When a TV network reruns a show, they call it an "encore performance." What they should call it is, "Damn! This re-airing of is Losing it with Jillian an excellent way to drive up our margins. We don't have to pay to produce another show, we get decent ratings and advertisers will still pay a whole pile to sponsor this show" show. When I rerun a posting, I call it "I didn't have the time or interest to do today's episode." At least I'm honest.
The following originally aired May 6, 2010.
I and other film creatives my age -- recent college grads hoping to find work -- have noticed a growing trend of replacing paid employment opportunities with internships to such a degree that the entry-level job has been virtually eradicated.
This applies even to those with degrees from major schools; one glance at the private USC Cinema job board shows one (usually independent) paid opportunity for every 10 internships. I honestly I feel that the next generation of California filmmakers is being irreparably damaged by this trend; since few are being hired and moving up the chain, the producers, directors, crew members and execs who currently helm the industry may not have anyone to take their places when they retire or move up themselves.
This is just one of the myriad problems caused by unpaid internships. Another huge issue is that only very well-off or financially supported individuals can afford to work many months at a job for no pay, dramatically slanting the playing field against minorities and many women. And while, once upon a time, internships at least held the promise of mentorship, today there's little or -- more typically -- no training to be found.
It seems that the point of internships today is solely to replace paid employees in order to cut costs. Yet, legally, work performed by an intern must be of no direct financial benefit to the company. Interns are not supposed to be doing for free the tasks normally performed by a paid employee. And while photocopying and providing coverage certainly bend that rule, supposedly reputable companies are breaking that rule more and more egregiously, as no one seems to challenge "internship" listings such as this one from the LA Kings (from Craigslist):
The Los Angeles Kings are seeking an energetic individual who would like to gain experience in a fast-paced production environment. We are currently in need of an intern to assist in video production and post-production at our offices in El Segundo. Candidates should be interested in the creative process specific to sports production. Interns will have the opportunity to experience all facets of development and production and work closely with the current team in place. This is a great opportunity to get into the industry with a great organization while enhancing your production skills!
Do not respond to this ad unless you completely understand the role and compensation. If you have read through the entire ad, please put the word "Kopitar" in the subject line of your email. Also, please briefly explain your hockey knowledge.
Include observing and participating in all aspects of video production.
- Assisting producer with archiving and logging footage.
- Assisting producer with shooting interviews, b-roll.
- Assistance with clip reels, DVD duplication, editing, etc.
- Candidate must be currently enrolled at an accredited college or university pursuing a degree in production/broadcasting. Must receive college credit for internship
- Candidate must have knowledge of Outlook and Microsoft Word.
- Ability to multi-task and work in a fast paced environment.
- Candidates must possess excellent oral and written communication skills
- Candidates must possess excellent organizational skills.
- Ability to work 20 hours a week
- Experience using Final Cut Pro
- Understanding of audio and video equipment
- Basic hockey knowledge
There is no "training opportunity" to be found anywhere in this listing or the many listings like this. In fact, rather than offer skills to be learned, these "internships" require their trainees to already have professional training in order to perform their duties. Why is this allowed to continue unchecked?
For almost every unpaid "internship" out there, there's a hard-working employee not contributing to local and federal taxes, medicare or Social Security. There's an employee not covered by sexual harassment protection or protection from discrimination or receiving health care. There's an employee, potentially on unemployment, who will eventually have to move out of state in order to pay bills and put food on the table.
To put the icing on the cake, most companies in town refuse to hire anyone with only internship experience in that rare case when a job is even offered. I have a friend with great work ethic who's held a half-dozen internships -- reading scripts, covering novels, writing thousands of words for Avatar's viral advertising campaign, you name it -- only to be told that he doesn't have the "experience" to do his own job for a pay check.
The economics of Hollywood are screwy right now, but taking advantage of the lowest of the low won't fix it. And if you pay us, we can afford to see your movies and no longer bootleg versions from BitTorrent. Everybody wins.
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