Making any kind of film is a slog.
Personally, in the last four years I have made close to ten independent short films in varying degrees of completion, and a full-length feature film that we are hoping will come out this Halloween. During the making of these projects, I’d say about seventy-five percent of the work was done from home on my computers. To the uninitiated this might sound shocking, but I write, produce, and edit from my home office.
For a one-week film shoot, you’re probably looking at six-eight weeks of preproduction. For longer shoots its often months. We won’t even go into the writing because it never stops and it’s rarely a team sport. If you have a script you want to film, before you’re ready to go to camera, you must break it down, find locations, find actors, fill out the union paperwork, insurance, find department heads (Camera, Sound, AD’s, Hair, and Makeup, etc), storyboard, shot lists, shooting schedules, and the list goes on.
Hopefully you have a great team and can delegate some of these jobs to other brilliant artists, but that’s not always the case.
Ever since I was a kid, cinema has always been an all-in obsession for me. I could get lost for hours watching my favourite movies on old VHS cassette tapes until I wore the film out. When my brother and sister were making friends, playing sports, and being popular, I was much happier in my own little world watching Nic Cage and Quentin Tarantino movies. The on-screen gangsters, superheroes, drug dealers, soldiers, cops, and robbers were the friends I was most comfortable with and idolized. More to that, I was happier in the incredible realm of my own imagination. As a kid, I remember being left to my own devices, being able to play with my toys on my own for hours. Setting up and playing out huge elaborate Lego and Ninja Turtle battles. I even recall the unease I felt when playing with others and having to accommodate their playtime narrative and ideas. I wanted to be the director even at my earliest age.
Writing this makes my childhood sound a little sad or pathetic. I assure you it was anything but. Much like my adult self, I was a very adventurous lad, had wonderful relationships, and I got into a lot of trouble. I just feel like my most authentic self when I’m deep in a script or doing some production prep on a film.
But I make sure to give myself time for self-care. It’s easy for people who are pursuing their dreams to burn out. We often can’t tell how exhausted we are because we’re already living in our dream.
There are many types of filmmakers: Hands-on, supportive, micromanager, dictator, and improvisational leaders are just a few examples. I like to think the type of director I am, is collaborative. It’s still my vision and my say will be the final one, but I highly encourage my actors and creative crew members to speak their mind. More often than not, they’ll have better ideas and solutions that I haven’t even thought of. I love working in a team and regularly find myself missing my core group when I’m not filming.
I’ve said this before and it’s a major life goal for me I am striving to attain, but if I could, I would be on a film set every day, directing the camera and actors. Unfortunately, the route I chose for myself, the “producing and financing a couple films a year under my own production banner” doesn’t scream summer blockbuster. I’m happy shooting small character driven fiercely indie movies. I still get to do what I love, but I’m not working with a huge team of producers, cinematographers, grips, gaffers, stunt coordinators, or any of the hundred jobs on any given set. Usually I’m doing it by myself, talking over zoom, or spending just a few days with my department heads before going to camera. That’s a lot of talented input and great friendships I am missing out on!
A lot of my friends in the motion picture industry have a partner.
What seemed so odd twenty years ago with the Coen Brothers writing and directing a picture together, seems like the new normal for television and film. Dividing the workload between two talented visionaries seems like the smart thing to do these days. One can hope to have someone in their life that loves this job as much as they do.
I think it’s a very rare gift.
When I was younger, I always wanted to marry a hot funny comedian so we could do a husband-and-wife comedy show. Like a modern Jerry Stiller and Anne Mera doing candid jokes about love and life. Now I’d think it would be cool just to have someone to share in this cool journey I’m going on. It’s difficult some days without the accountability, someone to give me that laser focus, and to keep me on track would be a game changer. Even writing this blog I am alone in my apartment, drinking coffee and wasting far too much time on Instagram.
Sounds lonely. How do I do it? For me, I’m a morning person, I have my best creative hours in the early hours of the day. So, every day I try to get up and write, produce, or edit for at least a few hours. By early afternoon I have the day to focus on whatever the day brings. Now I know this doesn’t work for everyone, the point I’m making is give yourself a few hours a day to focus your energy on your creative endeavours, and you’ll notice a positive change in very little time. Also be sure to listen to your body, I cannot stress self-care enough. Take that vacation, eat those carbs, dance with friends, and be your most authentic rested self. For me, by finding that balance in work and life I am sure to find my days less solitary.