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What Fox Searchlight's Black Swan Intern Lawsuit Means for Future Movie Productions

Posted by Christina Cooper on June 18, 2013 at 4:10 PM



Doesn't it seem that every available job is an unpaid internship? As someone attempting to break into the industry, I understand that most jobs I'm applying to are internships.  And most of those internships will be unpaid positions where I would be expected to work 15-20 hours or so a week.  Most young people entering any industry are prepared to work for a few months for free if that means creating contacts and a resume that leads to a full-time paid job.. But a New York judge ruled that Fox Searchlight Pictures violated the state's minimum wage laws during the production of Black Swan.


Unpaid interns have become almost the norm around movie productions and among most other industries.  The judge ruled that the work done by the two prosecuting interns was indeed work and that they deserved to be paid by the studio.  Their responsibilities were close enough to the other employees to warrant being paid. 


Although Fox plans to pursue a reversal on the ruling, many agree with the Court's decision.  In most cases, interns are working as many hours as employed workers and are receiving none of the benefits besides experience and possibly college credit. 


Eric Glatt, one of the Black Swan interns who brought the case forward stated:


“I’m absolutely thrilled. I hope that this sends a very loud and clear message to employers and to students doing these internships, and to the colleges that are cooperating in creating this large pool of free labor — for most for-profit employers, this is illegal. It shouldn’t be up to the least powerful person in the arrangement to have to bring a lawsuit to stop this.”


The New York State judge based his ruling on the belief that there are very few times when Internships are legal.  Unpaid internships should remain in learning environment and not job positions that could be filled by a regular employee.  


This is the first step the country has taken to stop the recent trend of unpaid internships.  It seems every job a college student/recent grad can apply to are all unpaid positions.  As a recent graduate, I'm not sure how I, or any of my just-graduated-peers, can afford to live on an unpaid salary.  This new standard may decrease the availabe entry positions in the industry at first, but hopefully studios understand how beneficial and coveted internships are to passionate young people looking to enter the industry. 


For years the trend of doing the unglorified grunt work (Answering phones, answering mail, getting coffees, etc.) has been reserved for unpaid interns.  The consequences of the Court's ruling have yet to be properly understood.  Will studios still offer unpaid internship positions with strict guidelines that would place it in the unpaid category? Or will the Court's ruling begin to strike down unpaid internship positions on the grounds that the work done is equivalent to a paid employees?


What does this ruling mean for the future of film production? 


Source: Cinemablend

Categories: Geeky

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