Lesson of the day: Don't treat your unpaid interns like some little herd of free laborers, okay studios? Not only is in poor form (pun intended), but it can also land you on the receiving end of a big, fat lawsuit with the quickness.
That's just what happened with a pair of so-called "interns" on 20th Century Fox's production of "Black Swan," Alexander Footman and Eric Glatt, who've now won their federal case against the studio for mishandling their term on the set.
As detailed by The Guardian, the duo complained they were made to do menial little odd-jobs on the set of the 2010 Oscar-nominated Darren Aronofsky picture rather than anything remotely educational in nature ... despite that being what the law requires of would-be employers offering internships.
Presumably peeved about their lack of paycheck after essentially being reduced to production piss-ants, the two took the big dog studio to court over it and walked away victorious (for now, at least).
Federal judge William Pauley has decided that the duo "were classified improperly as unpaid interns and are 'employees'" and "worked as paid employees work, providing an immediate advantage to their employer." In a nutshell, this means that the two gentlemen were then legally protected under the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York's labor laws and are due some dough.
Meanwhile, the big kicker in today's "Black Swan" interns-versus-employee distinction case came when Judge Pauley certified a class action suit to allow exploration of internships throughout the entirety of Fox Entertainment Group. "Here, the relatively small recoveries available to individual plaintiffs make a class action a more efficient mechanism," he explained. So, essentially, David just sling-shotted the sh*t out of Goliath.
However, the studio won't be caving in to fork over any of that "Swan" cash just yet. In a statement, Fox decreed, "We are very disappointed with the court's rulings. We believe they are erroneous*, and will seek to have them reversed by the second circuit as quickly as possible."
This isn't the first "Black Swan"-related kerfuffle of note, of course. Shortly after lead actress Natalie Portman took home the Academy Award for Best Actress in the pic, her dance double Sarah Lane threw a media hissy fit over all the credit being allocated to the actress. Nothing litigious came of it, though.
* Interestingly enough, though, the studio reportedly effectuated a new policy in July, 2010 (the film was shot during the previous winter) to ensure all "interns" receive payment of at least $8/hr. So, there's that too.