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no more interns !

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Bob Zelin
no more interns !
on Aug 23, 2013 at 10:53:40 pm

I remember in the 80's when NY State started to come after business for hiring "freelancers" instead of hiring "staff", and not paying unemployment insurance, employers contribution to Social Security, etc. and everyone at the time said "oh bull@#$%, they dont' come after you for hiring freelancers". Of course, that statement from the innocent was incorrect, and you have to meet the rules to be an independent contractor - especially if you are following the instructions of your employer and using the employers equipment (editing equipment). Those are the rules, and if you are caught by the state, you will be penalized.

WELL - August 2013 front page story in Pro Sound News -
"Beyond Black Swan: The Future of Internship" -

A June 11th Court ruleing that deemed Fox Searchlight in violation of labor laws by not paying two interns has brought the validity of unpaid internships under the microscope, causing companies in numberous entertainment industries to reexamine their programs. While the ruling was a reference to a film company, it does not mean that other fields are in the clear.

Its a great article, and because the state wants TAXES, and not for your company to get FREE LABOR, this is DAY 1 of "no more free interns". Of course, many will continue to do this (like hiring freelance labor that are not setup as independent corporations), and they will over time GET CAUGHT, get audited, and pay penalties.

Welcome to 2013.

Bob Zelin

Bob Zelin
Rescue 1, Inc.

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Todd Terry
Re: no more interns !
on Aug 23, 2013 at 11:33:07 pm

Dunno about the rest of you, but at our place we've had interns in the past, but have been very sparing about that.

Primarily, not to be rude or uncaring to people who want to learn, but we're not a school and are too small to be able to devote much time and attention to teaching. But if we have someone who is really motivated, is a self-starter and learns by doing, and already knows enough to be actually helpful while they learn stuff... then yes we will consider them.

And we pay them.

Myself, I am a product of interships, and free ones to boot. My early days were in broadcast journalism, and I slaved about 60-hour free weeks for two summers in the news department of an NBC television station. I was a gofer the first couple or three weeks until they realized I knew what I was doing, then squeezed every bit of free work they could out of me... I was pretty much a regular on-air news reporter after that... which in hindsight seems borderline irresponsible of them considering this was the top station in a decent-sized market. Just goes to show you how unbelievably cheap those in the broadcast biz are.

Looking back, they sure did get a lot of free legitimate work out of me.

Then again, I was the only person in my graduating class that I was aware of that walked out of the graduation line and straight into a job.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Mark Raudonis
Re: no more interns !
on Aug 24, 2013 at 4:36:12 am

I was a PAID intern through out all four years of college. I credit my current career to my positive internship experience.

I'm a firm believer in PAYING the interns. In my case, I couldn't have taken the job for free. I needed the money I made in the summer to live on throughout college. But more importantly, I believe that there's a subtle difference in the mindset of BOTH employer and intern when there's a paycheck at stake. From the employer's POV, they feel that they shouldn't waste the money just having the interns xerox or get coffee. The incentive is to put them to work on some valuable tasks. from the intern's POV, the money allows them to NOT have to take a "hamburger" job just to make cash, and actually allows them to gain valuable professional work experience.

I actually do NOT think that this ruling will be the end of internship programs. I believe that the NUMBER of positions will decrease to a rational level, and therefore the quality of the interns will INCREASE. Less wandering souls and more focused, driven, determined young professionals.

Call me an optimist, but I think this is a GOOD thing.


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Mark Suszko
Re: no more interns !
on Aug 24, 2013 at 3:12:00 pm

I've seen both sides of the intern subject, being one, and working with them myself. It would be a shame for internships to die off, just over tax policy and accounting voodoo.

I've told this before, so here's a shorter version: When I was at Loyola, I was in a small TV production class and we all got summer internships; unpaid, but with academic credit. I wasn't fast enough off the dime and the internships at the big Chicago O&O stations all got snapped up by others, and I wound up at Continental Cablevision of Elmhurst, a Chicago Suburb. Which everybody else thought would be lame. At least it was commuting distance from home.

When the class got together at the end of the internship period to compare notes, the kids that worked at the O&O stations all had pictures of celebrities they'd met, or had great letters of introduction to job interviews from people like Bill Kurtis.... but little else to show for their time, since the union rules at those stations meant their only experience with equipment was with the phones, copier and coffee maker. They had no demo reel, but could make a damnfine cup of cappuccino. Me, they let me work everything but the uplink dish, and I had a reel of weekly variety and news programming I had written, produced, directed and edited, I was experienced in editing, shooting and lighting and sound, and I was ready to Plug and Play in a pro crew. The experience prepared me well for my career, made me qualified for employment, and taught me more than any classroom lectures alone ever could.

In my current job, I've worked with both high school and college/postgrad interns, and I have to say, it is as educational for the mentor as it is for the mentee. You never really know a subject, until you try to teach it to others. Young minds ask all kinds of questions and challenge long-held assumptions, and sometimes they cause you some introspection as to " now why DO we continue to do "x" that way?"

Our high school interns spent one semester with us, 4 days per week, for academic credit. We also hosted the occasional postgrad intern, and that was not as fun an experience.

Where the highschoolers were all pre-selected for us as cream of their academic crop and highly motivated, willing to do anything menial, just to get a foot in the door, like little prototype Bob Zelins, the postgrads came in with an attitude of entitlement and an aversion to "grunt work".

Instead of taking a turn at logging and labeling tapes for the library, and working their way thru all our various positions, having their skills evaluated like anybody else, they wanted to sit down and direct shows their first week on the job. Which they turned out to be unprepared to do. They complained bitterly about hours and parking fees daily. Only later did I find out the postgrad was getting paid a living wage stipend on top of all the free education we were giving him. Occasionally, we had interns that didn't fit: one quit the first day, after being introduced to the tape library. Two got fired for toking in the library their first day. (Nobody likes the tape library. It's a character-tester).

We no longer take interns now for budgetary and personnel-related reasons, but I miss them. They were great help to our short-handed staff. They don't call or write, but I know one of them went on to work at DC comics and another went to work on The Daily Show. A third became a TV news director in Chicago.

Should interns always get paid? Not always, if they are students. But, I think if they don't at least get academic credits thru their schools, they should get minimum wage, which covers their transportation and meals. This is a mutually beneficial arrangement: giving training in exchange for having an extra person in the shop. If they work for you on a trial basis for free, the trial period should be defined, and not open-ended, and I think you're obligated to pay them a "reasonable" wage to stay, if they pass the trial period.

I never did agree with what was going on in L.A. with making unpaid interns do revenue-generating work when they clearly display pro skills. That's an abuse of the social contract that each side is supposed to get something worthwhile from the relationship.

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Andrew Kimery
Re: no more interns !
on Aug 24, 2013 at 5:45:09 pm

[Mark Suszko] "I've seen both sides of the intern subject, being one, and working with them myself. It would be a shame for internships to die off, just over tax policy and accounting voodoo. "

Internships that are real internships (college/class credit) or ones that pay min wage won't be effected by whats happened. This should just curtail the interns-as-unpaid-employees situations.

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Al Bergstein
Re: no more interns !
on Sep 5, 2013 at 1:20:12 pm

In this day and age, with liability what it is, everyone needs to get paid something, to clarify the relationships, legal and otherwise. The Black Swan suit people didn't start out looking to sue. They were pissed that they were being used, and we all know it happens. Get clear going in. It doesn't cost that much more. If not, then they are 'extras'. A dollar a day and the ability to say they were in movies.


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walter biscardi
Re: no more interns !
on Sep 5, 2013 at 1:41:37 pm

We have a strict internship program via a school and it's all set up through the school program. That's the only way we'll do internships here. We don't "bring in interns to help on a project." It's a school credit and that's it.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
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