Companies Behind Orange County Film Festival Sued for Allegedly Treating Interns Like Slaves

Orange-County-Film-Festival.jpg
Orange County Film Festival
Three companies behind the annual Orange County Film Festival (which I've never heard of and, judging by a search of the archives, OC Weekly hasn't either) are being sued in Orange County Superior Court for running "a student 'sweat shop' masquerading as an 'internship.'" Now the Weekly IS familiar with that ... er, I mean ... FilmEd Academy of the Arts in Irvine, FilmEd Entertainment, Cinematic Arts Experience and its founder David Junker treated interns like "indentured servants" and paid employees "slave wages," former intern Alex Iseri claims in the suit.

Iseri, who is represented by Scott Richter of West Hollywood, claims Junker and his companies conned him and other students into internships followed by low-paying jobs under the guise they were being mentored in filmmaking. Iseri is seeking back pay and compensatory and punitive damages for intentional interference with contractual relations, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, unfair competition and California Labor Code violations.

Junker could not be reached for comment. But the Cinematic Arts Experience website states it was founded by him in 2003, partnered with FilmEd Academy of the Arts and together they organized the annual Orange County Film Festival that showcases the work of student filmmakers.

Iseri's complaint claims the companies also produce and market video yearbooks for high schools. He says he was recruited during his junior year at Foothill High School in 2004 by Junker for a video yearbook summer workshop and class.

While at Cal State Long Beach in the fall of 2005, Iseri says he was asked by Junker to intern for him and learn filmmaking. But Iseri claims in his complaint that he and other interns instead worked on the video yearbooks without receiving class credit and wages of $100 a month for 160-250 hours of work. "To put this in perspective, these outrageously low wages equate range from 40 cents to 62 cents an hour, the minimum wage last seen in the 1940s!" reads the complaint.

Iseri claims Junker hired him full-time in 2006, but based on the up to 100 hours a week he claims to have put in he was paid the equivalent of $1 per hour. Iseri adds he and other interns were tasked with teaching summer classes without compensation. The long hours and little or no pay extended to staffing the Orange County Film Festival around the holidays, the complaint adds.

Junker threatened to withhold a recommendation to potential future employers if Iseri complained about the working conditions, according to the suit, which adds the boss always cried poor when failing to come up with wages but made hundreds of thousands of dollars from the video yearbooks.

The complaint says the IRS in April found Iseri was illegally classified as a private contractor--probably to avoid employment tax liability--and that the Labor and Workforce Development Agency has been notified of the alleged employment violations.

Email: mcoker@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!


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60 comments
Ah_chu
Ah_chu

The outcome could be interesting, it might even shut the program down.

amandah
amandah like.author.displayName 1 Like

I'm a FilmEd alumni and all I can say is that FilmEd was undoubtedly my favorite part of high school. Not only are the students incredibly blessed to be given such great equipment and opportunities to become great filmmakers, but they are surrounded by mentors and teachers that actually give a damn about them. Dave does a lot for his students and you can tell by the way he teaches and the sacrifices he makes for the program that he really is passionate about his job/his students. I, and a lot of other people are nothing but grateful for that. Not ONCE have I ever seen or heard any of his students/interns complain or seem anything close to an "indentured servant."

InspireStudentsNow
InspireStudentsNow like.author.displayName 1 Like

By the way, I notified the OC Register two years in a row to cover the amazing OC Film Festival.  They never showed an interest.

toddblood
toddblood

OCWeekly,
    The true story is being told by the comments and outpouring of support we're seeing on this site.  I doubt Dave has any reason to trust a publication like yours that completely failed to break a sweat and call even one person to confirm the validity of this claim.  Cheap sensationalism and mediocrity is what you'll be know for by thousands of FilmEd alumni that are pouring into this industry.  Boy you guys really stepped into it.  Didn't even think of that did You!  Great things will come of this for Dave and FilmED.  I doubt the same can be said for Alex and Matt.

Kevin.Clark
Kevin.Clark like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

I am an alumni of FilmEd Academy of the Arts and have known Dave Junker for 6 years now. I have not worked as an intern, but have worked with Dave plenty of times and on countless projects. I have also worked closely along side many of the interns and feel as though I am without a doubt a strong witness to what truthfully goes on “behind the scenes” of FilmEd.

The simple answer: Philanthropy

And now lets break down the definition: The word means "love of humanity" in the sense of caring for, nourishing, developing, and enhancing "what it is to be human" on both the benefactors' (by identifying and exercising their values in giving and volunteering) and beneficiaries' (by benefitting) parts. The most conventional modern definition is "private initiatives, for public good, focusing on quality of life"

It saddens, frustrates and disappoints me that one person has the ability to selfishly disrupt something that is purely benefiting the growth of passion, creativity, learning and future careers of our youth. I cannot imagine that Alex Iseri really thought through his careless decision here. Clearly he did not think about the instant negative side effects this lawsuit will do for his career in the film industry, considering he has just insulted the entire community of upcoming filmmakers and creatives in Orange County. Most of which will be VERY successful because of the opportunities and skills that FilmEd has provided these young artists.

Alex has clearly made a careless and selfish decision. I do not fear that this will end FilmEd. It will most definitely shake up the emotions and structure of the program. But nothing can breakdown this community. In fact I hope that this dramatic display of false accusation can be a testimony to the true spirit of family within a community of young people. One that inspires others. This is a story of a man that has humbly committed his life to something much greater than himself. Alex may disagree, Matt Coker can disagree, even the media may disagree; but Dave will always have my support and he will always have the support of the countless number of lives that he has changed.

Know that you are in our prayers Dave.

debby.schaefer
debby.schaefer like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

I worked with Dave Junker and FilmEd crew for 10 years as a yearbook and broadcast teacher, and every minute was an honor and privilege. Our school and students greatly benefited from their instruction, and they were very generous with their equipment and services by going beyond their job description by supporting our ASB rallies, Air Guitar show, CIF sporting events, etc. 

The FilmEd program was such a blessing to my students, whether they were interested in film professionally or not. It's a calling and passion for Dave, not a job. And the biggest indicator is that however many hours Alex cites that he worked, Dave worked double. He's always with the students, sacrificing his time with his family and other activities because he's determined to teach and inspire students to do their absolute best. There is no other scholastic program like FilmEd in Orange County. I wish that I could have been a part of it as a high school student, and I would have gladly been an intern without pay just to glean a bit of knowledge from Dave and his FilmEd crew. 

Hopefully people aren't losing sight that there are only two people to blame here: Alex and his attorney. Mr. Coker was just blogging and citing the specifics of the suit (note that he used a lot of "the complaint says," etc). Alex should be ashamed of himself, but I'm sure karma will hunt him down eventually. He should have done some research on other internships if he was more concerned about money, rather than working with one of the best film programs in OC. 

What a waste of time for FilmEd when they have more important things they are doing: teaching and inspiring students to do amazing things. 

Keep up the great work, FilmEd! You still have many students with a solid work ethic and drive who will flock to your professional and inspirational program. You guys rock! 

zahmed8287
zahmed8287 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

I feel so lucky to have had a mentor like Dave and a program like FilmEd in high school. I started almost 10 years ago, around the same time as Alex and I worked closely with Dave and the FilmEd crew both as a student and an intern for several years. I am currently a film educator at a non profit and everyday I am thankful for my time with Dave and I strive to be half the mentor he was. The work ethic and values as a media producer he instilled in me still resonate in my everyday life and I am so grateful to him and all of the work he had put in to making FilmEd the remarkable program it is.

proud_parent
proud_parent like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

I am a parent of one student of Film Ed who went on to intern with Film Ed.  This student worked very hard at learning and absorbing as much knowledge and hands on experience offered by Dave Junker and went on to a university and graduated with a degree in this field. This student learned so much with Film Ed that she sat through class after class knowing more than some of the teachers at the university. She is now working in this field and owes her education, experience, and love of filming to Dave Junker and Film Ed. We love the Junker family and are truly grateful for all they do for this program and the hundreds and hundreds of students who have this wonderful opportunity.  Alex ....SHAME ON YOU.

gottaluvRussia
gottaluvRussia like.author.displayName 1 Like

Just reading this. This David Junker sounds like perfect human being. I vote for him for President!

toddblood
toddblood like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

This is a perfect case for a counter suit.  I believe it is illegal to file a frivolous law suit.  Alex and his attorney should be held liable for the false statements, slander and damage done to Mr. Junker and Film Ed's reputation.  How about the financial and emotional stress Dave, his wife and everybody that works and loves this program are felling?  Trials are expensive.  Even foolish ones like this.  It's called frivolous.  Look it up.  They should be held accountable.  If anybody is interested I'm in.

jared_wooden
jared_wooden like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 4 Like

I write this comment as a remarkably grateful, and distinctly proud alumni of the FilmEd program, as well as a tirelessly dedicated volunteer for the Orange County Film Festival event. As such I feel that my scrutiny of David Junker and his business are irrefutably as valid as those portrayed in this biased (read: pathetic) blog post. 

For the record I would like to be clear that I was never an intern for Mr. Junker’s program; however had the experience I gained from his program not landed me a job before I even left high school I very well may have been. I have, however, volunteered an extensive amount of time over the last 6 years to contribute just a small part in making the Orange County Film Festival the amazing event that it is. I feel that the hundreds of hours I have spent volunteering do not even begin to compensate David for the immeasurable level of generosity he shows for his students. Between the invaluable experience I gained through his program, the expensive equipment I have borrowed and the unwavering support he has personally provided to me over the years I am disheartened at the thought of David needing to defend himself or his amazing company in a courtroom.

Throughout my duration in the FilmEd program I spent extensive time around both David Junker and Alex Iseri. In contrast to the unprofessionalism of this blog post, I will not disparage Alex’s personal character. I will, however, inform the author of this blog that if his goal was to portray the most altruistic, selfless and downright necessary non-profits in Orange County in a negative light you have all but succeeded. I am appalled that an individual with a Bachelor’s degree in journalism would write such an accusatory article without gathering at least ONE additional opinion. Alas I am not here to insult you, Mr. Coker…or Alex for that matter. I simply want to add one voice to the crowd of people urging you to put just a small amount of critical thought towards the material you publish on the internet.

I hope for the journalistic integrity of OC Weekly that they continue to classify this Matt Coker's blog posts as just that, a blog; as it would only disgust me further if this pathetic excuse for an article ever be mistaken for fact.

My fingers are crossed that this whole ridiculous lawsuit blows over, and that high school students will continue to receive the same amazing education and experience that I did for many years to come.

gottaluvRussia
gottaluvRussia like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@jared_wooden 
Just reading this for the first time.
This man David Junker by the expression of so many sounds like the perfect human being. I suggest he run for the President of the United States!

joe_sill
joe_sill like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 5 Like

The very definition of an argument or debate is there are two sides to it. This article Mr. Coker has provided refers to a current debate at hand in Orange County.


But here's the catch - there is very legibly only one side.


I want to provide a second perspective to this article, as the journalist failed to provide that before publishing an article regarding the argument.


As a former student, intern, and now proud alumni of FilmEd, I will make it clear - the label, internship, was never falsified or 'masqueraded', which is claimed in the statement. 


As an intern, I asked and received school credit for community service - which is exactly what is expected of an intern. To provide further reference, I spent a summer at a different internship in Los Angeles with a very successful production company and talent agency - to which I received solely school credit. You'd be very surprised to find that an internship in the film industry almost never includes pay. You do it because you are a student of the craft, and you have a desire to learn everything and anything you can. When you complain about that, you only single yourself out as being an amateur and immature. It's not only looked down upon, it's outright embarrassing.


I have a very poor opinion on this article. The fact that it was provided without further reference, why didn't Mr. Coker - as a proposed professional journalist - seek out a conclusive amount of references: primary accounts of not just one, disgruntled intern, but maybe two, three, ANY AMOUNT more accounts to provide an objective account of the situation?? 


What it is is to provide gossip. 


And that individual stains the publication company that represents it, simply saying to ME that I should only come to the OC Weekly if I want to read measly gossip instigated for the hope that this article will generate internet views, not actual news. And for that, it's not honorable and without providing another side to an argument, it's not an argument. It's merely trying to stir trouble. Which this article clearly does. And it's insulting to me personally because I have a lot of love for the program being referred to.


David Junker has been my closest mentor for a good 7 years now. I have NEVER in seven years been demanded of work. If you were to do that in this industry, you wouldn't be working for very long. Every time I chose to help out as a student instructor in a summer workshop, help out with film and make graphics to help better the video yearbook, was immediately and completely on my own accord. I CHOSE to. If I didn't choose to and was 'forced' to, then this would be a completely different story. You might as well consider my work for the company as collaborating with and helping out a friend, because that's how I see it.


So let's pretend the journalist did use me as a contrasting source of being a prior intern, and asked the question, "Why Dave Junker? Why work with FilmEd? Alex Iseri clearly didn't enjoy his time." And my answer is this:


FilmEd was, is, and will continue to be what I dearly consider a second family of mine. Dave and his colleagues opened my eyes to the fact that I can make films, and I can make them well if I put my mind and hands to it. Generosity is not taken and accepted lightly, and seven years ago I was floored by Dave's generosity. To this day I still am. And I disregard any whine of somebody was VERY CLEARLY VOLUNTEERING THEIR TIME now asking for payment. Because that is not my personality. When I do something I want to do, I do it not for the money, I do it for the love of the people I do it with and for.


Maybe that's something that's too hard for some to understand. I guess I'm only one side too, and that's the one I understand. I prefer my side.

eliuskim
eliuskim like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

These accusations against Dave Junker are absolutely ludicrous. Dave Junker is one of the most self-less, understanding, and wizened individuals I have had the honor of working with and learning from. As a Film Ed Academy alumni, I know for a fact that Dave runs the program with the perfect mix of professionalism and personal care. Since my involvement with the program back in high school, I always looked forward to meeting with Dave or watching him work because it was apparent that he pours every inch of himself into the program, his students, and his employees. Individuals looking to create a strong community of instructors, learners, and future leaders have to treat every one they meet with the utmost respect---Dave Junker is no exception. In fact, Dave should be the example.

The Dave Junker and Film Ed Academy that Alex Iseri has fabricated is totally backwards and is undoubtedly the result of some personal vendetta or wildly misguided blame. It's a shame that someone like Alex Iseri can:
1) totally pervert the reputation of such a brilliant man and his program and
2) gain undeserved attention for the aforementioned heinous claims.

Mr. Coker, I think it extremely irresponsible and frankly kind of sloppy to post an article which needlessly publicizes a baseless and ridiculous lawsuit. Clearly if you had done your research you would find a community of hundreds (if not, thousands) of teachers, students, young filmmakers and parents who support Dave Junker and the Film Ed brand. 

Ray_Nikpour
Ray_Nikpour like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

It saddens me to see that this has come as far as it has. I partook in the FilmEd program for all 4 years of my high school career and I remember Alex Iseri. I remember him being unable to cooperate with certain students and one day disappearing. He personally made fun of at least half the beginning students interviews when we went to the Sawdust Festival in 2009, and that was the only time I ever felt belittled in the program- the next summer, he was nowhere to be seen. I remember being told in early 2010 that he had a personal vendetta against FilmEd and Dave Junker and later, him spreading rumors in 2011. 


I agree with all the current and former students/instructors commenting in the section below but I'd like to add some personal things. To misrepresent the program as a "sweatshop" is nothing short of outrageous. In the 4 years I've been there, Dave Junker's primary goal has been his students and teaching them things at a level equal to most prestigious universities film production programs. Are there late nights- yes. Do we "work" lots of hours-yes. And we enjoy every second of it. I along with my peer, chose to stay in the FilmEd program not because it benefited Dave or our schools but to better ourselves. It not only prepared me for the real world but also allowed me to network with people I would consider now lifelong friends- people who I normally would never have associated with. 


There seems to be a disconnect between reality and these accusation over financial compensation for student work. In high schools all across the country, newspapers and yearbooks are made using the techniques as video yearbooks. The difference is a journalist doesn't need an army to create a piece of work, whereas filmmakers do. The notion that kids are being taken advantage of for their work is preposterous. A student in FilmEd has so much more to gain from the program, thank FilmEd could possibly ever get from students. It's thanks to FilmEd, that as a freshman in college, I work as a Jewelry Photographer instead of in fast food. It's thanks to Dave personally, that I recently shot my first major wedding in Greece. Did I work potentially 400 hours or more for just a grade in high school? Yes i did, but I learned the skills to turn around and make over $3000 for roughly 6 hours of work in one day. To say that Dave is doing this for himself is outrageous and brings sadness to all those that know him. Before my friends and I had our own "basic" equipment, Dave lent us thousands of dollars of equipment for free to school events ranging from the U.S. Open, to interviewing people like Dave Grohl and Will.i.m. 


My life, and the lives of others, would be considerably different if it wasn't for FilmEd. They take care of their students before they take care of themselves. Instead of covering themselves financially, I have seen first-hand they buy equipment instead so that we are using the top of the line gear before many others do. FilmEd gives hundreds of students a step up on all levels. From being a community college film student and landing becoming an assistant director on a Wong Fu shoot before he even started college, to being essentially, the "top dog" out of the 50 people at USC's film school of production, FilmEd students are taught skills in high school that resonate after they graduate and really give us a step up. 


I hope Alex steps down, but I remember this guy, and I know he won't. It's a shame when someone like this tries to ruin such a positive force in the world over being let go nearly half a decade ago.  

vanessanemec
vanessanemec like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

Like the many other students of Dave Junker I am outraged that Alex has allowed some personal issue of his to turn in to such a false case against Dave Junker.  The claims brought on by Alex Iseri are ludicrous.  Dave Junker has done nothing but offer immense opportunity to film students throughout Orange County.  I have never seen a program for high school students quite like FilmEd.  The access he gives his students to top of the line equipment and experience changed my life, and the lives of many of my great friends.  

As a FilmEd student for 3 years, Dave's program became the only thing I loved about high school.  He taught me so much and I will forever be indebted to him for the experience I gained through the FilmEd program.  I loved being a part of the FilmEd family so much, that I later joined on as an intern and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity for such great work experience in a field I love. In all my time working for Dave, I never found my work experience anything like the "sweatshop" Alex speaks of.  How dare he misrepresent Dave Junker and his program like this after everything he's done for Alex over the years.  I'm heartbroken to see this kind of treatment to such a great, giving man and his amazing program.  I'd go back and work for Dave in a heartbeat. It's unfortunate that this article very clearly didn't address the accusations brought on by Alex from the FilmEd perspective but I'm glad to see that alumni, interns, and students of FilmEd are coming together to offer the truth.  

filmstudent
filmstudent like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

I am currently an intern at Filmed, and I only have good things to say about Dave and the summer workshop that goes on. All of the work I have gotten in my film carrier has come from the community of filmmakers in the programs, and Dave Junker. It would be awful if this program  shut down. I have been treated very well as an intern here, and it would be a disservice to the thousands of incoming film students to discontinue the program.

toddblood
toddblood like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Thousands of students, parents, teachers, administrators and other reporters have witnessed Dave Junker and Co's. Film Ed and not a complaint until now. Wow! What a record! This just goes to show you that no good deed goes unpunished. Dave is actually still teaching his students what this bussiness is like with this unfortunate involvement with this ungrateful sole (Alex).  

As a bussiness owner I know all to well that the government and courts will not help Dave. Great programs like his are beyond their scope of comprehension. The Governmental machine closes dream factories like Film Ed. Yet I see an out pouring of support and Love by intelligent accomplished aquaintances of Dave and Film Ed. Question: how many people do you think would come to the aid of Alex Iseri???  I know one, Dave Junker. He did help this kid even when the problems surfaced. He has been consistent in his service to these young adults on their way to making their Dreams come true. 

By the way Alex you were an adult. So act like one. Not this child that is just bitter about not being kept on at Film Ed. Can you blame them? Look at what your capable of. Go look up Loyalty buddy! Your picture won't be there. By the way you just committed social & career suicide. Not to smart. Blogs last forever. Of course you would know that if your weren't thowing and destroying expensive equipment that day. By the way genious, where did you think all that expensive equipment comes from? Thin air? The yearbook program funds all that equipment. No yearbooks no equipment. Did you think about that when you were using that equipment for personal use and profit? Nobody ever trusted you like that before Dave & Film Ed and you can bet no one will Now! Ever heard of burning bridges. 

The worst thing about freedom is that it allows damaged people like Alex to get together with abulance chasers like Scot Richter and use the courts and under achievers like Matt Coker that will write anything to drive people to their site and then censor comments and reply's. Worst of all... Think of the kids that won't get into this program if evil prevails. 

My autistic son was welcomed into Film Ed this summer. This was a burdon to Dave I'm sure. But he said "Sure glad to have him". Sweat shop! Give me a break. My son Luke hates everything. This was the first thing he has ever not hated. A miracle! Speaking of miracles my daughter wanted to be a film maker. She was lucky enough to get into Dave's program all 4 years of high school. She just came back from the most prestigous film festival in the world "Festival De Cannes" in France where her film "Lucy" was accepted, screened and sold multiple times. 

She is now making her first feature film and has worked with Oprah, MTV, Nick Canon, Jerry London and countless others. Due to the knowledge she has learned at Film Ed and Her high school program that works closely with Dave and Film Ed.

She has 60 film festival awards on her shelves from festivals in Coutries like: Canada, France, South Korea, Poland, Serbia, Switzerland and now Diubi. She is now an Editor on SVN Student Video News and I would be appauled if she ever wrote an article so damaging as this. You have alot of new viewers Matt Coker.  Time to man up be a responsible reporter and get to work on that re-traction. 

wesleighogle
wesleighogle like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 4 Like

This makes me absolutely sick. The Junkers are the last people who deserve this. I don't think you'll meet one person who agrees with Alex Iseri. I know Alex personally and he has serious emotional and social issues. Even when he started causing problems at FilmEd, David Junker stood by his side as a mentor and a friend and tried to help him. I can't believe Alex is now suing him.

I owe finding my passion and my career COMPLETELY to Dave Junker and FilmEd. I was both a student and an intern for the program and I happily come back every chance I get to help out...and I never, EVER would describe the experience as a "sweatshop". Everything Alex says is false. Dave puts on a wonderful program and it's completely FREE for students, parents, teachers and schools! At a time when arts programs are being cut in schools, FilmEd gives kids an outlet and real, hands-on learning in the field. If FilmEd were not around a LOT of students would suffer greatly. As I said before, I would not be where I am today without it.

From one journalist to another, Mr. Coker, you failed. You didn't even try to get the other side of this story before you published it...and one attempt to call Dave doesn't cut it. Clearly there are dozens of people willing to take Dave's side. I'd even fly back there today if I had to.

drewjoseph82
drewjoseph82 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

Just like everyone else that has commented, I can say nothing but good things about Dave Junker. I've known him a very long time, and been involved with the program since almost its inception. Ten years later I still come back to help. Not only that, I look forward to it.

My trust in him is rock solid and he puts in just as much work as his employees. He's right there on the front lines with everyone else. The fact that students are willing to put in the long hours for this program should in itself be an indication of how everyone views it. Going through the FilmED program puts you light years, seriously, ahead of other incoming college film students. 

With the outpouring of support for him in the other comments, I certainly don't need to explain why this is a complete waste of everyone's time and energy. 

It's always easier to blame your shortcomings on someone else than it is to accept the consequences of your own actions. Here's to frivolous lawsuits once again ruining the American justice system.

Nice job, Alex. EVERYONE is gonna want to work with you now.

skykarol
skykarol like.author.displayName 1 Like

@drewjoseph82 It would be nice if Alex could step up, and admit he is wrong. I feel like he is too conceited to take that step though.  

dubrockj
dubrockj like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 5 Like

I'll keep this short. Everything I have in terms of film; education, talent, and jobs, I owe to Dave Junker. Any one who has come through the FilmEd program owes all their passion and experience to Dave and the program. 

I feel sad for Alex that he has  twisted the truth, even in his own mind, that he has forgotten the passion for film and education that Dave provided him.

I believe I speak for all FilmEd students/ staff past and present when I say how greatful I am to Dave Junker.

Teach2468
Teach2468 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 8 Like

I am not affiliated with FilmEd, but I am an educator who came across this article.  In first reading it I was surprised by the outlandish allegations: sweat shop, indentured servants, slave wages.  It seems very unbelievable that college students in Orange County would willing participate in a program that operated in a manner that this Alex Iseri claims.  Internships are not forced upon anyone and about half the internships people participate in are unpaid.  People choose to intern to learn, gain experience, build their resumes, sometimes earn money, and sometimes earn college credit (although many schools are no longer giving credit for internships).   It is also difficult for me to understand why Mr. Iseri would take a job working for this company after he claims that he had such a horrible experience as an intern.  It just doesn't make sense.  

In my own experience, I have participated in both paid and unpaid internships.  I also had paying jobs at banks, gyms, and restaurants.  The internships were incredibly valuable to help me gain insight into specific industries and learn the day-to-day operations.  These internships helped me make important career decisions.  I eventually chose to leave business and go into education and then had to participate in a type of unpaid internship called "Student Teaching".  As a student teacher I worked at the school site for at least 40 hours a week (7:00-3:00 M-F) and then went home and worked some more: planning, grading and prepping.  It was completely unpaid and I in fact had to pay the university I was attending to receive school credit towards my teaching credential.  And student teaching is not a choice, it is a government mandated step in becoming a public school teacher.  Financially it was very difficult to student teach; however, the experience and knowledge gained was priceless.  I was also able to get a wonderful job in the school district in which I student taught.  So even though my student teaching "internship" was unpaid I continue to reap the rewards of that experience everyday. 

As an educator, I put in countless hours above and beyond the school day to provide an education and learning environment that I believe is best for students.  In reading the multiple comments below it sounds like the instructors at FilmEd have this same work ethic.  I am not paid hourly for the work that I do.  I accepted my job and signed a contract with a stated salary; however, I believe that I was hired because of my passion for what I do and my commitment to being an effective teacher and that is not confined to the school day.  I do not know of any teachers who can provide a valuable education simply by working during the hours of the school day in which we are paid.  If you look at many professions and counted the actual number of hours worked against the salary paid, I'm certain the compensation would be surprisingly low.  

After reading the comments below --- all supporting FilmEd and praising Mr. Junker--- it seems more likely that Mr. Iseri is disgruntled and trying to take vindictive action.  If he is indeed trying to hurt this FilmEd company, I believe it is going to backfire on him.  From reading the glowing testimonials and support from former and current students, interns and school faculty it sounds like this program is an INCREDIBLE one.  It has been a pleasure to read the passionate comments by the students whose lives have been affected by this program.  It is not easy to inspire teenagers and these successful and articulate students' statements show a wealth of appreciation for Mr. Junker and his program that have helped them in their university and career endeavors.  

My school district would be lucky to have a mentor like Mr. Junker and a program like FilmEd working with our students.  I will be looking into making that a reality. 

Mr. Coker I do urge you to write another article, as I would like to hear more about this program and its successful students.  It's a shame that the media is so overwhelmingly negative these days, when there are inspirational programs like these to highlight and celebrate. 

P6547
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I am mystified. Alex Iseri’s claims are schematic, scummy, and self-disgracing--to use a word, stupid. In addition, I am a bit alarmed by the author’s integrity (or lack of it, rather) in this article. These outlandish assertions have no ground to be affixed to the FilmEd name. In short, FilmEd Academy of the Arts inspires young filmmakers in Orange County to cultivate their talents, many of whom pursue film professionally. As mentioned in previous comments, Iseri is unstable and known to be irate--add “vindictive.” Dave Junker worked closely with Iseri and provided him with unparalleled experiences as an intern. It was Iseri’s own tantrums and ill-at-ease presence that ultimately lead to his termination from FilmEd. (Like: throwing hard drives and screaming in front of students.) Indeed, this article has done an excellent job generating an image of FilmEd that obfuscates the truth.

JoshuaNapier
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If it wasn't for Dave Junker and the entire FilmEd staff and community, I never would have found my passion for film.  He taught me how there's way more to a movie then just actors and special effects.  There's the creation of it, the making of it, and the final product that comes after many hours of work, is something you can be proud of.  Because YOU made it, it's YOUR movie.  That's something I would have never learned if it hadn't been for Dave Junker and FilmEd.  He made it possible for a kid like me, with no budget, to go out and make a short film that could look like a feature film would.

Now, this Alex Iseri, I've never met him, but he is the only person I know of who has ever had a bad experience from attending FilmEd.  And if he is only one person out of hundreds of students and staff who have nothing but good things to say about Dave Junker and the FilmEd program, then I feel that he is an upset man who is looking for a scapegoat for his troubles and I feel that he is very, very wrong and out of line to even say such things about Dave Junker and the FilmEd program.

To the press and investigators, you can see by the multitude of comments on these news articles about FilmEd, Dave Junker is a great man who's only goal in his life is to help the next generation become the GREATEST FILMMAKERS IN HISTORY!  I hope that you take ine and the other students accounts of the FilmEd program seriously and use them to base your judgement of Dave Junker and the FilmEd program.

tannermerrill
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To claim that Film Ed is a "sweat shop" is absurd. I have many friends, which I've met through Film Ed, that go back and intern or teach each year because of its awesome environment.

There are advanced workshops that serve the sole purpose of making us better filmmakers. They teach us to collaborate and constantly think creatively, which transfers over to the school year. In addition to an inspired class room environment Dave created the OC Filmfest which encourages us to push our boundaries and make an award winning film. Having gone through the workshops I know that the alumni teaching them are always having a good time and constantly being looked up at by students.

I have films from high school that still get me work today, and I'm constantly getting referred to and referring other filmed students. I can confidently say that I wouldn't be doing what I love today without Dave Junker.

RZ2011
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Let's talk about this for a minute.

I had never truly experienced the dangers of media firsthand until now. When you attack Dave Junker, you attack the entire FilmEd community. This includes me, thousands of alum who have so gratefully been through the program, the hundreds of students who are currently in the program, the public schools who are constantly receiving services from the company, and the thousands of pleased parents of all the students who now have careers in the film industry solely because of FilmEd* Academy of the Arts and the generosity that is shared by Dave Junker and his staff. Oh, and did I mention these students get access to this program for FREE? Why don't you mention that in your article, Coker.

This is literally the most one-sided, unwarranted argument I have ever come across. As a writer, you should be embarrassed. Do your work before you ruin someone's life with your ignorant and uneducated claims. 

I was in the program for 2 years prior to becoming an intern. After my internship I then moved on to work for the company because I believed in the cause so much. My internship at FilmEd was one of the greatest learning experiences of my life. Dave Junker gave me opportunities I never dreamed of having. Not only did he mentor me then, he continues to mentor me to this very day. Everything I have ever learned about filmmaking is because of that man and his gracious will to share his knowledge with the community. 

As someone who has personally interned with the company I can say that the internship was more fulfilling than many other film internships found in the industry. As an intern, I had the freedom to literally build my own schedule, I got full access to all sorts of top-notch film equipment (which is a major plus to an aspiring film student), a one-on-one mentorship, and the experience of a lifetime. 

I can honestly tell you that Dave Junker is one of the most generous and passionate people I know. In fact, I will blatantly say that DAVE JUNKER IS THE SANTA CLAUS OF FILM INSTRUCTION. Don't believe what you read. These two sad individuals have tainted Junker's image for their own personal and petty reasons.

I'd hate to see anything come of this ridiculous lawsuit. There's nothing more I want than for all students to gain the same life-changing experience that I gained when going through this program. It would be such a shame to see a community gem like FilmEd go to pieces. Please, don't ruin it for everyone...

skykarol
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This is actually the story of a deceitful man, named Alex Iseri, who saw a way to get a quick dollar by robbing a good-hearted mentor via the court of law. Ask anyone who has had the opportunity to work with Dave Junker, and they will say he is a wonderful person who cares about each and every one of his students. There is no other program in Orange County providing students and interns with such an excellent learning opportunity and collegiate-level vocational training. 

So ignoring the completely absurd claim that his interns and employees are working in a "sweat shop," a few things need to be noted about the FilmEd program. Firstly, Alex Iseri was given access to industry-standard equipment, computers, and editing programs that he did not pay for. Secondly, Alex did not have the experience or education necessary (before FilmEd) to get the job he feels he deserved at the time. Film and Media are highly competitive fields which is why many people who enter the career of Visual Arts are struggling to pay their bills. FilmEd actually provides students with the opportunity to not only enter the field of media, but to be successful at it! This statement is supported by the numerous alumni who have produced incredible works of art; go to the OC Film Festival if you doubt me. 

I could talk about how Dave Junker is a compassionate man who honestly desires for his students to grow and prosper. I could also talk about the anger I feel towards Alex Iseri, having met Alex in the past and knowing that he is unjustly filing these claims. Internships are typically unpaid, unless you possess an exceptional ability which usually comes with post-graduate education. Alex did not have this exceptional ability, and he is using the guise that he was a slave when in reality he could stop working for Dave at any moment during the internship. Alex has an absurd case, and between all of the equipment he had access to (that normally costs thousands of dollars to rent) and the education he received Alex does not deserve the compensation he seeks. FilmEd was one of the most wonderful programs I have ever been apart of, Dave Junker is innocent, and this case is ridiculous. I hope that the judge realizes this and charges Alex for the time he wasted and reputation he attempted to affect.

nboyanov
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I was a student in the program around the time Alex was interning for them and I remember that many of the staff worked long hours to make the workshops be as successful as they were. While I didn't always agree with some of FilmEd's principles, I am grateful for the opportunities they created for me and everyone else in their program. They did rely on volunteers to help set-up their bigger events, such as the film festival, and would send out an email to students and alumni asking for assistance. I helped out on a few of the festival set-ups and I can say that there was always plenty of work to do, but nobody every forced me to stay and work when I had to go. I am not sure of what Alex's expectations were of interning but as far as internships go in the film industry, the majority are unpaid and have long working hours. This article lays out many claims but we have yet to see if they will be backed up with evidence. I hope this won't affect the FilmEd program, as it offers very useful hands-on experience and has helped many students find their career path after high school.

daniellesser8
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I am a student of filmed and have just completed my second year at the workshop.David Junker is the furthest thing from a con man. I am extremely surprised someone could write such an untrue article. FilmEd is a great opportunity to learn what it takes to be a film creator and David Junker supplies the tools to do just that.FilmEd is an opportunity to improve with the most encouraging atmosphere.Not only is David Junker an encouraging instructor but is also a great man.

cordovacaos3
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Totally a one sided bogus article with no hard facts and no understanding of FilmEd Academy of the Arts.

As a former student and intern, I find Alex's claims to be absolutely ridiculous. Film Ed Academy of the Arts is a program that has literally changed the lives of hundreds of high school students. The company teaches and provides professorial grade equipment for free. It has molded my life path and career choice.

When Interning I never once felt like a "slave". That claim is total bogus. Dave truly has a passion for film, you can see it in his work with the students. I don't think he really knows the impact he's had on all our lives. At Film Ed we worked together as a family to keep an amazing program up and running.

It sickens me to see someone be so selfish and only interested in their own personal gain without thinking how it can affect the program. Although it doesn't surprise me, having Alex as my mentor my first year I can only remember him as never being satisfied and constantly complaining.

I hope nothing but the best for Dave and he should know that the FilmEd family he has created will always have his back.

Alumna
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Matt Coker, I strongly urge you to retract these unsupported claims and this single-sided story.  As a journalist myself, and proud alumna of FilmEd, this article is highly upsetting. FilmEd has an active alumni base, and that was not created by treating their students and interns unfairly. It was created through a hardworking, compassionate, knowledgeable and family-like atmosphere. We were all given incredible opportunities while participating in the FilmEd program. Dave Junker is a one-of-a-kind teacher, mentor, and all-around wonderful person. 

kevjonmunoz
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I have never read something publicized that was so far from the truth. Calling David Junker a "con-man" and saying FilmEd is running a forced "sweatshop" for interns is an outrage. I don't know why Alex is doing this now, but he's doing it out of hate and manipulation to destroy the program that built him up. 

As a current summer intern and former student of three years, I can say that Dave has never forced any of his staff to perform tasks that they were not willing to do. The staff is built on alumni; they are voluntarily there to give back what the program gave to them. Each person working for FilmEd is there for one reason: their passion to educate students the art of film. If Alex really cared about continuing the outstanding education to the Orange County youth he would not be going through with this case. 

FilmED Academy has given so much to me and its students. I've never even heard of a high school film program that comes close to the caliber of FilmEd Academy of the Arts. The hands-on experience with professional equipment and cinema training you get from this program is unbelievable. Dave has given his life to these students, he's there to push them to pursue their dreams and to mold them to professional young adults. 

Alum
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As someone who has been a part of the program since 2003, I can say that Junker treats employees fairly and is an inspiration and mentor to many young people that go through the program. This is a sad and unfounded attempt to tarnish an amazing program that has changed so many lives for the better.

kherman1345
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To say that Dave Junker and FilmEd are anything but inspirational, educational mechanisms for creative young people to find their passions and succeed in such a niche industry, one that is so tough to get into if you do not have the right resources, is rediculous, because that is exactly what they are and always have been. This lawsuit is a sad attempt to take advantage of the legal system and to try and stop something that is really good and advantageous to many for the sorry gains of one selfish person. Every intern and employ of FilmEd knows coming in that their job is not paid all in money, but in the satisfaction of realizing peoples dreams, and that is why the company's jobs are mostly volunteer based. The company pours any profits it has back into purchasing new, state-of-the-art equipment for its students and into the annual Orange County Film Festival, all to better the experience and opportunity and learning environment that these students enjoy and appreciate so much because it is understood that this immersive program is unlike any other. No one is making money off of these kids, no one feels like, is treated like, or can even be remotely compared to an "indentured servant" and to do so is sick-minded and ignorant of the true meaning of the term. Everyone at FilmEd is there for the kids and it is reflected in the way that they work, the way that they choose to stay long hours, the way that they selflessly give up their time to help their students, even while many of them are still in school themselves or work other jobs. I cannot stress how much I support Dave Junker and FilmEd on this issue, without them I would not currently be attending USC Film School and working with such prestigious companies as AEG Worldwide and Warner Bros. Television.

rinisampath
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This lawsuit is baseless. FilmEd Academy has provided an unparalleled program to hundreds of high school students over many years. Where else in the nation can you find a program willing to give free training on industry-standard equipment to teenagers?  Dave Junker and his team are the reason many OC students receive acceptances to the finest film schools. 

This attempt to tarnish the reputation of FilmEd will not succeed, as it is clear from the from the other comments on this piece, the alum of FilmEd Academy will not stand for such an unwarranted assault on a remarkable man. 

The education that Dave provides is priceless. Every hour spent with FilmEd is returned in some other tangible way. I credit FilmEd for my own accomplishments — from my acceptance to the University of Southern California to other jobs, the FilmEd foundation has lifted me to new heights. Thank you, Dave. We stand by you. 

Wrangles
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I have not read anything so ridiculous in quite some time. Where are your sources? Where is the credibility? 

I have gone through the program and I was one of these interns that these articles speaks of and I will be the first to tell you that my experience was amazing. I got to come in when ever I wanted and learn from all the students and mentors. It is one of the most creative environments I have ever been a a part of where anyone can sign up for the FREE program, and receive a film education that is better then any other high school program I have seen. Every opportunity I have faced was because of the networking and connections through this program. 

Dave Junker is the most giving and gracious individuals I ever got a chance to work with. He does not deserve to have such a blasphemous article online.


So please. Get your facts straight good sir before you begin to gossip and talk about such an amazing person.

kt.bell
kt.bell like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 8 Like

I graduated from the FilmEd program a year ago now and it was one of the most beneficial mentoring programs I have ever been apart of. I have not only learned skills that most college aged film students haven't learned, but on equipment they are not allowed to use until their junior or senior years. I spent hours volunteering for FilmEd because it was such a great program and atmosphere.  The majority of my favorite memories from high school are through FilmEd and what they allow us to do. The hands on experience, and life long skills that FilmEd and Dave Junker have provided me with is something I am so grateful for. 

The fact that Matthew Coker and Alex Iseri are telling half of a story would be the understatement of the century. Dave Junker understand that his interns are still students, and works around their schedules as best as he possibly can. FilmEd academy of the arts is in now way remotely similar to a "sweat shop." Students want to be a part of FilmEd, and enjoy spending time there. 

Dave Junker is one of the most giving and caring people someone could meet. If you had a question, he would stay for hours until you understood the concept and words can not express how honored I am to be a part of this program and to have met someone as giving as Dave Junker.

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