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Interns who worked on “Black Swan” sue their “employer”

Interns who worked on “Black Swan” sue their “employer” (photo)

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I think we found the plotline for “Horrible Bosses 2!” The New York Times reports that two former interns have filed a lawsuit against Fox Searchlight, claiming that their “employment” on the production of “Black Swan” constituted a violation of minimum wage and overtime laws. One plaintiff, Alex Footman, states his responsibilities “included preparing coffee for the production office, ensuring that the coffee pot was full, taking and distributing lunch orders for the production staff, taking out the trash and cleaning the office.”

Yep, sounds like an internship all right.

The whole thing boils down to whether or not not paying someone to make your coffee constitutes breaking the law. As it turns out, there are federal rules about unpaid internships. The Times lists the criteria, which demand that:

“…the position benefit the intern, that the intern not displace regular employees, that the training received be similar to what would be given in an educational institution and that the employer derive no immediate advantage from the intern’s activities.”

If the plaintiffs can prove that their “Black Swan” internships broke those rules, they’ve got a case. I’m not a legal expert, but I’m not sure they do. I am something of an expert on internships, though, since I had plenty of them in my day. If Mr. Footman’s internship is illegal, then so are the vast majority of internships in the film business. Making coffee, ordering lunch, taking out the garbage, making deliveries, that’s what film internships are. In most cases, they’re degrading, boring, and soul-crushing (to read more about my own internship experiences, check out this piece I wrote a few years ago for The Village Voice.)

My advice to any current or future interns out there is two-fold: don’t stick around if you feel like you’re wasting your time, and don’t do something for free that other people around you are getting paid to do. For example, at one internship I had, I worked my butt off, and got lots of compliments and appreciation, but when a low-level paid position opened up at the company — a position that I had performed when the guy leaving the job was sick — I wasn’t even invited to apply. That’s when I knew it was time to leave. At another internship, I was invited to write script coverage, which are brief summaries and reviews of scripts that allow development executives to decide whether or not they want to hire screenwriters without actually reading their work. Again, I worked hard at it and was praised for my work. But then I noticed they were having me write coverage regularly without paying me the $50 a pop they gave their “professional” coverage writers. Not long after that, I pulled the ripcord.

Good internships do exist. I got my foot in the door at IFC through an internship, and even before I was getting paid to write for — which didn’t take long — I was copy editing, pitching articles, and sitting in on editorial meetings. I never once made coffee and I never once fetched someone’s lunch. For every valuable internship, though, there’s five more looking to take advantage of the fact that so many people want to get a job in the movie industry that they’ll do anything to to make it a reality. Just remember: in the real world, garbage men are paid extra to clean up the trash, because it’s a crummy job no one wants to do.

What’s your worst internship experience? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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