Tuesday, July 12, 2011


The word "intern" now makes me flinch. I mentioned in my last post I'm still having dreams about it. It was a nightmare...a living nightmare.

Nachtmahr. "Nachtmahr is a nightmare so bad it's in German."

God it sucked.

Okay. Here it is and please, please, learn from my mistakes:

I was applying to all kinds of crap and I got two responses in one day. One was for a costume designer for a playhouse on Long Island, and one was a costume design internship at an actor's school in the city. I haven't done much design work so I figured that the internship would be more my speed and I'd be able to work under/next to a costume designer because, you know, intern: "a person who works as an apprentice or trainee in an occupation or profession to gain practical experience, andsometimes also to satisfy legal or other requirements forbeing licensed or accepted professionally." Dictionary.com, kids.

Right? No reason not to think that. I wanted a safety net, and understandably so. INTERN.

So. I call back the school and I talk to this nice lady who's telling me about this program she runs that teaches young adult to adult actors how to move and act as they did in...let's just say "period"...period pieces. I thought, awesome. I get to work on full-scale period costumes. BETTER, we were using a program in New York that allows small theaters to do full-scale costuming by loaning out costumes from all over the city and its theaters. So, for example, a number of our costumes had actually been used in the Metropolitan Opera House. Not only that, but I'd get to go to this Wonderland of costumes to pull from and do fittings and- AND- the nice lady told me she hires a professional photographer to take pictures of the whole process so I'd have a kickass portfolio piece. She says, "Can you come in today? We're setting up a thing for the students to go through, with period music and movies playing and jewelry and things they can try on..."

I was excited so I said, "Sure!" Ran around, got ready, was on the train within 20 minutes to arrive in the city in an hour.

THE STUDIO WAS EVEN AN EASY WALK FROM THE TRAIN STATION. A handful of blocks. It couldn't be any better.

So the studio was...small. Smaller than I expected. City-like. I got it. Cool.

...But there was no sewing area whatsoever. Which I thought was strange. If I'm doing alterations and stuff, wouldn't I need a sewing machine? Or...like, a table? But I ignored this and spent the next 4 hours moving things and dressing people and overall it was pretty cool. I hadn't met the costume designer yet, which I thought was strange but, again, ignored it. Kept ignoring it while I sat around for the next 2 hours while the kids had a class with the nice lady. Again, strange-ish, but I didn't mention it.

I was soooo excited. I texted Herbert a couple of times during the day to tell him I was excited. He was happy that I was happy.

After the students left we started cleaning up from the day...and the nice lady's jewelry was so horrendously disorganized...she asked me to help out. At this point it's 7:30 and I'd kind of like to get home...but I said okay and helped. After an hour of that the nice lady drops one of the boxes we'd just organized and everything goes spilling out. Hey, it's fine, accidents happen. At one point she snapped at me because she claimed to have set a box out in the main studio room that I told her I hadn't seen. She told me OF COURSE it was there, she did it, she wrote on it, she did it all herself. OF COURSE it was where she said it was.

But it wasn't. It was in the closet in front of her face when she found it. Alright, whatever, people make mistakes. Polite people apologize but whatever, let's not split hairs. We were tired. It was a long day.

So we go back to her office with another nice lady and we chat. I tell her about my experience working at school, which isn't much but it's not nothing, and she's really excited about it so...okay. I tell her with the cost of the trains I do need to be paid for this, and she said $500. So I say, okay. It dawns on her I still have an hour train ride so she's like, "Oh! You have to go!"

So I asked for a cast list because I won't be able to return for a few days as I was having a medical procedure.

So the two nice ladies then start arguing over casting. Cute...a little annoying...but cute- two little old ladies running a tiny little acting school...it was cute. I finally get a tentative character list, which is good enough, I supposed. Then it dawned on me.

I wasn't the costume design intern. I was the costume designer. I was in charge. It was me. I had two other girls on my team. Okay...I can do this.

I go home...have my procedure...go back...okay.

Apparently, while I was gone, two of the nice lady's (the original nice lady) office interns had quit, and would I mind doing a little random stuff while she found new ones. Of course I wouldn't mind. Sooo...I ran errands. I got keys made. I went to the post office. I helped set up chairs and find things for the teachers bipping in and out. I dressed the students when they needed to be dressed for certain classes. I was putting out fires before they started.

Other girls came in, but I was kind of the catch-all for about a week, especially since I was the only one in on Saturdays. I was going in early and getting home late. I was doing work when I got home- emailing students and setting up groups and email accounts...

Like anyone new to a job, I screwed up a few things. Especially since no one bothered to tell me that we were running two businesses out of the little office, and it turned out the second nice lady wasn't an employee, but a student. A phone call or two got misplaced or somehow screwed up...once I got yelled at for not taking the student's attendance- which I thought was odd because why would I ever need to do that? Shouldn't a teacher do that? Shouldn't the students sign in somewhere? OH...okay, yeah, take attendance. Got it.

Oh, oh, OH, take attendance AND call the students that aren't there. Well...should have told me that the first time, but yeah, okay, whatever. My bad.

So pretty soon I'm banging shit out like it's my fucking job. Which it really isn't...but whatever. The nice lady begins to be comforted by my presence and begins to insist I stay beside her as much as possible, to the point where there are things I could have been getting done but can't because she wants me near her. "No no no, don't go, stay stay, stay with me. Please."

I also found out I'd be getting Sundays and Mondays off. Fantastic. That's great. Two days in a row and I'll catch up on sleep and food...great.

THEN...I got to go to HEAVEN. The costume collection. It was amazing. She brought us in 5 minutes before their closing the day before I would be going in early to start pulling stuff so she could show me how to pull and where to put stuff I pulled. Awesome. She showed us the rack and said nothing with long sleeves, nothing with velvet, and nothing too busted. Fantastic. Got it. Will do.

(I was also very relieved to see a work area in the collection warehouse. A couple of tables, a sewing machine or two...great. Easy. Done. Whew.)

I went in early but forgot which floor the collection was on. Stupid, I know, but whatever, I remembered what it looked like, I had it written down somewhere, and anyway I was pretty sure it was the 9th floor.

-- Slightly unrelated story about my trip to the 9th floor--

It wasn't the 9th floor. The elevator opens on the 9th floor and I step out into a hallway that is perfectly, perfectly white. The way you imagine heaven to be white. Actual heaven, not the costume collection. There were no exposed wires like the floor I was supposed to be on, the floor itself was white and perfect instead of scuffed, plain, concrete. It even smells clean. Like laundry.

I get off the elevator because I figured I was still on the right floor, I just got turned around somewhere because I have NO sense of direction. I look around and see a huge sign saying "Martha Stewart LIVING" and don't remember seeing that the other day...but we were running through the hall trying to get to the collection before it closed...so I start to walk. I pass more white-on-white rooms with pretty, perfect receptionists and things. I end up with a small group, a member of which is swiping key cards to get us through perfectly white and HUGE doors.

Key cards?

I don't remember anything about key cards.

Then it dawned on me. This isn't Martha Stewart's section of the 9th floor...this is Martha Stewart's floor. And I better leave before somebody kicks me out for trespassing or stalking Martha. Somebody perhaps being Martha. Fuck. Okay...well...don't look panicked. Just...calmly get back on the elevator and...hopefully...nobody noticed you.


Turns out I was fine but I was nervous for the rest of the day. I decide to play it safe and find the floor number I had written down before I stumble across more things that could get me in a lot of trouble.

-- End of slightly unrelated story of my trip to the 9th floor--

I finally find my way to the collection and started pulling. Finished early when the second girl came because the nice lady said not to bother pulling the men's things, she'd be in at noon to help finish up. So...we were done at 11 so we decided to sit in the waiting area for her.

We got a call from one of the office interns that the nice lady was going to be late. Yeah, fine. That's cool. My second costume intern came in. Good stuff. My first girl had to leave, yeah, fine.

1:15 the nice lady comes in and starts yelling at us for sitting. Says never to wait for her. Okay.

Goes back to look at what we pulled and then decides to pull every single long-sleeved, velvet, and hideously torn and tattered dress off the rack. Goes to an entirely different rack and starts pulling things. Yells at us for not getting started on the men's things. Leaves.

Yeah. Okay. Whatever. I was still in Heaven. And I had another day in there. So I go in...first...again...by myself...the next day to start pulling more, which is fine, whatever. So I get finished for the day.

The next day is the first of two days of fittings and the nice lady gets there ON TIME. Bitchin'. Sweet. The day goes well. Very well, even. We found some beautiful clothes for beautiful girls and handsome suits for handsome men and we are off to the races. FABULOUS.

Halfway through the day one of my girls even comes by to help with fittings. She even tells me SHE'LL come in early the next fitting day so I don't have to. SWEET.

The next few days pass as usual...until the end of the day Saturday when after I spent the afternoon making the costume binder FOOL PROOF for my girl doing fittings on Monday (which, even though it was my day off, that is an important thing to be at...so I'll go in late, like we said before. No big deal.) , so I go to the nice lady to explain what I did and show her how it works and whatnot and she has a panic attack: "No no no no no no no no, you have to come. You have to be there. I don't think she'll be on time and then I'll be alone and have a heart attack."


Monday morning comes, and guess who's late? Not just my girl, but the nice lady, too. Guess who's on time? Our first appointment.


Okay, fine. They all eventually show up and it all gets done...Except, of course, for the fact that the nice lady didn't tell us how the check-out procedure worked, so instead of labeling each piece of each costume with the character name we hung things up together. Big mistake because, as it turns out, each item had to be hung separately and with like items.

So me and my girl had to spend the entire next day labeling and reorganizing what we were taking and putting away the things we weren't. It ended up taking so long we couldn't begin the checkout process that day and had to come back the next.

We were under the impression that the nice lady (who will henceforth be known as "Bitchface") would be joining us to go over our final decisions and pay. This turned out to not be the case. While my girl and I were waiting (did I mention that my other girl had quit? She had) Bitchface called to say that one of the office interns (we'll call her "Elizabeth") and, "Elizabeth's friend" were on their way over to bring me the blank check and help us carry the bags we'd have.

Bags? Yeah. Bags. We'd get a bunch of bags to take all the costumes back to the studio. But why? If the work space is at the collection, then why-

Oh. Because the work space is for the collection. My work space is a closet, literally, at the studio. Without light. Without a table. Without a sewing machine.

Without needles. Or thread. Or fabric. Or chalk.

Just talking about it again is making my eyes burn.

Anyway, eventually Elizabeth and her friend (who turned out to be one of the other office interns, Bitchface just never bothered to learn her name) were all fired up about about this email that Bitchface's Friend sent out detailing how horrible a job the interns are doing and the way things are supposed to be done. We take the things we're taking from the collection out to the front to begin the checkout process and go to lunch.

We had a fantastic gab session about how bad things are at the studio, how miserable we all are, how unprofessional and disgusting a place it is. How Bitchface is running 2 businesses with interns because she doesn't want to pay anybody. How there's so stupid much to do and how everyone keeps quitting on her because they don't get trained properly, then they get yelled at for making mistakes when of course they're going to make mistakes, they're new and they're interns, looking for some experience in the field- a difficult field to break into. Besides the fact they're only hired for a month at a time and most quit before the month is up. On and on and on...Oh, and Bitchface's friend, who wrote the upsetting email in the first place, is one of the teachers at the studio- a sometimes employee just staying in a hotel nearby while she's teaching a class at the studio, not like an actual there everyday type of person. Anyway.

So after lunch we go back to the collection and Bitchface calls me to see how it's going. I ask the guy inventorying our take and he says he's about halfway through, and Bitchface yells at me about how long it's taking. Yeah, okay, whatever. It's my fault.

Eventually they finish and I write a check for $2500 and we get the bags to the studio. Then we take a while hanging everything up. Bitchface and I make plans for me to come in early so we could make plans for my shopping trip to buy supplies. Fine.

So I go in early to make plans to buy supplies. Bitchface isn't there. Elizabeth and Elizabeth's Friend laugh and say Bitchface isn't coming in for another 3 hours.

At this point I had 5 days to get 27 costumes close-up ready, several of which need extensive repair work. Fucking kill me.

So I go shopping by myself to get needles and thread and chalk and a ruler and fucking straight pins.

That night I bring home 3 dresses to work on. The next day there's a fashion MFA there to help, and the poor little thing's mind was blown by the place. She started taking things home to work on, too.

The next day MFA and I decide to tackle one of the disaster dresses, and it's a complete disaster, but there's nothing to do, we have to make it fit to wear. Not just fit to wear, but the character wearing it is supposed to be extremely fashionable and her dress needs to be killer.

So why Bitchface picked this piece of shit dress...

A lot of the problems were technical and I could explain but it doesn't really matter, just know the thing was a rag and I was supposed to make it presentable in 2 days. I take it home that night to work on it the next morning before I went in, because I desperately needed to sleep.

Let me explain. This whole time while I'm doing these things, I was doing 15 hour days, and eating fruit snacks standing because I didn't have time to eat. I was barely sleeping because when you're doing 15 hours a day and there's a two hour commute that only leaves 7 hours to sleep and do everything else there is to do in a day. So I was neglecting everything- bills, chores, my family and friends, my fucking health, I was doing everything I could to put out a decent show despite wanting to kill myself and/or quit. I was working so hard.

So when I was "late" the next day because I was working on the dress that I needed a sewing machine (and the only available sewing machine was at my house) to do I got an angry phone call (one of several, I left out the others because then this thing would be forever long...) and Bitchface starts calling me unprofessional.

I tell her I'll call her back in 5 minutes because I'm about to lose my temper and she really doesn't want that to happen.

So she starts yelling at me some more and I had fucking had it. So I tell her I quit, I'll be in to drop off her things and pick up my check. We got into an argument over the phone, I hang up on her, and she calls me back 3 times. I ignore the calls. She sends 8 text messages.

So I go in and drop off her stuff. She decides to hold some kind of exit interview with her Friend. They have clip boards with blank sheets of paper and pens. So they sit me down. I ask for my check again so I can go home, so we start arguing over the amount of money she was going to give me.

Direct quote: "I never said that!" Well, yes, you did. "Do you have it in writing?" No, I don't, and neither do you. "Oh yes I do!" She stands up and I say, "Go get whatever contract you want, but I have never seen a single contract here, let alone signed it." She remained standing and said, "I'm not going to have you humiliate me and incite a riot in my school. We're going outside."

Edit: I seriously believe that she made us go outside because she didn't want the other interns there (that also hadn't signed contracts) to hear how badly she screwed this up. It was awesome.

I say fine. We go outside and continue to argue. And let's just say I kicked ass. You know how when you call somebody on something that they weren't expecting and they just stare at you? That happened a lot. Even Bitchface's Friend couldn't help smirking- I had an answer for everything. What was happening wasn't my fault- it was hers for screwing up the whole time. She tried to call me on my inexperience, I told her she knew it when she hired me.

She then claimed her lack of supplies was because "this is New York City."

Bite me, woman.

So we agree on $250 and I start to walk away. She says, "Wait! Don't you want your check?" And I say, "Yes, do you have one?" and she says no, because, haha, OF COURSE she doesn't have a checkbook at the studio. Not like this is a professional outfit and all.

That night I see I have a voicemail from one of the office interns. "Uh...Joanna? There's something about a missing pair of earrings...if you could call me back..."

So I called back and told them where their fucking earrings were. Bitchface said she'd look, but if she couldn't find them she was keeping my check because I stole her earrings.

How can I possibly prove I don't have them?

And can you believe there's even more I left out? I got my heart broken. Don't let it happen to you.

Get a contract. READ IT. Sign it. Get a copy of it. Make sure you know what you're getting into when you start, and please, don't let your excitement or desperation get in the way of your common sense. Let some good come out of this.

You can't trust everybody.

1 comment:

  1. holy hell, that sounds miserable! Are you out of work- if so lets do lunch!!