I make my living working in film and television. I have worked as a freelance filmmaker in Los Angeles for almost ten years. I work primarily as a producer, production manager and coordinator on various TV, commercial and film projects. I love my career and I am truly grateful that I get paid to do what I love.
The freelance filmmaker lifestyle is not for everyone. Every day hundreds of people move to L.A. and N.Y.C. in the hopes of working in film. The entertainment business is highly competitive, we work long hours under stressful circumstances and our daily schedule is anything but routine.
THE REALITY OF WORKING IN FILM
INCONSISTENT WORK & LIVING ON A BUDGET
I have had whole years when it was hard to come for air. One job after another rolled in with dramatic force. Gigs in Los Angeles and on the road. Ten weeks based out of Tulsa and eight weeks out of Las Vegas. The paychecks were steady and the sleep uncommon. Then there are the other years. Especially the years just starting out. I’ve had months of unsteady work and too much time between paydays. I know how to make a dollar stretch! I drove an old car only until my lifestyle could afford a regular car payment. I live with roommates or alone depending on the steadiness of my work. If you are a person who needs the stability of a bi-weekly paycheck then life as a freelance worker may not be best for you.
SLEEP? WHO NEEDS SLEEP?
On an average shoot we work a minimum of twelve-hour days. We rarely work only twelve-hour days. On average I work between 14-16 hours a day and my mind has to be active and ready to solve problems even when exhausted. Often times we work six-day weeks and I’ve gone from one show to another with no time off. My longest haul is ten weeks with not one day of rest.
SURE, I’D LOVE TO GO TO YOUR WEDDING
I never know when I am going to be working and because of the inconsistent nature of my schedule I often miss out on many important events. We frequently have to sell our concert tickets. I’ve missed out on weddings, birthday parties and even cancelled vacations. On the other hand, when I am in between gigs I am 100% free. I often get to travel for weeks or months at a time and if you can be spontaneous with me we can have loads of adventures!
LUNCH IS FOR WIMPS
A film set is a stressful environment. We work within tight deadlines often in limited budgets. When I ask you for something I actually needed it yesterday. You need to be quick thinking, resourceful, calm under pressure and keep a good attitude. Often times you will work with very difficult yet talented people and you will have to adjust your behavior accordingly. A thick skin is required for work in film. People are often short-tempered when they are tired and everyone is tired. On the other hand, I’ve learned how to manage my stress level and multi-task by working under some amazing producers who taught me the tricks of the trade. I have fun at work and I love what I do in spite of the hectic nature of my job. Frequently the difficult people are the ones who will teach you the most about yourself and your work.
DOG EAT DOG WORLD
Film work is highly competitive and loads of people vie for the same job. You need to build your network and to do this you have to work very hard often times for limited pay (especially when starting out). You need to prove your worth. What are you bringing to the table? On the other hand, one of my favorite aspects of working in film is teaching new filmmakers how to navigate our crazy world. So many bosses have allowed me to make mistakes, learn and grow. I feel I owe it to those who would like to learn. Working in film has taught me valuable lessons on who to trust and who to rely on. I have formed some very strong working relationships over the years. I have been burned but I was always able to get back up and dust myself off.
The crazy, hectic, roller coaster of a filmmaker life not be one for you. Yet, if you find yourself reading this and still want to continue then you might just be one of us.