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a conversation about unpaid internships

A few days ago, we posted openings at Toronto’s guru studios for unpaid internships in various positions.  We received an above average number of comments in response to those posts.
First of all, thank you for your response.  We get next to no discussion in our comments section.  That’s our norm.  We also recently had a small outbreak of poorly-worded, overly negative comments that had to be removed, something I don’t like to do.  The reaction to the guru posts were generally well thought out, intelligent criticism.  A few veered into extremes, but for the most part, the reaction was balanced and considered, and some even showed support for guru’s long history as a fair, friendly employer.  This is something I want to be clear about before progressing as well.  I’ve never worked directly for guru, but I know a few people who have and have spoken very highly of their experience.  I’ve met Mary Bredin on a few occasions, and I’ve found her to be approachable, kind and intelligent.  I received communication from guru yesterday, asking for the posts to be removed, as the positions have been filled.  I offered them the opportunity to address the comments, and they have assured me that a response is on its way.

But  a few points were raised that should be addressed.  The primary concern is that, in the wording of the posts, it appeared that guru would be taking on unpaid interns to participate in the production of one of their series contracts. Specifically, the following: “looking for Animation Interns to assist with the second season of our internationally broadcast show, Justin Time”  That seems pretty straightforward.  In fact, under responsibilities, it even states: Assist animation team to meet the needs of the production.  So really, there’s no confusion there.  For whatever reason, guru was clearly looking for unpaid interns to work on Justin Time.
This angered many members of our animation community.  Some reacted viscerally, but others were more constructive, pointing out specifically:

Unpaid internships are fine, but only if you are being mentored in-studio and do not touch any of the productions. The moment you do work for even a single shot, they must remunerate you for your time.

And the following allegation appeared:

All the internships appear to contravene the Employment Standards Act, 2000

The topic of unpaid internships is one that comes up fairly often.  Cartoon Brew posted on it last year, and their position on it is right in the headline: Most Unpaid Internships Are Illegal.  The post garnered much commentary, some inflammatory, some considered.  What I didn’t see in it was factual support for their statement.  But if you click through to the source of the discussion, a New York Times article on the rise of unpaid internships and subsequent government crackdown, you’ll see that our American cousins have some pretty concrete rules about what constitutes an internship.  They quote a few basic parameters: “Among those criteria are that the internship should be similar to the training given in a vocational school or academic institution, that the intern does not displace regular paid workers and that the employer “derives no immediate advantage” from the intern’s activities — in other words, it’s largely a benevolent contribution to the intern.” So they’re saying that interns need to be getting training, like they would in school, not be doing work that would otherwise go to a paid worker, and that the employer isn’t really getting anything concrete in return.  Ok, that seems pretty straightforward, and also sounds like bad news for guru. But guess what?  After a phone call with a representative from the Ontario Ministry of Labour, it appears that we don’t have any legislation that addresses this in so direct a fashion.

It looks like the issue is in the question itself.  We’re asking if these interns should be getting paid for their work or not.  But therein lies the conundrum.  Because they’re not getting paid, they’re not technically employees, and therefore, not covered under the employment standards act.  They’re volunteers, pure and simple.  The act itself is available online, and if anyone can find more relevant info in there, please share.  There is another document, however, that’s not available online.  It’s the Policy and Interpretation Manual.  The guy I got on the phone was good enough to put me on hold and do some reading.  Here’s what we arrived at.

The first key part to the volunteer situation is what is termed  “Initiation”.  Basically, as long as both parties are cool with the arrangement, and the terms are clear at the start, then no one’s doing wrong by anybody.

Next are the circumstances.  As far as I can tell, this simply means that if the circumstances continue to adhere to the original understanding, then again, all’s cool.

The next part is where it gets interesting though, “control”.  This is a volunteer situation, and has to remain as such.  The moment the company in question begins to exert control over the volunteer, such as mandatory work hours, the relationship is altered.  Behaviour must remain reflective of volunteer status, not employee status.  If the volunteer doesn’t show up, or doesn’t complete an assignment, and is penalized for it, such as dismissal, the company in question could then be on the hook for past wages due the volunteer for contributions they have made up til that point.

It’s all very nebulous and grey, and really, as long as the company in question maintains a very specific language in dealing with the volunteer, then no one’s breaking any laws.

Doesn’t mean it’s cool though.


  1. Samodee Samodee January 27, 2012

    To put an end to what’s legal and what’s not.

    The Ontario Employment Standards Commission has been made aware of
    the postings.

  2. Snapintoaslimjim Snapintoaslimjim January 27, 2012

    “Unless the interns in your office are part of an internship program from a high school, college or university and working for course credit, the following six conditions must all be met before they can legally work for free:
    1 . The internship is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment.

    2 . The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern.

    3 . The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff.

    4 . The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded.

    5 . The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship.

    6 . The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.”

    This excerpt can be found in the following article, which deals with illegal internships in Ontario specifically:

    Regardless of whether the intern is volunteering or not, they’re still displacing paid employees if they’re working directly on a production. This puts Guru at fault of #3. Also, Guru would be deriving a direct advantage of the labour of the intern, which puts them at fault of #4.

  3. anonymous anonymous January 27, 2012

    Internships can be somewhat negative on the industry. If an intern isn’t paid (and working on a actual production) they are taking away jobs from potential employees. If an intern is Reimbursed for working on a production , chances are they are working at a cheaper rate then what a studio would have to pay an employee with experience.

  4. TimC TimC January 27, 2012

    We regularly invite interns to work in our studio. They come in, learn what it is like to work in a studio environment and we pay them. It is that simple.

    When you connect the term “unpaid intern” and “come work on our new show” which I might add is being funded in part by tax payer money through both federal and provincial tax credits the optics don’t do Guru any favors.

    It may be that Guru fully intended to do the right thing. I guess until we see their response (which is after the fact of course) we’ll have to reserve our final judgment.


  5. test me test me January 27, 2012

    Isn’t the 20% salary Ontario animation tax credit incentive enough?

  6. charlie charlie January 27, 2012

    Can you post a link to the “above average number of comments in response”? I don’t seem to be able to find it but would like to know more about the situation on that project. If someone told you to remove it then maybe they have something to hide?

    I suggest you re-post it if it has been deleted.

    Another interesting discussion about the industry has happened on GridTO recently. I encourage anyone from the Toronto industry to come forth and bring their concerns on Michael’s blog. Many people come to this blog and it will be informative for new graduates.


  7. CB CB January 27, 2012

    Wow. Are students *THAT* dumb these days? Goes to show that art and animation programs are failing to teach business basics.

    They’re better off doing random work freelance on craigslist than work for free.

    I’m familiar with interns working at next to nothing, that’s normal. I’ve seen production studios put interns on a small training program, give them some test scenes to work with using assets from a *PREVIOUS* production and wrap it up at the end with job offers for most of those who do well.

    But getting “free/slave labor”? Nuts to that. It drags down the entire industry.

  8. charlie charlie January 28, 2012

    My coworkers and I joke about how easy it is to slaughter new grads. They don’t understand they’re fueling the beast. But I can’t blame the students. They’re naive, and easy to exploit. The education system and creative interpretation of the law is an issue.

    Many educators tell their students if an opportunity comes up to work for free; they should take it to gain some production experience. It seems newly grads are fine with paying their dues for their dream job of working at Pixar or something. Most do not get the happily ever after ending they wish to have.

    Even if they are willing to work for free, it becomes increasingly difficult to find a company that will take them because companies are downsizing or closing doors. The demand isn’t there to need the supply. This gives companies the upper hand exercising their creative interpretation of the law!

    Those educators have shot themselves in the foot, and taken us down with them. But at least they still have their cushy teaching job making $100/hr, for now. I hope they’re having fun riding the gravy train. =)

  9. Mike Magnan Mike Magnan January 28, 2012

    While I support the underlying notion that any experience is good experience…and really I do…
    Asking people to work for free is sort of despicable to me…especially for the Proffesionals out there. My experience says you get what you pay for. You really do.
    I saw this company try this about 6 months back…and I suppose they were fortunate that it worked and they just did it again. I doubt I need to explain WHY I think it’s retarded…but in their situation perhaps its the proper solution for them. Which doesn’t say much about their integrity .
    If I was a kid…I’d bite at that apple just for the time and knowledge I’d get…as someone whos been in the field for quite a’s pretty obvious that exploiting young people is becoming fashionable. Sort of like wearing Cats as the new “CHIQUE”
    Any Proffesional knows that this trend is hurtful to the proffesion and the people who’ve invested their lives to be in it…but perhaps there is nothing we can do about it other than revile the practice. Ugh….Sometimes I really hate some of these Characters.
    But then again..I sort of understand their poverty. It’s a tricky situation. “Scabs” Is a word that comes to mind. Those poor kids…haha.

  10. Mike Magnan Mike Magnan January 28, 2012

    To make it simple.
    Do you want a 100 dollar layout? Or do you want a 500$ layout??
    Simple as that.

  11. Mike Magnan Mike Magnan January 28, 2012

    It’s very good you had the guts to put this out there Mike,
    Everyone is too scared to say anything…nice to see someome with a little courage.

  12. anonymous anonymous January 28, 2012

    It also doesn’t help the cause when colleges and Universities want students to take internships as part of their course load (usually during summer break) to get a diploma or degree.

  13. S_G_A S_G_A January 28, 2012

    I think a lot of people are forgetting a few things. This article only mentions Guru, but pretty much every major animation studio in Toronto has had unpaid interns at one time. In the six years that I have have worked in Toronto, every studio that I have worked in has had interns. Is it right, well it is a definite grey area. But it does give someone out of school a chance to prove themselves. I think people forget how hard it is to break into the industry. Not everyone is the all star talent from Sheridan, that gets picked up right after they graduate. Sometimes it takes months or years to get in. Taking an internship could be that break. I know a lot of people that have started out as interns, and they were thankful for them. Most interns while doing their internship are still looking for real work. Would you want to be working at home depot, waiting to find a job, or would you rather be in a studio making contacts, showing people that can do whatever job you are given.

  14. Mike Magnan Mike Magnan January 28, 2012

    I think its fine and good to intern…anon…no problem there. What Guru is doing is trying to get FREE Labour. Something I think Mike picked up on and something I think everyone should be concerned about.
    I never went to animation school..but I would have been happpy to inten anywhere. But..bleh…If they make money off your’re entitled to a cut don’t you think?

  15. Mike Magnan Mike Magnan January 28, 2012

    SGA Unfortunately thats a pretty prevasive attitude.
    We’re here because we are. It’s got nothing to do with anything except we insist on being here. There are more people with talent out there that can outsrip us without any problem. We need to take cre of each other…and these big companies are seperating us. This is why discussions like this are important. We need to stick together. Talent is a very fleeting and common thing. Character is a whole other ball of wax.

  16. anonymous anonymous January 28, 2012

    Since November Guru has posted Internships looking for a Storyboard Intern, a Design intern, a Bg Intern as well as other positions for a second season of Justin Time.
    No matter what the studio, this hurts the industry.Enough said.

  17. S_G_A S_G_A January 28, 2012

    Mike, I totally agree that we need to stick together. Honestly, I’ve had many interns in my day, and I’ve had a lot of great interns (and some not so much), and do you know how they got their first real job after it. I’ve recommended them to a friend at another company or brought them back when there is an opening. I’ve always made sure that they only work for a short amount of time, and then they either get paid, or they don’t continue, even if they say they would.

    And let’s be honest, this isn’t just an animation thing, or a guru thing, there are interns in every major media or design field. I just don’t think it’s fair to single one company out, when all of them are doing it, or have done it. Are there negative aspects of it. Yes. Are there positive aspects of it. Yes. That’s what makes this a grey area. But people are always fast to point out the quick jabs. Is a company making money from it? Probably not, most animation companies are barely keeping a float in today’s industry. And in the long run there are a lot of bigger problems in the industry than interns.

  18. Mike Magnan Mike Magnan January 28, 2012

    Guru is stepping over a very fine line..Mike Pcked up on it. I apologize for being slightly…ad I use that term very lightly..biligerent. They’re basically tking advantage of people…and I simply don’t like it. Look..when people do a 22 minute board for half price because they’re desperate..that hurts all of us. That’s why we need to be in touch. Good to meet you VGA.

  19. charlie charlie January 28, 2012

    Companies are barely able to stay a float because they are under bidding each other. To do this, companies explore creative interpretation of the laws and negotiation tactics to have you accept un-livable salaries. It seems to me companies are budgeting with free labour, or very low salaries in mind.

    I heard that there was a studio in Toronto which offered unpaid internships. After 6 months of working for free the interns started to demand to be hired, or they’d leave. The show was not done, so the company offered them $1000 a month for a 40 hr work week. ($6.25/hr – LOWER THAN MINIMUM WAGE!) These interns accepted the pay. Once the project was over, everyone was laid off. Now the very same studio is looking for interns again.

    I’m not sure if Guru has done anything illegal, but if you have worked at any studio in Toronto where you feel your rights have been abused, then I suggest you and your colleagues report to the ministry of labour immediately. They will send an officer to investigate the claim on your behalf, and your group will remain anon.

    The only way we can change the industry for the better is if companies become scared of us. There has been so many who been in situations where they were exploited. It’s our time now to bombard studios to stop further corruption.

  20. Steve_b Steve_b January 28, 2012

    Hey Charlie, you were making some good points till the end. How is a company being “scared” of you going to change the industry exactly?

  21. Mike Magnan Mike Magnan January 28, 2012

    Um Charlie….I’ve never EVER..seen a producer lacking for money. Not even once.

  22. Mike Magnan Mike Magnan January 28, 2012

    Perhaps the time for an Animation workers union is finally come of age. Certainly I’m too Vitriolic to have anything to do with that sort of thing…but What Guru is trying to do ha touched some nerves. Mine included. I know the folks there and I’m not surprised at all by this she-bomb. I’d suggest we start getting organized. This site levelled by Mike is a decent start.

  23. charlie charlie January 28, 2012

    The IATSE Canadian office that started the union in Vancouver is actually in Toronto. Anyone wishing to discuss starting a union should contact, John Lewis Vice President and Director of Canadian Affairs. Maybe now Animation workers will finally band together!

    If anyone would like to contact John Lewis and discuss why we need a union, his email is below.

    Or you can call them directly:

    IATSE Canadian Office
    22 St. Joseph Street
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4Y 1J9
    Telephone: 416-362-3569
    Fax: 416-362-3483

  24. charlie charlie January 28, 2012

    Steve: I’m not saying union is the only way to go as I have witness first hand where a feature film studio is at the mercy of their staff.

    One can gain the power to scare the company through team loyalty. When push comes to shove the team leaves together. There was a time where the studio tried to make us overtime, but everyone walked out and we were in a really tight spot in terms of the deadline already. When you gain the loyalty of your team to leave with you, the company will bend over backwards to give you and your team anything you want. This takes the effort of everyone. Especially the leads and supervisors. It takes a strong ring leader to stand up to the company. And one way to make sure the ring leader doesn’t get replaced with another supervisor is to have that individual write all the tools and infrastructure for the studio.

    If you’re the only one who is capable of how the proprietary pipeline works you have the power to lead the team. And I’m so sure the team will be more than willing to follow someone who will protect them from free overtime, insane deadlines, etc.

    The problem in Toronto is that everywhere is the same story. If we actually had desirable studios to work for like in Vancouver where there is competition between studios to treat their staff great then possibly things will be better for the artists here as well.

    We wouldn’t have to take things into their own hands. It gets very tiring having to fight for yourself and your team but right now it’s the only way I’ve seen where the staff get treated right. We do our jobs, and we do work overtime, but there are limits. Fortunately, after the walk out, I’ve only had to do overtime once in the last 9 months. 🙂

  25. southern man southern man January 29, 2012

    @charlie: In a perfect world perhaps. You were either very lucky to work with some incredible people or you are very naive. From my experience everybody’s out for himself. I’ve seen people taking ridiculous amount of abuse, I’ve seen people break, give up, I’ve seen some being sacrificed (blamed for a show being behind schedule and fired to scare others to work harder) and no-one ever said a word. Some people have families, mortgages to pay, so I understand it partially, others are just afraid. Then there are few who try to reason with the management and those have my respect.

    It’s scary nowadays though, there are no jobs. Vancouver’s studios are also outsourcing oversees. I wish there was an easy solution, but as somebody mentioned here, studios keep under-bidding each other to get shows and the only way for them to make the desirable profit is to abuse their employees. Guru just took it ‘a bit’ too far…

    Union would be nice, but does anybody have the balls?

  26. Bryan Bryan January 30, 2012

    As an artist trying to break into the industry, I find it very disheartening that almost all the jobs available to me are unpaid internships that have been impossible for me provide for my basic needs. I’m entirely independent and have no way to support myself financially without money coming in.

    I’ve started to question my career choice since it seems that every company requires experience and they refuse to even look at my portfolio. And the companies that would look at my portfolio are inherently looking for slave labor, or as my friend put it, worse than slave labor because at least slaves get fed and have their needs provided for. I’m pretty much at the end of my rope since it seems that every company are just content to destroy artists while lining their pockets.

  27. GURU STUDIO GURU STUDIO January 30, 2012

    GURU appreciates the dialogue about animation internship practices.

    Our recent postings for interns were clerical errors, thus we’ve asked they be removed. The duties described were never intended to be applied to internship placements. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

    Guru’s internships are run in accordance with Ontario Ministry of Labour guidelines. Our intern program is well respected and we take pride working closely with university and college cooperative education programs to ensure that the brightest talents are given the opportunity to learn from our experienced team. Candidates compete for a limited number of placements to train in a real production environment so they can continue to learn and build their resume. Many of our intern graduates move into paid positions both here and at other studios.

    In this age of intense globalization and restrictive budgets, we encourage everyone in the animation community to continue discussing this topic so that our industry remains vibrant and competitive.

    For more information about internship and employment opportunities at Guru, please visit our website

  28. southern man southern man January 30, 2012

    I believe them. We shouldn’t have been so quick to judge them. I hope their ‘clerical errors’ explanation will be quoted for times to come, along side more famous:

    “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” Clinton
    “I’m absolutely, l00 percent, not guilty.” O. J. Simpson

    ..and here I have expected some decency.

  29. DaveG DaveG January 30, 2012

    I second the BS call.

    On Canadian Animation Resources Job section, November 17, 2011 Guru posted looking for a Design Intern and Storyboard Intern and then a month later, posted looking for a Layout/Animation and Compositing Intern.

    If the postings were *really* clerical errors, the postings would have been caught after the first two postings not more than 2 months later when people start talking about it.

    (also while doing a quick search on the internet I found numerous postings including as recent as January 20th looking for more interns with responsibilities that are contrary to Ontario Ministry of Labour’s set guidelines ie.

  30. anonymous anonymous January 30, 2012

    Maybe the clerical errors were done by interns. I do agree with the comments above though.

  31. Bryan Bryan January 30, 2012

    I think they should just do away with unpaid internships across all the art studios. I have a friend who is an intern at BMW and he makes about as much as a paid junior artist, if not more. Granted, he ends up being worked and abused since he’s an intern but at least he’s paid for it. And even though the law states that internship has to be voluntary, if you refuse the company’s demands of you coming in everyday, I doubt it’d be any good for your career either.

  32. CB CB January 30, 2012

    Clerical Error? No way.

    Sounds like legal got involved and its a full on CYA attempt. I’d buy the internship deal if they were going after students during school time like grabbing someone from Sheridan or Seneca for a few months after which the students return to class but from indications they are going after graduates or anyone in the general public.

    The creative industry is puzzling, even in the 90’s the very few schools back then made sure to tell animation students on day one that 5-10% of grads were lucky to land work in the industry. Things haven’t changed now. There’s just more schools and programs in the mix training people for jobs that don’t exist. The joke is on the students, they already paid $xx,xxx for a piece of toilet paper.

    As for unionization, it’s easy for twenty somethings to dismiss that. A good question to ask yourself is where will you be in this business when you are 35? 45? Look around and see how many people that age are still doing the grind? A handfull. Most burn out or change careers. Or trying to run their own shop on razor thin margins.

    A Union guarantees set minimum wages, and ensures that labor laws are met, basic stuff, like getting paid your hours and overtime. It allows for a pension and some benefits that carry from job to job. It’s not realistic to assume you’ll be at a production for more than a few months to a year before switching jobs but at least with some union framework you can contribute to a pension plan as a you job hop. That’s the big long term advantage.

    Look at Local 839 IATSE, if you listen to the union nay sayers in Toronto who claim all the jobs will go elsewhere, then by that logic there should be no animation production work in Los Angeles.

    Where would this money come from? The Vendors [Guru, etc] pockets? No, leverage the tax credits… otherwise it just winds up in the pockets of some corporation and not the vendor or artists.

  33. anon anon January 30, 2012

    Error or not, the web caches all pages, and it wasn’t hard to find postings from November, and all the current jobs for that matter that were once called “unpaid” as originally posted. Thank god for screen grab tools.

    this one from last week caught my eye too. Also unpaid. I am sure it will be changed to.

    This practice is wrong and things really need to change in our industry.

    [Full-time] Model/Rigging Intern at Guru Studio
    Posted on January 23, 2012 by admin
    Location: Toronto, Ontario

    Guru studio, the award-winning and internationally renowned animation facility in Toronto is looking for a Model/Rigging Intern to assist with the second season of our internationally broadcast show Justin Time. This is an unpaid position.

    Justin Time is a “2D/3D Hybrid” production with a unique look. Visually, it pulls design influences from the likes of Mary Blair, Golden Book Illustrations and Samurai Jack. The character designs are bright, colourful and highly refined using simple graphic shapes. Environments are rich and highly stylized with a blend of graphic shapes and painterly textures.

    • Assist modeling team to meet the needs of the production.
    • Use commercial and proprietary tools to help rig characters.
    • Assist with modeling characters and props based on the show’s hybrid 2D/3D design aesthetic.
    • Apply basic shaders and textures to models consistent with a flat cartoon look.

    • Abilities in modeling.
    • Knowledge of Maya shader networks and UV placement an asset.
    • Understanding of cartoon animation principles and how they apply to rigging.
    • Must be eager, excited and willing to learn.
    • Fun, trustworthy and chill.

    To apply:

    Please indicate “Model/Rigging Intern” in the subject header line and send only online portfolios/blogs with a descriptive list to:

    Guru Studio
    Attention: Hire Me!
    110 Spadina Ave., Suite 500
    Toronto, ON M5V 2K4

    We are unable to return materials, so please do not submit originals. No phone calls please and no relocation will be provided. This is an unpaid position beginning immediately. Only selected applicants will be contacted.

    Guru Studio is an equal opportunity employer

  34. xguruvian xguruvian January 31, 2012

    So often, the people in this industry are quick to label a company’s policies as exploitative. I’d like to ask any former guru interns to weigh in on what they thought of their experiences there.

    The situation may be different now, but when I worked at guru a few years back, the interns we took on were actively mentored, given constructive instruction and feedback. They were given generous honorariums as well as travel allowances to cover expenses. guru was also very careful to not assign tasks or work that would be directly contributing to a production (ie. shots assigned for animators were for training and learning purposes only – not to be used and not subject to production deadlines).

    guru management was also sensitive enough to negotiate reasonable terms and hours that created a win win situation for everyone. the longest internship i recall was 4 weeks and all internships were definitely part time. And if memory serves me correctly, a lot of the interns that were taken on ended up with paid jobs with guru.

  35. w w January 31, 2012

    xguruvian-A part time 4 week internship? I have a hard time believing that would even be worth while to either party if that were the case.
    Hiring an intern after an internship hurts. The appeal to hiring one is the lower pay scale rather then hiring someone with experience costing the studio more money
    Essentially it sounds like Guru needs people for JustinTime but are either strapped for cash or unwillingly to pay someone for the positions
    Scrolling the internet you can find Guru’s “clerical” errors dating back to 2010 looking for interns for the first season of the show. The internship job description i found was no different then that of a paid employee position.

  36. Charlie Charlie January 31, 2012

    I would like any animators still waiting to be called back to Guru for the job they were laid off from when the last production ended and have been replaced with an intern to weight in as well.
    I have to admire the tenacity of Guru’s reply it’s practically daring the animation community or Torontians/Canadians at large to do something about the letter of the law. They’ve admitted that they are doing everything that they are being accused of “Candidates compete for a limited number of placements to train in a real production environment so they can continue to learn and build their resume.” and in this production environment they just so happen to work on a television series and take away a position that was once paid.
    It’s a tough industry but as tough as it is we don’t need to be excusing unethical(not unlawful as sad as it seems) behaviour. The fact that studios threat any animator/artist with the chance they will be replaced with students or fresh grads for cheaper and there by can forget about EVER getting a raise, more than the legal amount of vacation days a year(just 10 days, hard to go on a family vacation with so few) and NEVER EVER any sense of job security is quite frightening.
    So as a community of artists/animators I say we use this and other internet forums to shout out against these blatant abuses against us because what hurts one group of artist/animators hurts us all.

  37. southern man southern man January 31, 2012


    Nice try, but according to their job postings (

    the intern-ship lasts 8 months.

    And as to “what the interns thought of their experiences there”, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them liked it. I would, if I was 18 and got to try a ‘real job’ (even for free) instead of going to school every day, but that is not the point. The point is that Guru is hurting the animation industry big time.

    P.S.: The wording of your comment make you sound awfully like one of guru’s management.

  38. Disappointed Disappointed January 31, 2012

    I know people who worked at Guru, good people, they watched as interns were brought in and employees were laid off. They worked their asses off hoping their job would remain theirs, hoping that the company they’d worked so hard for, for years, would return some loyalty. More and more interns came in, more and more workers were laid off. They are good workers, still hoping for that call back, as they see post after post go up for free interns for those same positions.

    “Clerical error”, what a joke !

  39. NoName NoName January 31, 2012

    I’ve quickly read through all this. I’ve got two feelings on this one that favours any companies attempts to use interns and one that favours workers to unite and put a stop to bad internships

    First off, while I do believe that internships for any student is good and that working on a production shot even once during the internship for the experience is a GREAT way to learn. I was fortunate enough to get my chance early on in my life interning (via Co-Op) during high school. It was a fantastic time! I learned a lot, worked with fine people in a VERY small shop and got to join in on some of the production work. Mostly working cameras, scanning to cell, mixing clay colours and building armatures for stop mo projects. I only ever got paid my bus fare and maybe a few lunches but I didn’t care. I got what I needed. Experience! That experience got me into Sheridan fairly easily and from there I was fortunate enough to leave for “greener pastures” down south for almost many years! I honestly believe I can attribute most if not all of my professional fortunes on that one internship program. It worked wonders for me. That being said, I was still in high school and I didn’t have the same financial woes of a college student but nonetheless an internship has it’s benefits, if it’s done fairly and allows for a student to gain knowledge and a studio to gain SOME benefit from it. I think it’s OK for interns to touch a shot at a minimal level.

    On the other hand…

    Since I returned to Toronto Canada many years ago I have yet to find a studio that actually gives a crap about their employees or interns for that matter. I say this because I have had the fortune of working for one of the big companies in the US and I know how they treated their workforce. They had a union (which I was a part of) and they paid well enough, offered great environments and projects to work on and in return the workers provided the company with great results. There’s something to be said about that.

    I’m not going to complain about the pay here because for the most part I truly believe pay is fair and reflective of the competitive environment we are all in. Of course that is only on the base level. From there it begins to fall apart. I’ve seen artists work long hours with little to no compensation, work environments that did not give the workers the proper tools or environment to do the job properly and they still get the blame for the lack of effort or skill. I’ve personally witnessed studio heads that “have no clue” make decisions against their senior staff that actually have years of experiences in running things and performing above and beyond efficiently. After poop hits the fan the studio heads then blame the experienced folks for not hitting the mark and so on and so forth. It’s pretty ridiculous!

    southernman wrote…

    “From my experience everybody’s out for himself. I’ve seen people taking ridiculous amount of abuse, I’ve seen people break, give up, I’ve seen some being sacrificed (blamed for a show being behind schedule and fired to scare others to work harder) and no-one ever said a word. Some people have families, mortgages to pay, so I understand it partially, others are just afraid. Then there are few who try to reason with the management and those have my respect.”


    Agreed! There’s a lack of true unity within our community it seems! Been there personally and seen it for happen to others myself as well. I’ve also experienced the united approach and I got to tell you it does help if we stand together to protect our jobs and those of others coming up the ladder. If not things MAY continue to decline.

    southernman wrote…

    “It’s scary nowadays though, there are no jobs. Vancouver’s studios are also outsourcing oversees. I wish there was an easy solution, but as somebody mentioned here, studios keep under-bidding each other to get shows and the only way for them to make the desirable profit is to abuse their employees. Guru just took it ‘a bit’ too far…”


    Jobs are definitely scarce but I’m more then sure things will pick up again. It’s part of the cycle our industry goes through. I’ve seen it happen before and it will happen again but I must admit this time seems to be one of the lowest points. I honestly believe Toronto has some of the best talents in the world (which is currently being squandered) and I also believe that sometime in the future (hopefully soon) there will be some good projects that need experienced leaders and hungry young pros to fill positions. I really feel this will happen. In the meantime we’re losing talents to studios from abroad for several reasons. Better projects, better work environments, more money but all of this is mostly due to better investments into these companies. Toronto can’t compete at that level with our conservative financiers driving our industries. Sad but true.

    southernman wrote…

    “Union would be nice, but does anybody have the balls?”


    No one will! There should be a union but there wont be in this town. General thinking is we all “have it all to well and we don’t want to rock the boat”. Good luck with that one folks. You can not trust companies to self govern and enforce your work environment. There bottom line is their priority. Your’s is your livelihood. They often don’t see eye to eye. Protect yourselves by uniting!

    In closing, this is not a rant on internships per say because if they are run properly can be fruitful for everyone involved. It’s more a review on general employment practices and overall unity of our community. Those need to improve if this town is to become successful again! Healthy workforce equals great productions!

    That’s my take on nothing at all! 😉

    All the best!

  40. SiL SiL January 31, 2012

    @southern man
    8 months internship?

    Jeez, that means the poor intern will work until the storyboard department finish their jobs, then get kicked out.
    For most of the interns, I think, they are expecting to become full time employees with the company after they have done the internship. They work hard, trying their best to impress their boss, in the hope of becoming full time afterwards.
    But, anyone has worked in a TV animated series knows that 8 month is almost the length of one season production time for one department. (Generally, also depends on the time ppl join in the team)

    So, clearly, J.T. seasone 2 is trying to cut down their budget. Since many things can be used from season 1, it is true that they don’t have to hire experienced people as season 1.

    So sad, it was a happy place full of joy. Is this industry getting down?

  41. CB CB January 31, 2012

    If it’s a few weeks then fine, but talk from other folks “in the know” is that they are working on production for months at a time.

    It’s the producers wet dream, free labor for the price of a bus pass.

    I feel bad for students these days racking up big student loan debt to enter this industry. It wasn’t so bad when I went through when schools were dirt cheap.

    You should know within 4 weeks if someone is worth hiring on board or not.

  42. Hmph Hmph January 31, 2012

    Guru, like many studios and businesses these days, have no money..

  43. Harg Harg January 31, 2012

    Guru’s unpaid internship posting tells me that the arrogance and bullying that pervades
    the inner walls of many animation studios may be oozing into the public domain. They might
    want to remind themselves that they only get away with this conduct with employees too
    afraid to speak up, not the outside world. Perhaps the business of animation needs the veil
    pulled back a little 😉

  44. Ron Ron January 31, 2012

    Some provinces have easy-to-access government programs where they pay for half the wages for one intern in your company for 6+ months. The guidelines are that the intern be just out of college and is working in the field s/he just got educated in.

  45. mike magnan mike magnan January 31, 2012

    I know a nice little kid….who works on commercials very talented…and they don’t pay him a cent….though they havo no problem cashing their paychecks for the commercials. What Guru is doing is taking advantage of our hard times…sorry…but I’m not into it. Fuck you! It’s time we get pissed off. At Least Corus offers their yankers some pathetic rate. And as a kid I’d appreciate it. The reason everyone shy’s away from being insulted by Guru is because they’re trying to score. And that’s sort of sad. Sorry…but I’m not sad. I’m pissed. Canadian animators…Just my opinion…don’t get pissed!!!! Get organized!! Simple!

  46. mike magnan mike magnan January 31, 2012

    We are as Actra as anyone is.

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