Interns Sue Fox Over Unfair Practices; Thousands of Former Interns Call Them “Whineyheads”

This is the post where I sound like a cranky old woman.

Last week I read that two interns have filed a class action lawsuit against 20th Century Fox stating that their internship program “violates minimum wage and overtime laws”. One plaintiff, Eden Antalik, worked on the production of Black Swan as a corporate intern, and the other plaintiff, Kanene Gratts, worked on (500) Days of Summer as a production intern. Antalik and Gratts claim in their lawsuit that  “until July 2010,  interns hired to work there (20th Century Fox) were not paid, even though they were required to fill out I-9 forms, sign confidentiality agreements and were deemed “employees” covered under workers’ compensation laws.”

A part of me is happy for these young whipper snappers. Good for them that they’re standing up against the man. The man needs to be bitch-slapped once in awhile.

The larger part of me wants to tell the interns to “Shut the F up and deal with it, Whineyheads.”

Though I think we can all agree that many internships in Hollywood are unfair, abusive and soul-sucking, the truth is all of Hollywood is unfair, abusive and soul-sucking, duh. If Antalik and Gratts are pissed off they had to work shit hours for shit pay (and maybe were never offered a permanent job after completion of internships, hmmm?), what do they think is going to happen once they actually start working in the film industry? I have bad news for you, kiddos- it doesn’t get any easier. They forgot to tell you what H-wood is really like in film school.

When I was going to film school, I worked two internships in Hollywood. Neither job was excessive or unfair. I worked only a few hours a day and did minimal work over one semester. I didn’t get paid for either internship and I didn’t expect to. Getting paid for an internship was a fabled feat. Once in awhile we’d hear rumblings of an intern who one time made $10/hour at their internship. I  learned a significant amount at my internships and I snagged the highest achievement at one of them- a full-time job with benefits.

When I became a full-time employee in Hollywood, I was on call 24/7 with no possibility of overtime. Though I was paid decently, when broken down into hours, I received very little pay. And that’s the way it was until the next job and the next. Everyone is working shit hours for shit pay until one day they don’t. One day it all pays off. Maybe.

Maybe you’ll work your entire career in Hollywood and never get the compensation you expected and dreamed of.
Maybe you’ll jump ship before you reach the day of industry salvation.
Maybe everything will work out just perfectly.

Or maybe, just maybe, you’ll understand that all these crappy internships and jobs you had to take were part of your fraternity hazing, that everyone had to go through the same process as you and that if you can’t deal with it, you probably shouldn’t work in Hollywood.

Hollywood is a land of no promises. Working your butt off doesn’t guarantee you squat.

The best thing a young person can do before moving to Hollywood is to have zero expectations. That is why when everything does eventually pay off, it will be a sweet surprise.


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  • Reply Scott T August 27, 2012 at 10:42 am

    I hear you, especially about Hollywood being extra sould sucking, but here’s the real problem with unpaid internships and it’s bad for the studios as well.

    They lead to gentrified, middle upper class, mostly white employees. Think about it, who has the money to work 40,50,60 hours a week for free? Not poor people. Either you have to move in with your parents – and if they don’t live in LA or some other major city that’s not an option. Or depend on them for money. For a lot of families that’s just not an option. So the bright, creative kid who might have been a perfect fit for Fox Search Light or whatever company but just couldn’t afford to work all the time for free took a job at Starbucks or Costco instead (if he or was lucky enough). I’m not saying that unpaid internships are the sole cause of a bunch of white male faces from good families running the board rooms of the world, but I think it’s one of them.

    • Reply hipstercrite August 27, 2012 at 9:45 pm

      Scott, really interesting observation and I think you’re right. I’m not sure if it works this way for others, but luckily for me, my college semester in LA cost the same amount as a regular semester which was heavily discounted by financial aid (I came from a single mother household). I probably wouldn’t have been able to afford it otherwise.

  • Reply Christine Marie August 27, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    I had to laugh at the hazing comparison – that is totally what it feels like ! I do agree with you that entry level workers need to stop whining. We all have dues to pay. However, I think this situation is good warning for some companies who are taking advantage of interns. When I worked in new york for a magazine they had 10-20 interns running it and none of them paid and it was also quite clear when you got there they could not afford to hire you. I was fine with that and the experience has helped in my current job (only about 2%, but it was helpful). However, something about the situation just sort of didn’t feel right to me. . . Something about the paid versus unpaid proportion. A co-intern and I joked it was part of the 21st new York slave trade.

    • Reply hipstercrite August 27, 2012 at 9:47 pm

      Christine Marie, you’re right. I’m sure a lot of companies abuse their interns. The specifics of the internships aren’t divulged in the articles pertaining to this case, but if these kids got to work on Black Swan and (500) Days of Summer, I’d say that’s a pretty awesome and educational internship. When I was in school, we mostly got internships at production companies where we sat around organizing script libraries and picking our noses. I still learned a lot!

  • Reply Chadwick Wood August 27, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    I hear you about Hollywood unfairness and managing expectations, but I’m glad to hear about this case. I’ve had friends in various sectors that have been exploited as unpaid interns. It’s a problem across industries… This kind of thing is one of the very reasons we have a minimum wage! The NYTimes wrote a good article about it a couple of years ago:

    • Reply hipstercrite August 27, 2012 at 9:51 pm

      Chadwick, as Christine Marie mentioned, I have no doubt that many companies abuse their interns. However, I think in Hollywood, many of these internships are meant to be educational and beneficial towards networking- which they often are. The two interns suing sounded like they had pretty cool internships. It would be great if interns got paid, but I don’t feel that internships or apprentices were ever really about that.

  • Reply Laura August 28, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Totally agree with Scott here. Whereas Im from the UK and my degree was in Art History, while all the richest kids whose parents paid for everything for them got to take on unpaid summer internships with galleries & various other arts organisations, I worked in retail every weekend and full-time throughout every summer while I was a student – working for free was never an option for me. When it came time to graduate – guess who were the successful ones in gaining full-time paid employment within the industry? Yep, the ones with the experience under their belt already.

  • Reply Lilly August 28, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    This is such an interesting topic. I wish the article gave more details about the case. If they are just suing because they didn’t make enough money, well then, they need to get over themselves. But I’m pretty sure this is the same case from last year, in which 2 interns sued for not being given the education and networking opportunities one typically expects of an internship.

    So, if they were promised at least some level of education and networking, and didn’t get that, then I kind of understand. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t.

    I think, as a result of the downward economy, some companies are even more adamant (though not openly, of course) about getting free labor. So more often, interns are exploited beyond what is considered normal exploitation of interns…Lol.

    But again, I only KIND of understand. I mean, how do you demonstrate that you didn’t get the opportunities you were promised? Because you didn’t get a job or move up the ladder? That’s hard to prove. And a weak argument.

    I dunno. But I guess, ultimately, it sounds a lot like they are just being grabby interns who got miffed at not being as catapulted to fame and riches after working on one movie set. It seems like that to me, anyway.

    • Reply hipstercrite August 28, 2012 at 3:19 pm

      Lily, I wish there was more info too. The little info there is paints the interns as whineyheads. Maybe they’re not. But considering they’re not suing for mistreatment or anything like that, I’m guessing they’re just a little upset that their internships didn’t turn into something more. Hey, who said Hollywood is fair?

  • Reply Lauren August 28, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    I mean, I do think it’s kind of ridiculous to accept an unpaid position and then sue for not getting paid after the fact.

    That said I agree with the general sentiment that these kind of internships (which are in other “glamorous” industries as well) are exploitative. I think Scott also has a great point about how these opportunities are only open to those wealthy enough to work without getting paid, which is really unfortunate, and keeps the entertainment industry homogenous.

    The reason Hollywood gets away with this, and other worker rights abuses, is because people put up with it. And the reason people put up with it is because working within the industry is seen as a privilege, and everyone knows there’s always someone else who will work for free or crazy hours or whatever, if you complain.

    I don’t know if this is even out on DVD, but it is a really insightful documentary on this issue on a larger scale, directed by famous DP Haskell Wexler;

    Great post!

  • Reply carissa August 28, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    Ah man, I needed to read this tonight. I’ve always worked semi-well paying/intensely low satisfying jobs as a secretary, until this year. I’m in my dream industry doing what i love-but i get paid very little. It’s difficult to go from leading a mediocre career to doing something completely gratifying that you can barely live off of. But I keep hoping it will pay off one day. And some days I have to remind my self why I’m there. It’s worth the possibility that it will lead to something better I suppose.But if not, at least I know I can make a living somehow!

  • Reply Elizabeth Wagoner August 29, 2012 at 11:25 am

    More information about the case is available here:

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