On Tuesday, “U.S. District Court Judge William H. Pauley III found that Glatt and fellow “Black Swan” intern Alexander Footman were entitled to pay for their work on the film under the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York labor law.” (you can read the whole story at The Wrap)
I have very mixed feelings about this decision – as a producer, director, artist, and an individual working in film and theatre.
Certainly we all deserve to be paid for our expertise, there is no question about that.
At the same time, I got my start in the industry because of these intern opportunities. No one ever forced me to intern, I had the choice to do so, to gain experience, as I decided I needed it – and as it benefited me.
Now, companies will be more reticent then ever to offer these entry level positions for fear of similar lawsuits. They will simply hire experienced assistants, closing the door on those without that experience.
Understand, filmmaking and theatre are essentially some of the last apprentice based businesses. How do you get a job if you have no experience? You can’t.
And while you can study them in school, and get a degree, you really can only learn and begin to master them by “being in the room” and seeing how it is really done, it can’t be learned from a book.
Thus, Pauley’s decision, and the precedence it sets, will unfortunately further eliminate the very few opportunities that allow individuals starting out in the business WITH NO EXPERIENCE to have access to it ~ thus eliminating the opportunity for these individuals to gain the very experience and credits they need to land paying jobs.
There’s a simple work-a-round; Producers can simply pay minimum wage for these positions – which is what I have often done since I began producing. But once these jobs become paid positions – even minimum wage ones – you’re going to hire those people with the most experience – closing the door on those starting out.
Face it, the reality is that film and theatre are businesses that are very, very, very hard to break into and another “avenue in” has been effective eliminated at the very moment there are fewer and fewer films being made and thus, less opportunity.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.