College Student Gets Opportunity of a Lifetime to Work as an Intern on Academy Award Winning Film, Then Files Lawsuit

From NPR:

Alex Footman…worked as an unpaid intern for Black Swan, a film that won numerous awards and grossed over $300 million.

Footman was hoping an internship with Black Swan would open doors in Hollywood. Instead, it has made him rethink his career plans. “This was six months of my life which left me nowhere further a…

  1. Midget Faded Rattlesnake

    Another quick thought:

    • If there were no minimum wage laws, I’d bet there’d be a lot fewer unpaid internships.

    Some unpaid internships are undoubtedly apprenticeships where the “employers” (if that’s the right word) lose more on training their interns than they gain in added labor. But many unpaid interns do valuable amounts of work for their “employers” — just not necessarily work for which the employers can afford minimum wage.

    As the fella said,

    “This really just seemed like I was just working and wasn’t getting paid for it.”

    Perhaps without minimum wage laws, he would have received some compensation, and felt less like he was just working and not getting paid for it.

  2. Todd
    Perhaps without minimum wage laws, he would have received some compensation, and felt less like he was just working and not getting paid for it. · Nov 14 at 12:58pm

    Great point!  Thank you.

  3. Franco

    I have to disagree. If working as an intern has any value, then those with inside connections will get the gig over others anyway. And there are employer’s who cynically exploit the intern market. If the intern is getting real experience it may be worthwhile, But saying, “I worked as a janitor on Black Swan cleaning up fake blood and sweeping feathers” means absolutely nothing on anyone’s resume. Also, if a project becomes as successful as Black Swan, there should be some after the fact compensation. Take the interns out to a nice dinner throw them a party and give them a letter of thanks for working on the project or something.

    The tacit agreement you make with an intern is that they will learn something in exchange for free work. 

  4. Franco

    I remember there was another complaint, more significant than this one, from the dancer who performed ‘as” Natalie Portman on this film and didn’t get proper credit. The intern complaint may or may not have merit, but I am equally willing to suspect the producers are typical Hollywood creeps who use people… I think “using” people was invented in Hollywood actually, and it has developed into a sport.

    BTW, negative things involving anything under the Fox domain is not likely to be put on the main feed, just in case you didn’t know that.

  5. Todd
    Franco: saying, “I worked as a janitor on Black Swan cleaning up fake blood and sweeping feathers” means absolutely nothing on anyone’s resume. 

    What explains the demand for these positions? 

  6. John Marzan
    Fox: ‘Black Swan’ Interns Didn’t Work For Us

    Fox Filmed Entertainment today finally gave its side of that lawsuit filed by two interns against Fox Searchlight over their work on the hit indie Black Swan. The studio maintains that the interns were working for director Darren Aronofsky’s production company well before Fox Searchlight ever became the distributor.

  7. Jimmy Carter
    Franco:. Also, if a project becomes as successful as Black Swan, there should be some after the fact compensation. Take the interns out to a nice dinner throw them a party and give them a letter of thanks for working on the project or something.

      · Nov 14 at 3:18pm

    Yer more than Free to do that with Yer interns.

    As far as I know interns know the employment terms of the deal before hand; like working for free. They’re also Free not to do it.

  8. Joe
    Beasley

    While Starve The Beast is painting a caricature, it is no straw man. 

    With a paint sprayer. And it is a straw man in this case, because a self-esteem culture has nothing to do with an isolated case of a couple kids feeling cheated. They worked for free in the expectation of non-monetary benefits, didn’t get them (or earn them, not sure on the details as they actually happened), and now want the money. They assumed the risk and wrongly feel entitled, but it’s not because they had high self esteem. It’s because people feel screwed when they work hard for someone and don’t receive what they expect, a sentiment that’s existed for thousands of years. Dumping on the younger generation’s a thousand year old tradition too.

    I agree with all your points about teachers and journalists. Every teacher I know has had a lot of faith in the state, and usually that’s meant a liberal bent. But I think it’s problematic to point to this as an illustration. I can show you a dozen unionized Boomers that feel the same way about their jobs. It isn’t generational.

  9. Beasley
    QuickerBrownFox

    Beasley

    While Starve The Beast is painting a caricature, it is no straw man. 

     I think it’s problematic to point to this as an illustration. I can show you a dozen unionized Boomers that feel the same way about their jobs. It isn’t generational. ·

    Your right, it’s not exclusively generational. This point never stuck with me until I heard Robert Sherrod’s narration for WW2 in HD, where he described the soldiers headed to the pacific front as young, undisciplined and unready for battle. We all know what that experience shaped those men into. 

    I would also like to clarify that I’m not just engaging in generational sniping. I’m likely the same age these two boys.

    Their case does exemplify some disturbing trends that I believe are signs of decline, particularly in this (my) generation.

     1) Part of their lawsuit has nothing to do with them, but inhibits other young potential film-makers from being able to make something of the opportunity that they were given. Since their claim was not they they were abused, just short-changed, I see this behavior as indefensible. As well, the broad ambiguity of their claim opens the opportunity for any person whose hopes and desires in a new job, superseded their outcome, to files suit rather than simply quit and find something else.

    I also agree that there are many unionized Boomers who would concur, and this illustrates my second point.

  10. Beasley

    2) Unions as well as Universities have swung dramatically to the left in the last half century. Instead of existing to insure the safety and reasonable treatment of their workers, most unions are just front groups for politically motivate extortionists. Why else would manufacturers move to right to work states, and pay workers near equivalent salaries? (I and Thomas Sowell would argue to pay absolute equivalents would put companies in the same financial duress as their unionized competitors.) 

    Likewise, Universities have become indoctrination centers for liberal thought. Since the late ’60′s the balance of liberals in education has swung far to the left, and have evangelized the importance, not only standing for liberal policy, but of enforcing that belief through policy onto their peers. 

    How does this apply to the example of Mr. Footman? I go back to my point that his grievance is not only for himself, but affects any person who would care to accept the same compensation for the opportunity he was granted. 

    It is one thing to claim you were inadequately compensated. It is something else to claim it was an injustice so severe, that others need protection against it. If the two boys in this lawsuit can find a slightly larger group to concur with their claim, my mind may be swayed. Until then, they sound like all the other economically uneducated whiners I hear on a day to day basis on my college campus.

  11. DocJay

    Wow.  I guess the reality that mommy and daddy aren’t giving him extra special birthday parties still and trophies just for showing up has not hit him yet.  

    He still has a future job as a Herman Cain accuser if he plays his cards right.

  12. mesquito

     It was not a learning experience and that was what I had expected.

    Already knew everything about everything, I reckon.

  13. Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    Instead, it has made him rethink his career plans. “This was six months of my life which left me nowhere further along in my career than before,” Footman says.  “It was not a learning experience and that was what I had expected.

    But if it made him rethink his career plans, wasn’t it a learning experience?

  14. Johnny Dubya

    The Entitlement Generation strikes again.

  15. Michael Tee

    My time is worth money. I would never work free at any point in my career.

    There is only demand for these unpaid internships because there are a lot of well-off students who can afford to work for nothing. They group in an environment where they do not learn early that their time should be compensated when toiling for an enterprise that would ordinarily pay for the same tasks.

    Volunteering is fine for soup kitchens, church events, and Scout meetings. Other than that…

  16. Larry3435

    Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the legal test for determining whether someone qualifies to be an unpaid intern, rather than an employee, is as follows:

    1.   The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment; 2.   The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;  3.   The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff; 4.   The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;  5.   The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and  6.   The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

    http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs71.pdf

  17. Beasley
    Michael Tee: My time is worth money. I would never work free at any point in my career.

    There is only demand for these unpaid internships because there are a lot of well-off students who can afford to work for nothing. They group in an environment where they do not learn early that their time should be compensated when toiling for an enterprise that would ordinarily pay for the same tasks.

    Just because they don’t recieve a paycheck does not mean there is no compensation.

    For many jobs, you cannot simply show up with your shiny new degree and get hired. So, even though your bank account is not fatter at the end of the day, the value of your work is.

    Yes these kids are sniveling entitlement brats. But who they are really hurting are kids who don’t have the ability to get the skills in a trade or go to college. Kids, who a few decades ago would have worked for free or a menial amount as an apprentice, so they could one day make a decent living and support a family. It is a win win. Especially when you look at the number of students with college degrees and no useful skills.

  18. Percival

    Our interns were always co-op students, and they got paid, but the Government picked up most of the tab.  They got experience working in an engineering environment, but the assignments could be a little grim (a lot of “PowerPoint engineering”).

    Except for my group.  We used to hijack interns and put them on stuff that we really didn’t have time to do, and usually it was something pretty cool.  One summer, it was investigating some voice recognition hardware.  Those two guys were like pigs in slop.  Not only could we gotten away with not paying them, they probably wouldn’t have taken breaks for food or sleep if we didn’t throw them out of the lab from time to time.

  19. Joe
    Franco: 

    The tacit agreement you make with an intern is that they will learn something in exchange for free work.

    While I think these interns are going way too far, I agree with the point you’re making. Employers sell these positions as chances to get an edge on an industry, and a lot of kids give up the fairly well paying jobs they had during high school summers to work them. Often, the experience is what you make it, but that can only go so far. I’ve worked on projects with interns, and because their pay came out of a separate budget, few employees cared about giving them anything substantive (the first thing the old guys did was make an Excel spreadsheet for the interns’ garbage duty – har, har! And you thought you’d be doing engineering!). The temporary nature of the employment and poor information sharing means employers can get away with stuff like that.

    If they need a janitor, they should hire one; repackaging it as an internship doesn’t cut it. We shouldn’t ban unpaid internships, but we shouldn’t encourage companies that waste young people’s time either.

  20. Joe
    Percival: 

    Except for my group.  We used to hijack interns and put them on stuff that we really didn’t have time to do, and usually it was something pretty cool.  One summer, it was investigating some voice recognition hardware.  Those two guys were like pigs in slop.  Not only could we gotten away with not paying them, they probably wouldn’t have taken breaks for food or sleep if we didn’t throw them out of the lab from time to time. 

    Same, and you could see the difference. Often the interns were fresher with computer programs and programming languages than anyone else. One of them caught a modeling input error that certainly paid his wage for the summer in saved electricity costs. Compared to those of us that had been there even a year, they had more enthusiasm and a more careful eye for detail. Needless to say, I carried the garbage for them when I could.

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