Fox Searchlight calls 'Black Swan' lawsuit 'meritless,' 'opportunistic'

Fox Searchlight Pictures responded dismissively to the lawsuit brought by two unpaid interns who worked on Black Swan, claiming that the accusations are meritless because the plaintiffs never officially worked for them. Alex Footman and Eric Glatt had filed a lawsuit in Manhattan last week, claiming that Fox Searchlight had violated work laws with the not-uncommon industry practice of unpaid internships. According to their lawsuit, as reported in the New York Times, labor rules required that unpaid interns receive hands-on educational experience, not the menial tasks — such as fetching coffee and taking out the trash — that interns are routinely assigned. “The only thing I learned on this internship was to be more picky in choosing employment opportunities,” Footman, 24, told the Times. “Black Swan had more than $300 million in revenues. If they paid us, it wouldn’t make a big difference to them, but it would make a huge difference to us.”

Fox Searchlight didn’t address the specific workplace charges since their stance is essentially, “It has nothing to do with us.” In a statement, the studio said:

Now that we have had a chance to review this suit, it is clear that these are completely meritless claims aimed solely at getting press coverage for the litigants and their attorneys. These interns were not even retained by Fox Searchlight and, in fact, were working for the production company that made Black Swan well before Fox Searchlight even acquired its rights in the film. These individuals were never employed as interns or retained in any capacity by Fox Searchlight, which has a proud history of supporting and fostering productive internships. We look forward to aggressively fighting these groundless, opportunistic accusations.

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  • Lindsay

    Get a clue interns. You are not the only interns in America who have had to fetch coffee for their employers

    • James Henderson

      Bravo Eric, I think its horrible that entertainment companies feel entitled to take the hopes and dreams of college kids and not pay them and offer false promises in return. Work that is done should be paid. Lindsay…get a clue, don’t be brain washed into thinking you should be working free, that’s crazy!

      • Monty

        Ummm…Internships are not free. In return for work service, you receive career training in your field and college credit. You also can get valuable on the job contacts that can help you get a job after college. SOME internships offer payment as well, but that is on a job by job basis. Just because the movie made millions of dollars, that does not entitle people who worked for educational credits to suddenly get a piece of the pie.

        If they feel they didnt receive valuable training, that should be reflected in the production company not getting interns from the same school in the future.

      • Monty

        Also James, what jobs should the interns be asked to do? Operate the camera? Be a Director of Photography? They are Interns. Their task is to do what is asked of them. They are ill equipped to do much more than get coffee. It takes a 4 year degree and a few years of job experience to be valued enough to move a light on some sets. Getting things for the talent, moving equipment, setting schedules, these are the jobs of interns and low level set employees. With no job experience and no degree (yet), they aren’t going to be just handed an important job in a Hollywood film starring Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis, directed by Darren Aronofsky. You act like some of these directors just woke up one day and were handed million dollar budgets with no previous experience.

      • James Henderson

        I think some people are missing the point and not fully thinking the whole thing through. Interns aren’t doing “camera operator” work, they are making copies, making deliveries, filing, doing general assistant and office work. In exchange for their labor, they should be getting at least minimum wage, an inside look at how the industry works, and (if they are paying tuition fees for school credit) be trained or taught some sort of skill related to the industry. But none of that is happening….instead they are not being paid, many times they are asked to do un-related to the industry errands, talked down to, and given no training except in the world of making copies. They do all this work in the “hope” of breaking into the industry. However, the industry people that expect free intern working are taking advantage of this hope, and its wrong.

        I’ve never been an un-paid intern, I started in the tech industry and as an intern in the tech industry, I was very well paid, respected, and learned a lot. (Even if I wanted to be an un-paid entertainment intern, growing up I could never afford that …I didn’t have mommy to pay my bills). I am in the entertainment industry now and have been around many unpaid interns and seen it first hand. So maybe I have a unique perspective in the industry because I didn’t go through the internship process in the entrainment industry, I don’t feel entitled to it.

        Interns not being paid is acting as a gatekeeper, but it is keeping possibly the most creative people out. There are many very smart and creative people that could have a better chance of meeting people if they could do an internship. But many can’t afford to do it because they don’t come from affluent families.

        The argument of interns being paid will take away opportunities is ridiculous…copies will always need to be made, lunches will need to be delivered, phones will need to be answered, script coverage will always need to be made, etc etc.

        Okay…I need to stop writing about this today, I have work to do. Best of luck Eric!

  • Monty

    So not only did they sue the wrong company, but their names are now in every trade publication nationwide, meaning they will never receive work in the movie business again. High Five!

  • Marissa

    I’ve done four unpaid internships throughout college (I’m a senior now). As frustrating as it is to have menial tasks and to get yelled at all the time, unpaid internships are kind of the only way to get a job after college in certain fields. It’s the sad truth.

  • A

    It’s unjust the kind of work company’s ask of interns and refuse to pay. I worked at a magazine, writing articles and working full time for free. Meanwhile other women around me acted as assistants to the CEO, editors, and artists–all without pay. Everyone was promised a paid full-time position after 3 months. No one received one. Companies see that they can get free labor by calling an entry level position and “internship”—all the while diminishing the paid jobs market for working Americans. Bottom line – you do the work, you should get paid.

  • elizabeth

    Clearly non of you have any knowledge of the laws. Just because the entertainment is in constant violation of them doesn’t make their actions legal. I’m sure the kids’ lawyer had enough sense to look at contracts of the company that employed them as interns and filed the suit correctly. Fos will undoubtedly settle for a lot of money and a confidentiality agreement so they walk away appearing clean.

    • Monty

      If the lawyers were worth the 1-800 phone number that was printed on their bus stop ads, they would have figured out you don’t sue the distributer of the film for a labor dispute involving the production company. Internships are not required to pay because they are in effect paying for your education (you do not pay them money and you in turn receive a college credit). Now, if people say your position is ‘like an internship’, then yes, they are probably ripping you off.

      • James Henderson

        Monty, I am confused by what you mean when you say, “paying for your education,” what do you mean to say? Please elaborate.

  • Briony

    What a pair of idiots! I assume that they disliked working on black swan so much that they never want to work in the film and tv industry again? Internships are about experiencing what it’s like to work within an industry, the first rung of the ladder is making coffee, driving people around, getting lunch and taking put the trash! If your not prepared to work hard for peanuts you’re in the wrong job. Everyone who is senior to you did their time and proved that they were good enough to be promoted to a paid position. That is just how it works, it’s not about what you know, but who you know. If you have the right attitude you will get noticed by the right people and hired for a job where you are trained while you work.

    • Pat

      Unpaid Internships are not about doing secretarial work. It’s an educational experience by following an expert in the given field. Driving people around and getting people coffee is not going to get the attention of a camera operator or the director of photography, your work will.

  • Emelia

    Been in this industry for 28 years, in South Africa, loooong before there were film schools,and interns, all I have to say, is, that if it was easy, a lot more people would have done it.

  • jimmycurry01

    James doesn’t get it. Generally you do not get paid for an internship. Internships are typically for college credit. It is essentially a college class. Do you get paid for taking Algebra 101? No. It is an interns job to be there and observe, do menial tasks, and in exchange get three credit hours toward your degree in exchange for it. Those credit hours were very likely also paid for by the students. So they actually paid money to take the internship in the first place. Try to remember this fell into the realm of academia. It is clear James never took an internship through a university.

  • Chicken Louie

    I would strait bone Natalie Portman. Though Mila might be more fun. Suck it up interns, it’s the way it is. Way to blackball yourself from the industry and waste everyone’s time. This false sense of entitlement kids have these days is very disconcerting.

    • chris connor

      youre gay

  • Kelly

    These babies have a self-entitlement problem. What ever happened to having a good attitude and knowing that a little generosity of your time to do what is asked (within reason) benefits both parties. Why should there be a law about this? Minimum wage for newbie interns is a terrible idea. Why pass the cost of their inexperience to the consumer?

    • Pat

      Because these newbie interns are doing a job that a paid person should be doing otherwise. There are laws again illegal internships (i.e. producing a commercial product by using unpaid interns). The entertainment industry had many problems by running production people to the ground with unpaid overtime. Unpaid interns are suppose to learn and observe, not do work. GET IT STRAIGHT!

  • Jones

    While in college (as a film major) I was an unpaid Production Assistant on many student films. I did everything from stand-in and extra work, to craft services, and first aid. I cannot begin to tell you how much I learned from my experiences. I stayed up ’til all hours, watched my classmates become filmmakers, and don’t care that it cost me gas money and borrowed non-returned items (like shears, and first aid stuff). My filmwork was priceless! I put myself into it 100% and wanted to learn!

  • James Henderson

    To the people that are on here here calling the plaintiffs in the lawsuit entitled, and babies….when you were paying your dues and “interning” how did you pay your cell phone bills, rent, car insurance, car or anything without having a job that pays? Unclear who’s really the entitled one here….might be time for a reality check.

  • Shawn

    This is what Fox should do……. Keep thing going in court for a looooooooooooong time. Make sure the interns legal bills get nice and big. They’ll either back off, or Fox can agree to pay them exactly one dollar more than what their lawyer(s) want. So they won’t gain anything, but they won’t lose either.

    • James Henderson

      ….or just properly pay people a fair wage that do work for them.

  • Gregor Hutchison

    I have no sympathy for these guys – i have worked in the film business for over 20 years. it is a cruel business and these guys were lucky to get a job on a film – even unpaid. My first job out of film school was as a PA – i got 5.00 for a 16 hr. day. my next job was again as a PA – 23 hrs for 50.00, but i was happy to have it. These guys have hurt themselves by going after Fox Searchlight, i would suggest they change their names if they want to work in this business…

    • Pat

      Well, it looks like unpaid interns are filling those positions that got you five bucks for a 16 hour day.

  • Scott

    Boohooo, I did not get paid for volunteer work… Sometimes to get your foot in the door you have to step in a fire ant hill and climb over the dang thing. Wake up kids you are not entitled to a good life, you are entitled to a CHANCE to EARN a good life.

    • James Henderson

      This has been a really interesting forum, I’ve surprisingly seen a lot of people respond negatively to these guy’s lawsuit…so strange. They are actually just suing over a company paying out a fair wage for work done.

      I’m getting the feeling that a lot of people in this forum got crapped on when they started out, and they feel that because they got crapped on everybody else should too as some sort of rite of passage.

      Our tech industry, and science industries thrive because the talent pool is based on merit, skill, and intelligence…not who can live through getting crapped on for free. Engineering talent pools are incentivized by offering fair wage for their work. While our entertainment industry is suffering because of inbreeding and nepotism. The reality is, that this sort of corrupt process limits the talent pool, and the industry suffers. The industry is imploding because it doesn’t doesn’t hire the best…instead for the most part hires the entitled rich kid nephew.

      This lawsuit is a move in the right direction, hopefully the industry will start to realize that.

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