Black Swan interns sue studio over unpaid work

Two interns who worked on the Oscar-winning film Black Swan – which took $300m at the global box office – claim Fox Searchlight broke the law by not paying them

Two interns who worked on the Oscar-winning film Black Swan are to sue studio Fox Searchlight. They claim producers broke the law by failing to pay them for their work.

Alex Footman and Eric Glatt filed their suit on Wednesday at a federal court in Manhattan, asking for back pay and an injunction against the studio for improperly using unpaid interns on future projects. They claim the studio used them to complete menial work that did little to educate them in the minutae of film-making and which ought to have been undertaken by paid employees. They are particularly angry that they received no renumeration when Black Swan made more than $300m (£191m) at the global box office on the back of its awards season buzz, which culminated in a best actress Oscar for star Natalie Portman .

Footman told the New York Times he spent his time on the shoot making coffee, handling lunch orders, taking out rubbish and cleaning the production office. "The only thing I learned on this internship was to be more picky in choosing employment opportunities," he complained. "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."

Glatt was employed as an unpaid accounting intern, which involved creating documents for purchase orders and petty cash, going to the set for signatures and making spreadsheets to track missing information in personnel files.

"When I started looking for opportunities in the industry, I saw that most people accept an ugly trade-off," he said. "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."

Footman and Glatt claim that more than 100 unpaid interns have been employed by Fox on various film productions. A spokesman for the studio, an offshoot of Twentieth Century Fox, told the Times: "We just learned of this litigation and have not had a chance to review it, so we cannot make any comment at this time."

It's not the first controversy that Black Swan has faced since Portman carried off the Oscar in February. Earlier this year Fox was forced to rebut claims by a ballet dancer that the actor performed only a small proportion of the dance moves for her performance in Darren Aronofsky's film. American Ballet Theatre soloist, Sarah Lane, Portman's ballet double for the psychological thriller, said she had been the victim of a cover-up designed to help the actor's Oscar chances by convincing voters the actor had learned to dance like a professional soloist in just a few months.


Ben Child

The GuardianTramp

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