Last week, the New York Times reported:
Two men who worked on the hit movie “Black Swan” have mounted an unusual challenge to the film industry’s widely accepted practice of unpaid internships by filing a lawsuit on Wednesday asserting that the production company had violated minimum wage and overtime laws by hiring dozens of such interns.
A friend of mine shot me an email, asking, “How does the Anonymous PA feel about this?”
Where to begin!? This case touches on a number of issues that I’ve written about.
- Alex Footman, the co-plaintiff in the case, was a recent grad when he took the “Black Swan” gig.
- Eric Glatt, the other co-plaintiff, was a forty-two-year old MBA when he took the job. It sounds like the Accounting Department took a shot on a forty-two-year-old, and how does he repay them? With a lawsuit.
- The unpaid Hollywood internship is nothing new. I’m sure Douglas Fairbanks had unpaid interns on his movies.
- If they had played their cards right, they should’ve been able to parlay their unpaid internships into paid jobs. The fact that they didn’t leads me to one of two conclusions… a) They were bad at their jobs or b) They were assholes.
Considering that these two showclowns were resourceful enough to find a lawyer and file a lawsuit, I’ve got to think that they’re smart and somewhat capable. So I think they were probably difficult to work with and self-righteous – horrible traits in a PA.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not defending the studios here. Unpaid internships are exploitative, sure, but if these guys wanted to work some place where their rights are respected and they’re paid fairly for their work, they should’ve run for Mayor and Vice-Mayor of Candyland.
To all aspiring PAs out there, I’m not sure how much longer unpaid internships will be around, so consider yourself lucky (I suppose). But today’s battle over unpaid internships will be some other battle tomorrow. The moral of the story, if I could impart one, is that you’ve got to play by the same rules that everybody else did if you want to win the game.