Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I Call Bullshit on Internships

I have a job again.

Or at least, I have the same job again. I got a call this morning that they want me to come back in January as a writer for the corporate video/doc company. They don't know how long for. Or even how much work there is. But I'm just glad to not have to compete in the blood bath that is our TV industry right now.

And, just as a side note, as someone that has been scouring job postings for the past couple weeks with little or no luck, how useless is Craigslist (or the internet for that matter)? Not the site itself, it seems like a good space for posting, but there are just no good jobs posted. I'd find a gig that read like my perfect position and then find that it's a 3-month volunteer internship. For God's sake, pay your PAs, researchers, script assistants at least minimum wage.

In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb here and call bullshit on internships. I don't mean that all internships are bullshit. Those that are part of school, fine. Those that you can do part-time or telecommuting, while working a paying job, OK. And if they are teaching you valuable lessons about your chosen career, great! But those that have you come to work for 8+ hours a day, after you've graduated from University or College and have rent, food, and student loans to pay back, and who could hire someone for $9/hour but don't want to spend the money, that is slavery.

Let's just think about this - you're working full-time, doing bitch-work for no money with the possibility that you could be hired on to be paid afterwards. In the US there's the Fair Labor Standards Act, which says that there are 6 conditions to be met in order for an internship to be legal. The two most important rules are that an intern cannot do the same work as a regular employee, and that the employer must not obtain "immediate advantage from the activities of the student." So your photocopy and FedEx internship is not only a waste of time, it's illegal.

Anyway, this blog post is much longer than I'd originally intended. I certainly didn't plan on linking to a government website.

And the ironic thing is, even though this is my opinion about the industry at large, if I was offered an internship on a scripted TV show, I'd take it and shut the hell up. *sigh*

Monday, December 15, 2008

In My Mind, I'm Very Special

I got into the CFC last night. I wrote my specs, applied, went to the interview, and was accepted (on the spot).

And then I woke up.

My morning yogurt depressed me, because it was not a yogurt of celebration. But at least now I feel like I've already done a practice round.

I should probably explain that I have decided to apply to the CFC Prime-Time Television Program for Sept 09. I'm slightly daunted by the fact that they accept 8 people a year, but in my mind I'm very special so I figure I've got a shot.

I've also decided, after flip-flopping like John Kerry (too late?), that I'm going to write a Mad Men spec. Even though it's probably one of the toughest shows to nail, it's the only one I really want to take a crack at. And I've heard that if you can nail a Mad Men, you're golden. And golden is what I want to get into the CFC. So stay tuned for a Mad Men deconstruction.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Ink Drinks

Went to the "Ink Drinks with Jim Henshaw" event on Saturday and it was great! Basically it was an excuse to get a whole bunch of TV writers (pro and burgeoning) together to have drinks and chat. And naturally, most of what we talked about was TV. I'd only been to one other TV writer event, the Writer's Watching TV series a couple weeks ago, but I didn't really talk to people much there, as I just watched the show, heard the writers talk and then went home. This event on Saturday however was an entirely social experience. It's nice to be around people that think about the same things I do; mostly when I'm around my family and friends I bore them to tears with talk about the industry, which is almost all of the time. About 13 people showed up while I was there. I wasn't sure what to expect, I thought maybe we'd just be listening to Jim talk but actually he didn't dominate the conversations at all, but was there to talk to us about his experiences, and whatever we wanted to talk about. Also, Denis McGrath showed up, which was a pleasant surprise since I'd missed the last Ink Drinks event where he was the official guest. Denis is as animated and passionate about Canadian politics and the industry as he is on his blog, which makes him perfect for facilitating great conversations (not that a group of opinionated writers need much facilitating, but still). Also present were some members of my writing group, including Ink intern (and organizer of the event) Brandon. I highly suggest any writers in Toronto (or any other cities that have these kind of functions) check these events out in future. I'll definitely be at the next one.

I really have been amazed recently at the usefulness of Facebook when it comes to career networking. I'd never heard of these events until a few weeks ago when Alex Epstein mentioned the Canadian TV Writing group on Facebook, Ink Canada. Until recently I was the only person I knew actively trying to become a TV writer (despite having taking Radio and TV at Ryerson), and I had no idea how to meet other TV writers. Since reading that post a few weeks ago I've joined a TV writer's group, attended two industry events and increased my network within the scripted TV industry exponentially. For anyone interested, the facebook page for Ink Canada (a group for TV, film, and new media writers) is here.

As for how my career is doing right now, it's not pretty. I just finished my contract with the doc/tribute/roast production company. I have enough cash to carry me through January on a pauper's budget, so I can apply for work until then but in reality the industry seems to be in the toilet right now. With the 300+ people just laid off from Much Music, CanWest, and who knows how many others, I'm now competing with people with much more experience than I have. I'm hoping that in January when production starts up again I can get an assistant job with a scripted series, but realistically I may need to keep my eye on reality and lifestyle opportunities as well. So I guess I'll also be looking for assistant, researcher, writer and Associate Producer positions with those kind of companies.

Of course, I could also end up walking down the street wearing a sandwich board for Pizza Pizza. Which is unfortunately more likely.