fit for us.
As we went along, we sort of realised that actually, alongside the consultancy we could offer a talent management part of the agency. It fitted very naturally with the kind of things that I wanted to do. It wasn’t necessarily because of control, but was more because I care very deeply about the talent that comes through and I care that we are able to afford people the same opportunities that I was given as I came through.
It’s vital that they are protected by contracts, have agreements in place with organisers and are paid fairly and in a reasonable time frame as well as being protected from exploitation for long hours amongst other things.
A lot of those things are things I care about very deeply and I know a lot of casters care about them to and so Code Red became a way of not forming an association, but being able to represent and manage a set of very talented people that just don’t have time for all of that other stuff. Honestly, they probably don’t care too much about it even though they should.
That’s partly why we added the talent agency part of the company – and we’re representing a wide range of talent. We have established people like Shane “Shaneomad” Clarke or Austin “Capitalist” Walsh and some upcoming new talent as well as people who are in esports from the tech and other side of things. We don’t really know how far it’ll go, but that’s the roots of it.
A talent agency certainly seems more viable than an association, as we’ve seen across various esports experiments. When you initially started talking to a variety of casters about a union, association or collective what challenges did you face?
About eighteen months ago I started talking to various casters about forming some sort of association, union or collective. It wasn’t necessarily instigated to be used as a bargaining tool against organisers but mainly as a way of allowing us to group together so that we were stronger and singing from the same hymn sheet. It was to ensure we were saying the same things and speaking through one voice.
I approached a lot of casters and sounded them out across a range of different games. Hearthstone, Starcraft, Dota 2 and CS:GO in particular were the main people I spoke to. Over a period of nine to twelve months it became clear to me that for a number of different reasons it was all very political. I don’t mean it as a criticism but pretty much everyone is or was in it for themselves.
I think the problem with freelance casting is that we’ve all been doing it for so long, that we’re very isolated from perhaps the bigger problems and think we’re the only ones that suffer from them. When it’s as competitive as it is, it becomes almost cliquey in a way that you’re constantly trying to make sure that you earn enough money and therefore are inherently wary of competition. I think that’s normal and a very human reaction so I don’t blame people for feeling like that but when we are trying to talk about how we came together as a collective – that was one of the stumbling blocks.
The other is that each game is very different and has very different sets of issues. It sort of felt like it was exceptionally difficult to bring all parties to the table, even more so as some are better organised than others. For instance, CS:GO talent have sort of clubbed together and have become much closer and discuss things between them. Whereas, some of the other esports aren’t quite as close so it’s much more difficult.
Is Code Red open to everyone? How wide ranging is the talent agency?
First of all, Code Red is not necessarily open to all as we do vet applications. We’ve had over 45 applications in the last month alone and sadly we do have a finite amount of resources. We’re just at that point now where we’re balancing how many people we look after and how much resource we have. We won’t necessarily take on a huge amount of new talent over the coming months as we just want to settle in and ensure we can service the talent we have already in a superb way and look after them.
If we can achieve that we’ll push the boundaries a little bit more, and if we feel we can we may hire another talent manager who can then look after that side of the business. It’s not open to all but not closed to all either and we have an array of people with different levels of experience. For example, we have Nick “BreakyCPK” Caras who was the voice of Heroes of Newerth but has decided to try and enter Dota 2 and Overwatch. He may not be widely known in the world of esports, but he’s already a very experienced and great caster. We then have people like Beth Freeman who I personally think is going to be a fantastic host for tech and esports over the coming years so we’re going to try and help achieve that but at the moment she has very little experience.
As you said, you have some very established talent including yourself. How are you hoping to help newer talent and how wide is the scope for talent? Is it just casters and hosts?
We’re launching our private forums soon which will be open anyone in the agency where people can learn from each other and share ideas. For example, we have a section called “Roast My Cast” which any of our members are free to put examples of their casting or hosting on and anyone is then invited to critique as and when. Everyone can go and voice their opinions in a completely independent manner, without being horrible or mean. We can say what we think is good, what we don’t like and how we think they can improve.
Ultimately, we want to help grow the quality of talent as well as protecting them. We’re not restricted to any particular esport, nor a particular role.
We also have people on our books like Noxville who works in stats, and Julian who’s a photographer. We don’t just represent casters. We want to bring in more people that work in esports broadcasting that don’t have representation. It’s a field bigger than most people imagine; there’s more and more freelancers working in production roles, director roles, sound engineering roles etc and I think and hope we can offer them a service as well.
Part 2 of the Code Red interview with Paul “ReDeYe” Chaloner will be released early next week.