Thursday, August 18, 2011

Reader questions: Can I make a living selling ideas and are internships illegal?

Nick asks:

Bitter Script Reader,

Long story short: I've got ideas and few outlets for them.

I'm all the time coming up with clever story ideas but have next to no time to actually flesh them out and write a feature--mainly because they come too fast and I get too excited about the newest one. I have two flash drives full of loglines and story notes and I just keep adding to them, fearful that if I forgo an idea, it will be "the one."

My question is: Can I make money doing this, just selling my ideas? Can I get a job just coming up with ideas for television and film?

The only people I know of who have made a living just off of ideas have been those who've proven their mettle elsewhere in the industry. If you want to make money just by coming up with ideas and having someone else write them, become a producer.

Like I've said elsewhere, "Ideas are cheap."

Raider Jane asks:

I have a question that I think deserves attention on your blog and let me know if there is a better way to ask it (so that it gets published), but basically I am wondering if it is indeed *illegal* to be an unpaid script intern? Are there instances when it is not? Can you clarify this matter for me and others who are not clear. Is it a case of everybody is doing it anyway (in the industry), or is it frowned on by legit companies. Do you have suggestions for getting your foot in the door as a legitimate staff reader or Union reader? Thanks again!

A while back, The New York Times ran an article about the possibly illegal nature of some internships. I didn't really cover it at the time, but Amanda over at The Aspiring TV Writer and Screenwriter Blog did, so I'll direct you here if you want to see everything she had to say about it.

I haven't been an intern for a long time and I'm not really in the office much these days, so I'm not the guy to ask about how educational the average internship really is. I don't doubt that there are places that are using these interns basically like free labor. Everyone's cutting costs, and I'm not aware of any permanent fallout from that article. I do get the sense that most legitimate companies at least try to provide a worthwhile intern experience.

As for "How to I become a reader" questions, go here and then check out this follow-up post where I explain that you don't really want this job.

As for becoming a Union Reader, I'm not one so I couldn't tell you. I do know that it's a very hard circle to crack into.

1 comment:

  1. I'd like to provide an additional answer to the second question. Are internships illegal? Yes.

    Longer answer: The "education" aspect of the internship is overblown. Yes, it's educational to be an intern. If nothing else you'll learn which one's the Hollywood Reporter and which one is Variety. That's an education!

    The place where they're illegal is that you're providing a benefit to the company by being an intern. If you're answering their phones, if you're reading scripts or if you're even watching the producer's car to make sure it's not being pooped on by birds then you're doing something of benefit and that makes your internship illegal.

    That said I've NEVER seen an unpaid internship that's technically legal. I've also done several internships myself, they've been incredibly beneficial to my career and I recommend interning to absolutely everyone who wants to work in the entertainment industry.

    But let's not fool ourselves, they're illegal.

    Writer, not a Lawyer