Fox Searchlight is being charged with violating minimum wage and labor laws
(Updated: 11:21 a.m. PST)
Unpaid internships are commonplace in the movie business and considered a necessary step for aspiring filmmakers.
But two former interns on “Black Swan” are striking back at the practice.
They’re suing the Oscar-winning film’s producer Fox Searchlight for violating minimum wage and overtime laws.
Russell Nelson, a spokesman for Fox Searchlight, declined to comment.
The suit was filed in Manhattan federal court on behalf of Alex Footman, a Wesleyan film school graduate, and Eric Glatt, a Case Western Reserve University MBA. Footman served as a production intern and Glatt was employed as an accounting intern.
"Unpaid interns are becoming the modern-day equivalent of entry-level employees, except that employers are not paying them for the many hours they work," the suit reads. "This practice runs afoul of basic wage-and-hour laws."
By relying on unpaid interns to perform production work, the suit says that "Black Swan" was able to keep costs low and improve its profit margins.
The critically acclaimed film was filmed for $13 million and made nearly $330 million worldwide.
Glatt and Footman are seeking a jury trial and asking for unpaid wages and attorneys fees. They are also asking the court to discontinue Fox Searchlight's internship practices.
In the suit Glatt says he worked as much as 50 hours a week for 51 days and was asked to keep track of purchase orders and review personnel files.
Footman claims he too worked as many as 50 hours a week for 95 days, and was tasked with doing everything from secretarial work to taking out the trash and making coffee.
The lawsuit argues that the production used unpaid interns to perform “menial tasks” that should have been performed by paid employees.
The suit says that labor rules require that unpaid internships must offer an educational component — something the “Black Swan” interns say Fox Searchlight failed to provide.
The New York Times first reported the lawsuit.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.