The continuing saga of one girl’s plight with unemployment… Read previous posts HERE
Last month, news broke that a few interns were suing the studio Fox Searchlight because they felt they were treated unfairly when they interned on the flick Black Swan. Reading the headline I thought, ‘Were they abused/starved/beaten and or tortured in any way?’ But then I remembered that’s kind of normal in any Hollywood job — paid or unpaid. Turns out these poor, defenseless interns were upset and sad because they had to do things like fetch coffee for people and run errands. Well, when I read that there were only two things to do: laugh… then get annoyed. Oh and a third thing: Write about it. So, ladies and gentleman, it’s time to give those interns and the other entitled Generation Me lackeys across this great land (but mainly in Hollywood) a good old Southern what-for. Along the way we’ll take a look at some ridiculous/pathetic internship moments endured by yours truly. Let’s begin.
Hit the Jump to continue reading Bureaucracy for Breakfast vol. XXII: The Age Of Entitlement…
“Last I checked, getting coffee and lunches and the occasional afternoon vegan cupcake with sprinkles were pretty typical duties for unpaid interns…”
Last I checked, getting coffee and lunches and the occasional afternoon vegan cupcake with sprinkles were pretty typical duties for unpaid interns. Add to that picking up laundry, answering phones, cleaning the conference room, washing dishes, sweeping and punching holes in things. I don’t mean punching holes in walls to demonstrate your frustration at the injustices being foisted upon you — I mean using a probably cheap and frustratingly old-school hole puncher to punch holes in scripts or whatever. What the hell did these two dudes (turns out the Black Swan “plaintiffs” are male) think interning on a feature film meant? That they would sit in the Director’s Chair getting their shoes shined by Natalie Portman and then due to their sheer irresistible brilliance get to become co-directors of the movie which would lead to a yellow brick road of financial success and blow jobs? This is Hollywood, not the movies. This shit is real. It ain’t pretty and it ain’t easy.
My first college internship was at a tiny production company in Santa Monica and my days basically consisted of answering phones, typing mailing labels and sticking them on, sorting mail, stapling stuff, and fleeing outside for the occasional cigarette to break up the boredom of the day. The producer suffered from a Miss Havisham strain of pack rat, so her office was buried under papers and books and useless stuff. One day she decided that my time would be well spent putting her thousands of issues of Daily Variety in chronological order then labeling and filing them. It took months and I silently cursed every bullshit second of it, but I didn’t sue her. I also got to do cool things like read books and tell her if I thought they’d be good movies, so it sorta balanced out. Point is: it sucked, I didn’t get paid, but I got some experience and a good reference and moved right along.
Next I interned at a bigger production company (movin’ on up!) for a Palm Pilot obsessed CEO who Chihuahua-barked at me to fetch his macchiato each morning. Being a Texas girl pretty new to Los Angeles, I had no clue what a macchiato was. That first morning’s convo went something like this:
CEO: Go downstairs and get me a macchiato. Here’s money.
ME (taking money, smiling): Sure. Excuse me, but… what exactly is a macchiato?
CEO: Are you serious?
ME: No. Yes? Yes.
CEO: They’ll know downstairs just go, go! Jesus.
Then he did the “shoo you disgusting cockroach!” wave with his hand that mean kings and queens always do in movies, and so I hurried to appease the beast. I got his macchiato that morning and for many mornings after that and to this day that word makes me cringe. But did I sue the jerk? No. I did my time, added the experience to my resume and moved along. Silently cursing macchiatos and Palm Pilots all the way.
There was also the Crazy Cat Lady I interned for (for a wee bit-o-pay) out of the back of her West Hollywood duplex. In the interview at a nearby coffee shop favored by such stars as Lauren Conrad and that dude from that TV show on whatever network, she said she ran a “bustling magazine office” and needed help. “Bustling” sounded cool! She also said I’d be writing … a little. She must have considered her posse of cats her bustling employees because turns out it was just lil ole me, the Cat Lady, and another girl who faxed things and bit her lip trying not to cry into the fax machine every time Cat Lady verbally abused her — which was a lot. “Is she always this mean? How do you stand it?” I leaned over and whispered halfway through the first day. “She’s evil. I have to get out of here. But I need it on my resume.” Then Cat Lady walked in and we shut our mouths in a moment of pure survival instinct.
“She made up imaginary secretaries and role-played them, a la that nut job Sybil aka Sally Field…”
This particular gig didn’t last long. At all. Between the occasional meowing of a cat, the phone rang. I went to answer it. Seems like a normal thing to do right? Cat Lady freaked out on me, told me “never, EVER answer that phone,” and for the rest of the day proceeded to pick up the phone in a fake voice and pretend she was “Stephanie” or “Nicole” and saying, “please hold for Cat Lady.” Then — no joke — she’d hit HOLD, take a second, and get on the phone as herself. Are you understanding this? Cat Lady made up imaginary secretaries and role-played them, a la that nut job Sybil aka Sally Field. I bit my tongue through this episode but later that day when she refused to let me leave for lunch and also refused to let me take a ten minute break, then screamed at me because the fax machine got stuck — shit got real.
CAT LADY: You idiot! You can’t even fax!
ME: It’s just a paper jam, I’m happy to fix it.
CAT LADY (snarling, I swear): You know what, pack up your shit and get the hell out of my house!
CAT LADY: You and I have nothing in common!
ME: You know what? GOOD.
She actually then told me I’d “never work in this town again.” She was wrong. Her magazine eventually folded, but not because I hired a lawyer and sued her. I didn’t get a reference or a resume blurb from this gig, but I got some damn good writing material, which is better than a blurb.
Finally, there was the pretty awesome unpaid internship I did in Manhattan after grad school. I respected the producers so much that cleaning cups in the kitchen and going out to run a hard drive to an editor across town in a massive blizzard seemed fair enough and worth it to be able to absorb their wisdom like a lowly sponge. One especially blustery blizzardy day as I was on an errand I slipped and fell in the middle of the sidewalk, landing smack on my ass and bruising my tailbone. I limped into the nearest clothing store, slush and snow be damned, and sat for a second, trying not to cry and wondering what the hell was I doing with my life, delivering things in the snow for free and injuring my insurance-less ass in the process. Did I sue? No. I got it together, limped back, got the most out of my internship, and moved right along.
I’m not saying I’m some Mother Teresa or Erin Brockovich, and sure some companies absolutely do go too far and take advantage. But seriously — there’s a whole slew of 18-24 year old people who think they can just show up, bypass the hard stuff, never have to lift a stapler or fetch a fancy coffee, and have it made. It’s an entitled generation and if their ancestors could see them now I bet they’d smack the shit out of them and then send them to the mines to shut them up. Or to the mailroom. So to any intern complaining that it’s “not their job” to get coffee, I say: GTFO.