Unpaid Hollywood Internships: Just Paying Your Dues Or Exploitation?

The unpaid internship is a Hollywood staple, but after a federal judge ruled in favor of two interns who sued for back wages, will the unpaid intern system cease to exist and is this a good thing?

On June 11, 2013, a federal judge in New York ruled in favor of two former Black Swan interns in their lawsuit against Fox Searchlight. The interns filed their case in September of 2011, and they sought back wages for work that they believed should have been paid for.

Judge William Pauley III stated in his judgment that under the definitions of the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Law the two were treated as Fox employees during their internship. He also certified a class action that will look into whether or not Fox’s internship programs actually provide any educational experience for its interns, not just free labor for the studio.

This decision may prove to be a big game changer in the entertainment industry. After all, free labor using interns had become a Hollywood staple, and many saw unpaid internships as something everyone must endure to “pay their dues.”

When entertainment news website, Deadline , posted the story, the comments section lit up with those who vilified the plaintiffs and those who supported them. Here’s arguments from both sides.

2. Why challenge the status quo? Reasons people should keep unpaid internship programs

You want to change some ish?! WHAT?!

3. Unpaid interns should feel so lucky to be working unpaid in Hollywood.

4. This lawsuit is going to stop a lot of people from getting good opportunities.

5. Unpaid interns help assistants. Without unpaid help, entry-level assistants will be given more work with no additional pay.

6. This generation of workers does not want to pay its dues because they think they are so damn “special.”

7. SERIOUSLY, an unpaid internship is all about paying your dues!

8. We need to change the system and here’s why… Reasons the lawsuit was a good thing for all

“I’m not asking for much. Just to eat…”

9. Companies once paid for entry-level work. With this lawsuit, they’ll have to pay again.

10. Most people can only do an unpaid internship if Mom and Dad are paying for it. Therefore the current Hollywood model is only advantageous to those with money.

11. Just because something is a “tradition” doesn’t mean it is right.

12. Who is really entitled? People who want minimum wage or people who think that people should do grunt work for them for free?

13. Unpaid internships in Hollywood do not meet the legal requirements of what an internship should be.

So what do you think about the lawsuit and unpaid internships in general? Let us know in the comments.

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