The irony of the situation wasn't lost on Matt Zinman, 46, hustling hard at a preview party of "The Internship" last week. Twenty-plus years ago, he was an intern for a movie production company and he spent his internship setting up preview parties for movies, with the aim of drawing an audience of his peers, then college students. Now he's hustling to establish the Internship Institute, a nonprofit in Newtown dedicated to improving the quality of internships.
The Internship movie focuses on two salesmen, Billy (Vince Vaughn) and Nick (Owen Wilson), who, 40ish, find themselves out of work because their glad-handing one-on-one personal style is no longer needed in a digital world where sales are conducted online. But their gift of gab doesn't desert them -- the duo that made a name for itself in the 2005 movie "Wedding Crashers" crashes Google. Amazingly, Billy and Nick manage to talk their way into internships in the Googly epicenter of the digital universe. Next challenge? Prove to their brainy college-student colleagues that they are not obsolete.
Once they end up in Google, Billy and Nick are relentless. It's a message that Zinman, himself 40ish, and a single father of a 12-year-old, takes to heart. "For myself, it's their never-give-up spirit that applies to the necessity to really fight and for me to persevere in my work in the internship realm," Zinman said Tuesday after the preview crowd and reviewers left the theater. The movie opened Friday.
Zinman said his Institute will launch a crowd-sourcing campaign later this month to raise $1.1 million. Part of the money, he said, will fund an unpaid intern relief fund, so that interns working in non-paying internships in nonprofits and start-ups can get some wages, even paltry ones. He also wants to use the money to help veterans land internships and to create a turn-key internship program that nonprofits and other ventures can simply plug into their human resource structures.
I asked Zinman his philosophy about paid vs. unpaid internships. "I think internships ought to be paid, if they can be," he said. "It's in their best interest to be be paid because it makes the experience more valuable to the intern, which leads to a greater value for everyone involved."