Black Swan interns sue studio Fox Searchlight
It might have danced away with a handful of awards, but ballet drama ‘Black Swan’ is facing a bizarre legal challenge months after its cinematic release.
Two men who worked on the film as unpaid interns have filed a lawsuit against the production company Fox Searchlight. They said that instead of learning about the film business during their internships, they had to take out rubbish, clean offices and fetch other people’s lunch.
The pair said the widely-used practice of using interns violates US employment laws, and that they aren’t the only ones who suffered.
The New York Times reports that the lawsuit claims producers made the interns do menial work that should have been done by paid employees and that was not the educational experience that labour laws require for internships.
The lawsuit states: “Fox Searchlight’s unpaid interns are a crucial labour force on its productions, functioning as production assistants and bookkeepers and performing secretarial and janitorial work.”
24-year-old Alex Footman, one of the plaintiffs, claims that his main duties on the film were ensuring the coffee pot was a full and emptying the bins.
He said: “The only thing I learned on this internship was to be more picky in choosing employment opportunities. ‘Black Swan’ had more than $300 million [£192m] in revenues. If they paid us, it wouldn’t make a big difference to them, but it would make a huge difference to us.”
The other plaintiff, 42-year-old Eric Glatt, worked as an accounting intern, raising purchase orders and tracking missing employee information.
He said: “When I started looking for opportunities in the industry, I saw that most people accept an ugly trade-off. 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.”
Fox Searchlight spokesman Russell Nelson released a statement yesterday afternoon: “We just learned of this litigation and have not had a chance to review it so we cannot make any comment at this time.”
The lawyer representing the pair, however, is ready for a lengthy battle. Adam Klein has said this is the first lawsuit, and more will follow.
“Unpaid interns are usually too scared to speak out and to bring such a lawsuit because they are frightened it will hurt their chances of finding future jobs in their industry” he said.