Creative Dee Madigan is none too happy with how the industry’s been treating its interns. And on the back of MEAA releasing internship guidelines to stop companies exploiting interns, B&T’s latest guest editor unleashes her rage in our new issue’s ed’s letter.
When I graduated Award School (way back in 96…) the top 10 creatives got three-month job placements. Paid. The money was low but it was a survivable amount. It meant I could quit my bar job and concentrate on turning the placement into a full time job. At the end of three months I was offered a full time job, my art director was not. That was tough but fair. After 12 weeks you know whether someone has the right talent for that agency or not.
But too often I hear of agencies having creatives work for free for a year or more. That isn’t training. That’s exploitation.
It’s bad for the worker and bad for the agency.
Now, to clarify, there is a difference between a placement through a registered training centre like a university or TAFE which has specific goals, is part of the coursework, is closely supervised, and goes for a finite period of time, and the kind of ad hoc placements that occur in this industry- usually with a word like ‘incubator’ etc. in which junior creatives work for long periods of time, unpaid.
It’s bad for the workers for a host of obvious reasons. It means they can’t give it their everything because they usually have jobs on the side to pay rent, HECS debt, food etc. So they may never succeed even though they have the talent.
Or, if they simply don’t have what it takes (and again, after 12 weeks any half decent CD knows whether that person has talent or not), they may be wasting a year of their lives on a career that won’t happen.
And on a very practical level, it means the workers are in the grey ‘volunteer’ area of employment, which doesn’t always guarantee basic workplace rights, like worker’s compensation, if anything should go wrong. There are even companies that ask people to work for free and then ask them to pay for their own insurance to cover this. There is a special place in hell for those companies.