Monday, April 05, 2010


Many animation studios have interns running around. It's been this way since I started, but the NY Times details some of the growing problems with this subset of workers who aren't really workers.

... [T]he number of unpaid internships has climbed in recent years, leading federal and state regulators to worry that more employers are illegally using such internships for free labor.

Convinced that many unpaid internships violate minimum wage laws, officials in Oregon, California and other states have begun investigations and fined employers. ...

At Little Airplane, a Manhattan children’s film company, an N.Y.U. student who hoped to work in animation during her unpaid internship said she was instead assigned to the facilities department and ordered to wipe the door handles each day to minimize the spread of swine flu.

Tone Thyne, a senior producer at Little Airplane, said its internships were usually highly educational and often led to good jobs. ...

Yesss. Wiping door handles is marvelous training for good jobs later in life. Everybody knows that.

This isn't a new phenomenon, by the way. Sixteen years ago, a small animation shop under a TAG contract had an intern doing animation on commercials in the studio's small commercial department. (They were mostly doing half-hour episodics; the commercials were a small side-line.) I found out about it on one of my jaunts through the facility, and put an end to the practice.

But that was sixteen years ago. And workplace protections haven't gotten stronger as time has rolled by. Along with the rise of "independent contractors," the reality of ever more interns doing ever more work that displaces people who actually get salaries continues unabated.


Anonymous said...

It is well known that in Hollywood, entry-level grunt work in talent agencies, studios, and production houses are used to haze and dehumanize. The loyal survivors are rewarded, over time, with reciprocal trust, incentives, and eventually, leads and connections. It is no different than Wall Street culture or many other industries. The sad part is that they do this to highly educated college graduates. This is often what the culture of cut-throat business is all about.

Anonymous said...

"The sad part is that they do this to highly educated college graduates."

yeah. boo-friggen-hoo for the highly educated... it wouldn't be sad at all for those of us that got into the industry purely on talent and gumption without the expensive piece of paper.

The sad part is that they do it to anyone at all, in any industry, regardless of education level.

Anonymous said...

They don't "do it to" highly educated college graduates. They make the offer, and the grads accept. It is as much their own fault.

Steve Hulett said...

If you have a PhD and a skill set they desperately need, you won't be hazed and humiliated.

Companies are usually not suicidal. It all comes back to leverage. When they require your talents, they'll be sugary sweet.

And when they don't, they'll (often) be brusque, businesslike and brutal.

Anonymous said...

I had a brief stint at Zoic in LA and observed the intern situation there. I was disgusted with how the unpaid interns were doing all sorts of menial tasks that had nothing to do with on the job training. Getting food from the grocery store, doing the dishes, helping with the reception desk, etc. I'm surprised they were not cleaning the toilets! A few might be "rewarded" when they finish their internship by getting hired once in a while doing camera tracking or something for low pay. In my opinion the interns are being totally used, but it is their choice to attempt getting their "foot in the door".

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