The new graduate’s hell

This story is from a reader who only requested to go by Monica. Thanks for the post Monica!

I completed a B.A with dreams of becoming a fiction editor. Predictably, months after graduation, I was still unemployed (as traditionally defined – no work). I’m in Australia so I was I receiving unemployment benefits. I was required to apply for 10 jobs a week. I was applying for twice that, at least. The shortage of paid publishing work meant that I was even applying for reception or administration work, anything! The madness of doing nothing but sending out endless applications, receiving only generic responses if anything at all, was getting too much. I felt like I didn’t even exist anymore.

In a desperate moment, I re-evaluated and thought if I had to suffer I would at least suffer for my passion – publishing. I caved and started applying for unpaid internships (again! I had already completed two during school!). A publisher of LGBT-focused street mags responded to my application – finally, another human being acknowledges me! – and I jumped on it.

The publication I worked on was a joke, the space on the page was filled by advertising with slithers of content. Most paid staff were calling businesses with a desperate pitch – offering more than direct advertising space but ‘editorial coverage’ as well. So I spent my time filling their website with re-packaged press releases from the companies that had bought the full package. I became the second highest contributing author to their website, the first being a paid journo. I didn’t learn anything even though I started out with a list of software I wanted to master.

Nevertheless I still relied on unemployment benefits to sustain me. So, I was required to attend various meetings with dead-eyed bureaucrats who basically  treated me like a social pariah. Meanwhile I was working beyond the agreed upon two days a week. The boss included my personal mobile number in my e-mail signature and when I pitched ideas I had to work on them “in my own time”.

Soon I was offered me a freelance content writing gig with another company. I told my boss at the LGBT publishing house about it, noting it wouldn’t compromise my position there, and asked him for a written reference. He said “I’ll have it for you Tuesday.” On Tuesday, “I”ll have it for you by the end of the week.” At the end of the week, “I’ll have it for you next week.” It never came.

I got the freelance job anyway but it was horrible and I was making less than $AUD 40 a week, working many hours. My mental health was really suffering at this point so I just needed everything to stop. I quit the content writing job and I quit the LGBT publishing house. My boss at the publishing house never provided a reference, thanked me or even acknowledged my resignation.

I also found out the company had gone insolvent (a bulk of their debt comprised of unpaid wages) less than 12 months prior to hiring me so there was no paid work that they could have offered me ever, anyway.

I quit the publishing game in the end. I am going back to school to do social work – I’ve always had a passion for social issues. I realised too that I have always hated working for private enterprise, and in “competitive” industries such as publishing the level of cold hard exploitation is rife. The unpaid internship is one of the primary means of exploitation.

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The S&M Industry

I feel like people who go to film school have to be enlightened before they go out there and see that production isn’t all its cut out to be. In school they feed you these ideas that you will graduate and become a producer or director from the get go, and it is not the case at all, unless you have the means to fund your own stuff.

Everyone, at least people with zero connections, like my self, has to start from the bottom slaving around and working for free.I hate the fact that they sell you the idea that you work for free in exchange for credits, experience, and connections. What connections can I possibly make if all I’m doing is standing on a corner telling people to not walk onto a set, or making coffee runs, and bullshit tasks!?

The production world is very tough, and unless you have mommy and daddy working in the industry, who will place you above a p.a. ,you are going to pay some ridiculous dues!

I interned on many productions in NYC. I worked long hours, and it took a toll on my health. The fact that getting a stable (staff) position is nearly impossible was very discouraging for me.

I worked as a freelancer for 5 years in NYC, (did commercials, scripted and non scripted tv series, films, music videos, worked for MTV) and I got to the point where I’ve had it.

Not having a set schedule and not being able to plan ahead because I don’t know what offers will come and when, got to me. It’s too much hard work, and too much sucking up, for the low pay, and the lack of consideration. It’s just not for me anymore.

I got sick and tired of jumping around, while all my friends and family my age have stable careers and a life going for them.

Currently I’m back to point zero, I have nothing to my name, and a long road ahead, since I decided to go back to school and go into healthcare.

So for all those of you in school who have all these wild dreams and aspirations: Just know its is not easy, you will kiss a lot of ass, you have to do your best and beyond to be acknowledged, and you will never have a stable job. I wish someone would’ve told me. Good Luck!

My DREAM is to work on film sets.

My dream is to work on film sets, and I needed an internship in order to graduate film school. So I was ecstatic when I found an internship to help out on a feature film shoot. I applied and within a day I got a phone call. I went down to their office and sat down for an interview. It was a gorgeous office, with probably half a dozen people working there. Shooting had already begun on the feature, so I guess they were just looking for people to pickup some of the slack. This interview was slightly odd because they knew they couldn’t pay me, but still asked me what I thought I would get out of it. I replied that I would be getting college credit and suddenly she sounded relieved.

Regardless they decided to bring me on. The location was quite the distance from my house (more than 30 miles) but I didn’t care. I was going to be on a film set. The picture was a period piece and even had some name talent. The crew was great and the actors were great to be around. All in all I had a blast. So, at the end of the day I made sure everything was put away and I headed home.

I was scheduled to go back to the set a couple days later as to work with my school schedule (this negotiation was part of my initial meeting). Come late the second day I get a phone call from the AD with a surprise. Apparently, their production insurance didn’t cover for interns, so in other words I was let go after one day through no fault of my own. The AD thanked me for my help and said if they could keep me on they would. I don’t know if this is code for something, but he did sound sincere. I just find it odd that they would go through the trouble of bringing me on without checking their insurance. If I had gotten hurt on that first day who knows what could have happened.

School was already in session so I had to quickly refill paperwork and find another internship. But that is another story.

The only thing I would have done differently in this venture, is during that phone call from the AD, I would have asked him to bring me on as crew, to hire me. If he liked, my work then there should be no reason (other than money) why he couldn’t bring me on.

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PTSD.

It was the year 2010 when I just graduated from college and was sitting on my ass applying, reapplying and applying again to many upon many of jobs. I heard no responses, and I then decided to go the intern route cause maybe JUST maybe there was a paid internship out there.
I stumbled upon an internship that was completely within my field of studies, that paid for my room/board, and had a stipend of money. I applied. I waited a while and finally got a response. I came for the interview that was about 16 hours away from where I went to school, but I went for it anyway.
I knew what I was quasi getting into: I would be working with kids that had had mental health issues ranging in age from 7-17. AND that I would have to do some shit like restraints, but I thought, “They guaranteed jobs when you get out of this, so why not?” Also, on a side note I’ve seen a lot of “dark things” in my youth so I was up for the challenge and I was up for being involved in guiding.

If it wasn’t the shitty/long hours it was the fucking criticism that you would receive on a daily bases from upper management. You would work a 16 hour shift and then be required to work yet another 8 hour shift just so that you would make your “requirement.” Myself and others were treated like mule horses. There were also staff members that were kind of like spies so when you went to the bar to “unwind” there would be someone that would go to report you to HR. I saw my file and I scoffed with laughter. Yes, I drank a lot, but I don’t think anyone would necessarily blame me when your hours were long and you’d get out of work at like, 12am. I doubt there was a yoga class that I could go to at around that time.

I was written up, a lot. Mostly for not picking up shifts, but then the one reason that just made me break down was for being sarcastic. I was sarcastic with my coworkers, but it wasn’t that mean type-of sarcasm. It was just dry and I wouldn’t do that in front of the kids.

Speaking of the kids, i seemed like a lot of staff were more knit picky towards their negative behavior and a lot of them were not rewarded as much. Same went with staff: You were treated like some sort of robot that could not share emotions/feelings. In meetings that I was in the manager of that facility would ignore anything that came out of my mouth because she found me to be completely incompetent.

By the end, when I was done with that year-of-hell internship, I wasn’t guaranteed a job due to my write-up. Also, mental health cuts were made in the state that I resided in.. Travesty, really. The world of helping those with mental issues has become such a crying shame. The only positive experience was the other interns that felt the wrath just as much as I did, and yeah, most of them had gotten jobs there but quit shortly after 6 months. I will always remember their support and myself supporting them. I will also remember the skills of Dialect behavior therapy that basically helps me to this day when I EVER feel overwhelmed.

However, I wish to never remember countless nights of eightballin’ myself with redbull and 5 hour shots, drinking till I wouldn’t be annoyed anymore, and being criticized about how tired I seemed after an 18 hour shift.
Yeah, that’s what work PTSD looks like.

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I worked 32 hours a week and was treated like a MINION.

I was working for a major production company as a unpaid intern. I worked 32 hours a week and was treated like a minion. To start out with they had about 5 interns of all ages. Two of us were doing maximum hours. The others did a couple hours here and there. There were over 30 assistants and around 10 executives. Each assistant would send you on ridiculous tasks. Drive to the Warner Brothers lot which was about 30 min away. Everything in LA was 30 min away. You received $0.05 per mile which doesn’t help at all and is actually an insult.

One of the assistants had me get her lunch each day when there was a full kitchen with a cook. I later found out from another assistant that we weren’t allowed to pick up food for people. I finally told that assistant that I was told now to get her food and she wanted to know who I found out about that from. We were required to read 3 scripts a week and write coverage on them. That’s okay I guess but the scripts were horrible and a complete waste of time. They would have us do copies and purposely mess with the printer so that it would jam or act up. Some of the task they would purposely give us wrong address or company names so we are aimlessly driving around town. After executives had meetings they would leave the conference room extra messy. If it was too messy the cleaning staff wouldn’t clean and the interns were left to do the dirty work.

In the elevator I was in with a major executive you’ve seen his films because they usually involve top funny comedies that I’m pretty sure everybody has seen. I was made fun of by him multiple times and when he met up with other executives he continue to pick on me making me the subject of his laugh. It’s never a good feeling to be made fun of by a lot of people.

After putting hours of work in I was then fired because they were afraid I would leak information. It’s the first time I had ever been fired in my ENTIRE LIFE. Total waste of time and money because I had to pay for the college credits to take that pointless internship.

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If you are reading this you have hopefully read the homepage and now know what this site is all about. Before we get started with my own personal story I want to start by saying the acronym I am going to use to talk about the “production company” I worked for will be “AEC” which stands for Anonymous Entertainment Company. Anyways on to the story!

Summer 2012

I just graduated college in Orlando, FL with a Bachelor’s degree in Film. I was so excited to start my career in the film industry and even more couldn’t wait to move out to Los Angeles, CA! I had worked my butt off to get my resume to industry standards so when I moved out I didn’t bring along a resume full of “Student Films” and “Teacher Recommendations”. In August of 2012 I moved to Studio City, CA with thousands of dollars saved up and a “nothings too hard” attitude.

August 2012

I had finally made it! I was in Los Angeles and ready to work. For those of you that don’t live in California, Studio City is a “Suburb” of LA and houses three film studios close by which include CBS, NBC Universal, and Warner Bros. While exploring the town I was motivated by the productions all over the place and loved hearing people talk about the industry everywhere I went. The NBC Universal building was even the first thing that I saw every morning as I looked outside! I started sending out resumes the first week I got Internet in my new apartment and the job hunt started.

I probably sent out 200 resumes the first 2 weeks I was there. I got about 5 interview offers and narrowed it down to around 3 possible companies I would want to work for. These companies were Principato-Young Entertainment, Park Pictures, and AEC. My first interview with Principato went horribly I got really nervous and acted like the person that I thought they wanted and not the real me. Needless to say I didn’t receive an email back. Park Pictures went well and so did the AEC interview.

The problem with Park Pictures was the commute was way to far and AEC’s commute was less then a half mile away from me! AEC also, so it seemed, had more of an opportunity for growth then Park Pictures. After my interviews, the boss of AEC sent me an email about a week after the interview informing me and asking when I can start. I started that next Monday ready to go and excited to work. AEC was located in a small office in Studio City, CA. They were a Talent management company that was starting, so it seemed, a legitimate production company full of potential and had industry connections. The company consisted of 5 people, 3 of them being managers, one being another intern (Who was paid), and the last was the Executive Producer for this new web series they were starting.

(SIDE NOTE: The internship I had was NOT paid.)

I started that first day ready to go and ready to prove to these people I now thought were “legit” that I could be an asset to the team and that I wasn’t like the other people that were just looking to get into a company easy. My first task was to research what goes into permitting to get access to film at the Santa Monica Pier. That should have been my first flag. How would someone with such experience not know how to do this? I didn’t think anything of it and within the first 30 minutes had everything printed out and organized ready for the EP to sign of on it. I was then told to research this web series they were starting to produce. (We will call this web series “Completely Lucy”). While all this was going on they presented me with a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), which I signed with out even thinking about because I was naïve and just wanted them to see my talents. The first 2 weeks of this internship was me researching locations and helping set up basic camera and lighting equipment which were 2 Canon 5DIII and a Kino Light Kit.

I was working more of the production side and while I was in the car one day with the two bosses whose names were “Tom D” and “Dick” (Not their real names) they started to trust me. How do I know? They started to shit talk the junior agent whose name was “Jack”. I thought to myself “how unprofessional can they be to say this in front of me?” but after thinking this they then made a side comment saying that I could just take over for Jack and I would be capable. I got excited and just wanted to work harder for them. (They never did fire Jack.) Although they never gave me that position I started working 6 days a week 12 hours a day on the promises I was given the first day I started working there.

September 2012

We moved offices next month to start production of this web series “Completely Lucy” and it was then that things began to go sour. This office was around 5 times bigger then the old one and was 3400sq located in the heart of Studio City. I was ecstatic…at first. We started the move and I expected to do some manual labor, as we needed to move the office furniture and film equipment. I don’t mind doing manual labor as long as I was learning from this internship but the labor started to be the only thing that I did around the office and when the labor was finished for the day I was sent home with no more then a thank you and see you bright and early tomorrow.

November 2012

While doing the manual labor we started doing production work. This web series “Completely Lucy” was about a young overweight girl interviewing celebrities and conducting interviews on the red carpet. The shoots they did were boring and the production value was a joke. The thing was is I was an intern. What could I say? Every time they asked for my opinion I gave them a straight up brutally honest answer and they screamed at me. I learned to keep my mouth shut and just carry on and let them make mistakes.

December 2012

This carried on for months until I just couldn’t take it anymore. All I would do was go on PerezHilton.com and research gossip for this actress to read while her dad (Mind you the EP for the project) slept in his office…I saw it! I was learning nothing but how to find studs, hammer nails into walls, and set a TV up. I started sending out resumes on my own time and was at my breaking point. I was making a desk one day I told my boss I had gotten another job with a bigger company and I was going to take it. At first they said ok and had me put in my 2-week notice. Once the other boss arrived they then called me into their office and told me they wanted to start paying me. I asked how much and they said $1500/month. They told me it would be under the table (THIS IS ILLEGAL) and that they didn’t want to pay me more then everyone else who works there. Lets do the math here. 6 days a week for 12 – 15 hours a day = roughly $5.50/hour. I will let that sink in… Are you kidding??? This company was a joke. I also found out that these talent managers were getting paid the same as I was offered, all under the table! I was through.

I quit in November and have not looked back since. I did not learn a thing and was hired by people who appreciated my work ethic the next day. I am happy and a month later I researched the same company as was at. Turns out everyone quit that company slowly but surely. The sad thing is that the company I had my internship at is still recruiting hard working interns and subjecting them to pointless task aimed at getting dirty work done while the intern gets nothing. Unfortunately, there are tons of companies that do the very same thing. This has to stop and I feel like this website can be something of value for us interns to share past experiences and get us through tough times if you happen to be working at a bad internship. Thanks for reading and I hope to read your story soon!

Why I made the site. My Story.

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