First, the charming Craig's List ad.
Internships are the Devil (Cheapskates)
Date: 2010-06-30, 11:23AM EDT
Reply to: email@example.com [Errors when replying to ads?]
Ok, maybe not the devil but this city is getting ridiculous. I have held internships at great places where I learned a great deal about the business. I learned the entire business which included hands on experience in my medium by working on actual professional projects. These were valuable learning experiences because they were genuinely based around training incoming employees (which I became at every place I've interned). The crazy thing is that in reading the gigs/jobs/whatever sections of C-list I am finding that people are expecting to save a few bucks by bringing in interns to do what might actually be quantified as WORK. If I am to intern at a film editing house then why would I want to be your office boy doing billing, booking and advertising? If I am to intern at your audio mastering facility why do you assume you can find someone to be studio manager that works 50hrs a week for nothing? All I'm saying is if you are offering/looking for an internship you should probably make sure it is an environnment that supports learning and not free labor. There is a huge difference in what you will get out of the situation on both ends. Also, if you are young, new to the business or just new to the city you should just ignore these cheap bastards looking for no cost employees and search out your own experience. If you are going to give it away then give it away to people and projects that you believe will allow you to grow, gain experience and flex your creativity. There are plenty of up and comers in this city who would love to have your help even if they can't pay you yet. Ignore the idiots trying to exploit you and your energy behind a thinly veiled promise of experience and focus on working with smart ambitious people who appreciate your talents even if they can't pay you. Finally, "employers" (for lack of a better PC term) stop with 40-50hr a week garbage. When do you expect your new intern/account manager/CPA/PR Rep/Quality Control/Facebook Account Manager to sleep and work another full time job at Starbucks so they can meet the monthly expenses of living in NYC while also being your indentured servant.
* Location: Cheapskates
* it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
* Compensation: The honor of helping to put money in my pocket
Who doesn't agree w/this out of control use of "interns" in business? This is why I only worked w/people who had real contacts in this business & real plans to move forward. I'm fortunate in not having to work w/newbies & chose to seek out people who knew more than me on purpose. You learn a lot from people who have been in the industry longer & treat the entertainment field as a serious calling instead of something they goof around at once in a while.
Since I'm never going to know everything, I make very careful assessments on who I'll deal with or who I work with. As a life rule, I & most people in the business won't work with total newbies unless that person has some real potential. I'm not speaking of helping people get internships or opportunities that might help them; I'm saying don't work for them until they know what they're doing & aren't newbies anymore.
I encountered my very first industry moron. Why do I say that this person is a moron (at least unless this person offers some serious mea culpa)?
A) Person posted an ad for an internship in a talent management company. I interned w/an agent who's been in the business for a VERY LONG time. That agent's name is so well known that people outside the entertainment industry have heard of it. Anyone in the business usually has some type of reaction at hearing the name.
B) I took a look at this person's website. No listing of major companies the company has worked with & the company has been around maybe about a year longer than I've worked in the business. I'd also never heard of any of their posted clients, not even recognized headshots from my earlier internship or knew anyone through my other jobs.
C) This ad didn't say "no phone calls," though many ad posters listing that (even at a law firm, the patron saint of following rules) told me they appreciated me calling when I asked about jobs that I'm overqualified for since my qualifications are so unusual.
D) So based on the reactions I usually get & my better chances at not being ignored on the phone, I called this guy up thinking that a sane business person would prefer dealing w/someone who doesn't have to be trained, can provide references & comes w/a law license on the cheap. The business people I've met in the entertainment industry would jump at such a chance and pay someone w/those credentials very well if they have the $.
How does this guy react??? Basically, in a manner that will certify his doom if he's doing it to every potential client & source of work (did mention the other things I did & any sane manager/agent doesn't go around pissing off people who have projects or have the authority to make sure they won't be working for a particular company).
* This guy was class-A rude. Didn't have any reaction to my mention of interning w/this well known agent. My take being if he's not heard of that agency, he can't be that sharp.
* Claims that regardless of my advanced credentials & so forth, everyone was starting as an intern. Funny, b/c anyone doing stuff like that will usually consider talking to the references or making any unpaid periods very short due to someone having more skills.
* When I asked about that, his response was "you should have just sent an e-mail like the ad said." I pointed out that my credentials are too uncommon to do that & I'd get ignored if I didn't call people. He claimed he was "in transit" at the time.
Now, I went ahead & sent my e-mail that I'd written before getting through on this call. I gently pointed out a few truths:
A) It's an insult to someone w/advanced skills & anyone who worked w/them if you demand the person go through an internship period w/you.
B) No one is going to put an unpaid internship ahead of unpaid executive/managerial/producer level work.
C) I operate just like anyone else in the business, including telling others of my experience.
D) Trained people are cheaper for a business than interns & someone w/advanced skills deserves to have them count for something instead of being treated just like a recent college grad or someone w/no experience at all.
E) People w/more skills aren't sharing those w/you for free. I proposed a modest salary to be discussed, not a lawyer rate or six figures.
If I hear nothing by the end of the week, I'll have to publicly name this guy just as a service to all my industry peeps.
No one needs to deal w/someone who is clearly an incompetent, has no respect for staff members and thinks he can go around insulting entertainment attorneys. If he's insulting attorneys who could provide business, imagine how he'd treat anyone else.
There's a time to let things slide & there's a time to stand up for yourself. I felt this was a time to stand up for myself & I'd be hard pressed to find anyone willing to deal w/this guy based on the impression I got.
Guess what? You have to be on at all times when it comes to clients and business development stuff. Would you talk like that to a potential investor? Not being "on" or giving off attitude just screws you out of potential opportunities.
The agent I interned with once told me a story about a writer who was trying to get investors for a project & had a meeting w/one in her office. She said the writer said something derogatory about investors & the potential investor who came in immediately walked out, never to return.
By the way, the writer wasn't aware that the person who came in was a potential investor.