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Intern...To pay or not to pay...

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Jeffrey GouldIntern...To pay or not to pay...
by on Apr 7, 2006 at 11:35:16 pm

Hi, A long time client has a son who is interested in video production/editing and asked me if I'd take him on shoots and maybe watch some editing, so I said sure. He knows nothing, just started taking classes at a college in January. He is coming on a shoot in a few weeks, just talking heads, nothing exciting. Question is, should I pay him something for his time? if so...then about the bigger shoots that he accompanies me on, with long shoot days and is actually valuable? Never had an intern, so I don't know the proper protocol. Thanks.

Jeffrey S. Gould
Action Media Productions


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tony salgadoRe: Intern...To pay or not to pay...
by on Apr 8, 2006 at 3:49:34 am



If he is motivated and is willing to pay his dues by contributing hard work, sweat and a quest to learn the business then he is an asset and should be compensated.

However if he is nothing but a "warm body" (no brain) with no interest in actually contributing to the shoot via a mental or physical contribution then he is worthless in the long run.

If you had the choice to hire a qualified assistant who has experience would you do so instead of the intern or are you hoping to save some money by paying the intern nothing?

This case is a two way street for both of you. If both parties have something to gain from each other via a mutual exchange then the deal is worth it for everyone.

One last thing to consider is the political implications with your client should the internship relationship not work out and things go bad (ie the kid is responsible for damaging or losing gear).


Tony Salgado


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Jeffrey GouldRe: Intern...To pay or not to pay...
by on Apr 8, 2006 at 3:36:03 pm

Good points Tony. On this first shoot, I can handle it alone as I did for them two weeks ago...I thought it was a good opportunity for him to get used to the equipment. I'm actually a very generous person and my first thought was to pay him no matter what he did, but then I thought as you did...that he is benefiting in his own way. For the first major shoot in May at a hospital I will have my regular assistant who has been with with me for years, so the new kid will mostly observe. I'm hoping that one day he will be an asset and I guess at that time I can re-evaluate the money/benefit situation. As far as something breaking...that could happen to any of us. Thanks for you input...much appreciated.

Jeffrey S. Gould
Action Media Productions


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mark SuszkoRe: Intern...To pay or not to pay...
by on Apr 10, 2006 at 3:11:08 am

Good points made already. There have always been some folks in the business that considered interns to be cannon fodder: unpaid, no insurance, they should be grateful to be getting the free tutelage, etc. etc (damn, you gave ne Equal, I told you it was Sweet & LOW!).

It's usually no fun working for these kind of people as a salaried person either: they are often abusive bosses, and inspire no loyalty. And even though the helper is "free", the bosses are remarkably stingy with the actual teaching they do dispense. Remember the class-action by interns in LA a couple years back? there is a bible verse that goes something like: "don't hold back payment for the worker is worth his wage".

I interned in college for no money, but I DID get academic credit and a good solid demo reel and list of skills when I was done. When I was a graduate and between jobs, I volunteered a couple hours a week at a local Cox cable outlet's studios just so I could put down career-related experience in my resume without leaving a summer-long gap, as I looked for paying gigs and produced some stuff on my own.

I think this first one, you pay him for his gas to get there and maybe buy him his lunch, see how things work out. Spend the day really evaluating how engaged and proactive he is, how many questions he asks. Give him something to do besides fetch and carry, if you can, even if it's only field logging or holding a boom or reflector. See if he thinks this really is something he wants to pursue. If you really can't afford to pay him, ask if you can trade-out some edit time to him so he can build a reel.

It should be a two-way transaction, and each side should get some value.




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mark SuszkoRe: Intern...To pay or not to pay...
by on Apr 10, 2006 at 3:38:41 am

I remembered a few other things...

We used to get high school interns and grad student interns at my place of work. Both got academic credit, the grad students (unknown to me) also got a stipend, so they were getting paid to be taught by us in essence, plus they were getting academic credit and work experience for their resumes.

Generally speaking, the high schoolers had it all over the grad students in terms of motivation, dedication to duty no matter how menial the task, and general interest in the work. Of the grad students that came thru our program, only a handful were worth the oxygen they consumed.

Typically, they thought they already knew everything, could not be told anything, and found most of the jobs in the shop beneath their massive talents. Mind you, after evaluating them on gear like lighting, cameras, switchers, it became clear in short order their self-evaluation of their talents was a little premature. One such kept bitching about paying for metered parking (50 cents an hour), and at semester's end, I found out he'd been paid a significant wage that more than covered his transportation costs. That guy was a disaster in the field productions, and sloppy in the studio. His final self-directed production under us was less of a "magnum opus" and more a mega-doofus.

The high schoolers in general had no such attitude problems, perhaps because they were so young they didn't expect to know anything about anything, ego was not so much a factor. They tended to be slightly intimidated by the technology and the perception they were handling thousands of dollars worth of OPM in gear, but a little encouragement and they were soon off to the races. They also didn't complain about their occasional scutwork, like making dubs and labeling them, or filing tape in the library for an hour. We took pains to make sure for each hour of scutwork, they got out in the field with us and worked a camera or the audio or whatever, and we spent hours training them on the editing controller and switcher, teaching them how to light, etc... We helped them build demo reels of their own work.

They weren't all winners; we had two guys that personified "Goofus & Gallant". Goofus was a frat boy that spent his every idle hour palying tetris on his cel, and never showed much self-direction - you had to tell him everything andpoint him at it to get it done. I think he's a burger flipper now. Gallant spent his down time learning photoshop in depth and practicing with the editing controls, when not reading Kierkegard or something like that. He left us and toured three countries on a Fullbright, and probably makes more money than me already.

One of our highschoolers wound up in tech positions in a Chicago station, another one went to work for DC comics about the time they killed Superman. One of our grad students went to work for us for a while then went out on his own. I hear he's pretty good now:-)

The fastest time to quit for an intern was about one hour. Some well-connected, over-entitled trust fund royal came in expecting to be catered to and put in charge of something, though they had zero experience, they wanted to Direct something. On their first day I asked them, like everyone else, to file a handful of tapes in the library before the afternoon's shoot, to kind of learn how our filing system works. ( a five minute job) They quit after an hour, left and never reported back. It was a kindness, I guess; neither of us wasted much of the other's time.



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Jeffrey GouldRe: Intern...To pay or not to pay...
by on Apr 10, 2006 at 2:47:53 pm

Written very well Mark. I agree with everything you said. Like I said...I'm generous with my time, knowledge and money...if there is interest. This first job is just locking down the tripod and shooting 8 testimonials on a white background...not too exciting, but at least he see the lighting set up, my DV Rack set up and just be in that environment. When I was young and came upon a movie being filmed, I was like a kid in a candy store...I'm hoping this kid will have the same reaction, I think so. What I like about him, is that he is completely moldable...no predisposed way of doing things. Thanks Mark.

Jeffrey S. Gould
Action Media Productions


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tony salgadoRe: Intern...To pay or not to pay...
by on Apr 10, 2006 at 4:57:56 pm



Mark,

Tell us more about the details regarding the intern class action suit. I never heard about this story.

Did this occur in LA as in Los Angeles?



Tony Salgado


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John CuevasRe: Intern...To pay or not to pay...
by on Apr 10, 2006 at 2:04:48 pm

Jeffrey

10 years ago I was pretty much in the same boat as your intern, just starting out, no real experience but very motivated to break into this business. Fortunately for me I found an extremely talented editor/shooter who said I could hang out with him on shoots and edits, providing I would help out around the studio.

During shoots for the first 3 months he always brought along a paid grip or some paid assistant. Then for a couple of shoots, it was just me and him. Now I realize I was being tested to see if I could handle it. After that he offered to make me his number 1 go to guy. About 7 months later he hired me full-time.

Just my opinion, but I think that was a pretty good way to figure out if I could do the job and two whether I was serious or wasting his time. Worked out well, since I'm making a living doing this now.

Johnny
Editor/Ck&Co


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Jeffrey GouldRe: Intern...To pay or not to pay...
by on Apr 10, 2006 at 2:56:56 pm

Hi John, That is exactly what I plan to do on the first big shoot at a cancer center in May...bring my own PA along and have him show the intern the setup and the names of the different types of lights, equipment, etc... For this small shoot in two week, it will just be him and me. In september he starts at a local university, so it might be hard to juggle his schedule to fit mine, but if he's good, I'll make it work. I never liked being dependent on one person, so I'm hoping he fits the bill both in personality, work ethic and skill. He did state that is interest is more in editing and not production. Thanks for the replies.

Jeffrey S. Gould
Action Media Productions


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