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Intern being exploited for work?

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Tim TwinkyIntern being exploited for work?
by on Jun 26, 2006 at 4:13:47 am

I need some advice. I've interned at a small media business for four months and I just finished last week. When I first started there, a few others and I were 'replacing' the previous interns and I've only seen a couple of ACTUALLY paid-workers. After the four months, I've really gotten to know my boss well and (not to be vain) have impressed him with my work. When my internship finished, I was expecting some paying gig offer them, but was disappointed. He offered to pay for my gas to drive to the office so I could finish my last project. I went back for a week, but I don't know if I should still go to the office. I know I'm cool with him, but I thinking he just wants me do the project for him because he can't finish where I left off. During last week, he were drilling me to finish this one sequence by the end of the day and kept bickering me to finish (even though he gave me know notice of urgence). I could understand taking the pressure if I was being paid, but I was thinking, "HEY, I'M COMING HERE FOR FREE TO HELP YOU!!!" Am I being stubborn? Or should I be grateful? I've come to realize this media group is fueled by interns because when the other interns that I started with, finished and left, NEW interns were already being brought in. I don't know if this is a normal practice in this industry.

So, I don't know if I should still go in. I mean, no one has hired me for any gigs or job offers, so I have nothing to do except build-up on my reel till then. But, I don't know if I'm simply being exploited there for my work. My boss is aready EXPECTING me to be coming in next week. If I simply stopped going, I would hope it would show them my worth.

What do you guys think?

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John CuevasRe: Intern being exploited for work?
by on Jun 26, 2006 at 1:53:06 pm


I wouldn't call it normal, but it does happen. Were you there for class credit? If so then he may think you are getting paid in that respect. While you were there, I hope you took advatage of the networking opportunities.

Back when I started, hooked up with a "Production Company" that was 90% interns. 3 people who worked actually were paid and everyone else unpaid. Now this group actually produced commercials shot on film. Would be funny actually. They would hire a camera op and gaffer, and all the assistants would be interns, with little to 0 experience. Interns running the dollys, setting up lights, assisting the cameraman...was like a bad 3 stooges episode. On the plus side, I was used the job to network and got connected with a guy who took me on full time.

I would finish the project if you aren't doing anything else. You get a little extra for your reel & possible good reference. If possible, try not to burn bridges, you never know when that will come back and bite you in the butt.

Johnny Cuevas, Editor

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David Roth WeissRe: Intern being exploited for work?
by on Jun 26, 2006 at 1:54:26 pm


Its a mixed bag. On one hand I would tell you to do just about anything to get ahead in this business, but, on the other hand, there are laws about this stuff, and interns are not just slaves that companies can use in place of paid employees.

Due to abuses that went on for years in the TV and motion picture busineses, here in California there are now stringent laws pertaining to the treatment of interns. In fact, many internships now pay minimum wage. Most importantly, interns are supposed to assist in support of those in paid positions, they are not supposed to be free workers.

If I were you, I would go to the boss and tell him what you're looking for. Let him know that you like working for his company, and if he likes your work he'll have to pay for it from now on.


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Tim TwinkyRe: Intern being exploited for work?
by on Jun 26, 2006 at 11:53:09 pm

Even though I have a really good realationship with my boss, he's too cheap to pay me for motion-graphics work because he's more interested with the 3D dept. I don't think he'd ever pay me because he'll probably just find another intern to do my job and begin a new relationship.

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Jon W.Re: Intern being exploited for work?
by on Jun 27, 2006 at 8:18:48 am

I think you kinda answered your own question there, sounds like he won't pay even if you did stop coming in. So the real question is would you want that project on your reel? If so and you have no other paying gigs set up, then I would get the experience. You also have every right to say that your internship is done and you're going to work on personal projects, paid jobs, take a break, etc.

Businesses with poor managment practices like relying entirely on free labor although may make short term gains, in the long run will never make it with the big post houses. Learn and take what you can from a mediocre environment then move on.

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tony salgadoRe: Intern being exploited for work?
by on Jun 28, 2006 at 2:57:02 am

Your boss is an inconsiderate SOB who only respects you for your free slave labor.

If you ask to be compensated for your time because your skill set are essential for him to complete a project then he should have no problem hiring you. However on the other hand if he can find another slave to work for free then to heck with him.

It's time to move on to a real job where you can nuture a positive beneficial working relationship with an employer who respects you for what you have to offer.

It's a two way street but in your case you keep getting run over time and time again.

Quite honestly it's worthless to stay around and become someone else's slave.

ROI- return on investment - what did you acheive by working as an intern? Did you network with other potential freelancers or clients that will hire you or at best recommend you for real work?

Tony Salgado

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