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Unpaid Interns File Suit Against ‘Black Swan’ Studio

Two men, one a recent college graduate and one aged 42, have filed a lawsuit against Fox Searchlight Pictures, the producer of Black Swan, saying their unpaid internships working on the film were illegal, the NYT reports.

Alex Footman, a 2009 film studies graduate, worked as an unpaid intern from October 2009 to February 2010.

His list of responsibilities should sound familiar to anyone who has taken an internship at a big media company: “preparing coffee for the production office, ensuring that the coffee pot was full, taking and distributing lunch orders for the production staff, taking out the trash and cleaning the office.”

“The only thing I learned on this internship was to be more picky in choosing employment opportunities,” Footman told the New York Times.

The other plaintiff in the suit is an Eric Glatt, 42, who was an “accounting intern.” According to the NYT, he “prepared documents for purchase orders and petty cash, traveled to the set to obtain signatures on documents and created spreadsheets to track missing information in employee personnel file.”

“If you want to get your foot in the door on a studio picture, you have to suck it up and do an unpaid internship,” he said. But now he’s named as a plaintiff anyway.

The suit says that the internships, since they consisted of menial work and not education, didn’t meet the Department of Labor’s standards of what an unpaid internship must be. (The DOL’s six-point fact sheet can be seen here.)

We think this is a noble move for interns everywhere but unlikely to get very far, especially because the internships were completed so long before the suit was filed. We understand the sentiment of not jeopardizing your current internship to complain about it but it doesn’t help your legal case.

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