6 Tips To Cope With An Exhausting Film Schedule
Working in the film industry is demanding and unrelenting, commanding a high level of work ethic over extremely long hours. The lengthy hours and grueling film schedule can test people’s patience, strain relationships and push people to breaking-point when they are stressed and pressure is applied from higher levels to achieve even more.
It’s important to be aware of this and protect your non-negotiables throughout a job in order to manage family life and certain significant events. You will find your outside social life will decrease dramatically for a season, as you won’t have the time for mid-week dinners and you’ll be sleeping the week off come Saturday.
However, you will make great new friends that form your film family, and these folks will carry you through the fatigue and deliria. You will have amazing experiences, visit awesome places and do some really cool things. This all makes for great stories when you do have time to go to all the birthday parties and social events when your project concludes.
Here are some simple strategies to cope with the arduous shooting film schedule and grueling industry that have helped me navigate marriage, friendships, and family dynamics.
1. Get as much sleep as possible.
Fatigue leads to grumpiness and exhaustion, which leads to jaded, worn out film crews; a common feature amongst overworked, experienced crew. I may not be able to stay up late binge watching Netflix and won’t be able to discuss the nuances of so-and-so’s social media activity the following day but at least I’ll be looking after my body and mind for the long term. Sleep is incredibly important in refreshing your body after each day and the majority of people don’t get enough each night.
I may not be able to stay up late binge watching Netflix and won’t be able to discuss the nuances of so-and-so’s social media activity the following day but at least I’ll be looking after my body and mind for the long term. Sleep is incredibly important in refreshing your body after each day and the majority of people don’t get enough each night.
2. Eat well and drink plenty of water.
The catering will be excellent, so it will be easy to do this – but it’s still important. With enough sleep, good food and plenty of water, your body should be able to function with the demands of long hours. On-set catering makes it easy to eat a variety of vegetables and nutritional food that will keep your body running.
Spending extended hours outside in all sorts of conditions will dehydrate your body unless you endeavor to guzzle plenty of water. Recently on a job, it was so unbearably hot and humid that I was drinking 1 liter of water each hour for an entire day! If someone offers you a drink of water, just take it, even if you aren’t thirsty.
3. Enjoy the break at the end of each job between contracts.
Often you will have a short break between finishing one project and starting the next. It’s hard to line up contracts perfectly as you will either have to leave the previous job early or the next one may not start for a few weeks. Many people stress that they are out of work for a few weeks, but considering they have worked fifty to seventy hour weeks for the last few months, hopefully there’s a bit of cash with which to relax and enjoy the break. If you’re not in that position, try and get a few TVCs to supplement your income while you recover.
Usually, for three days after I finish a job, I’m a bit of a zombie. I sleep in, read, relax and let my body recover. You’ll really feel it if you do back-to-back jobs without a break. Sometimes this is necessary as you don’t want to turn down the next project but be aware towards the back end of that project that you will be prone to getting sick and exhaustion will start to affect your mood and productivity.
Many people stress that they are out of work for a few weeks, but considering they have worked fifty to seventy hour weeks for the last few months, hopefully, there’s a bit of cash with which to relax and enjoy the break. If you’re not in that position, try and get a few TVCs to supplement your income while you recover.
4. Treat your partner or spouse to something special at the end of each job.
You won’t have spent as much time with them over the last few months as you should have so buy them a meaningful gift, go on a holiday, hang out together – whatever it is that enriches the relationship. It’s important to show that your relationship is valuable even though it may have been down the priority list with work taking so much time recently.
There are too many people in the film industry who are divorced or in unhappy situations as a result of working too much, too often, or neglecting to value their spouses when they do have the time.
5. Take your +1 along to your premieres, wrap parties and any other fun social event the film crew has.
Having the chance to meet your work friends and feel a sense of involvement in each project you do is important. When it comes to discussing the next project, they will know who you are working with again and will be supportive of your career and the opportunities it affords you as a team or family.
6. Book a vacation each year.
Granted, you may not know what or where you will be working but people need holidays. Don’t get caught in the trap of never booking a holiday because you might miss out on the next contract. There’ll always be another job that comes around. Productions shut down over Christmas and early January so this can be a good time to have a two-week break without risking missing work.
It’s actually surprising how booking a holiday on random dates will often work in with the jobs you are offered anyway. My wife and I usually book a holiday at the end of a big contract – just the two of us having fun together. It doesn’t have to be a really expensive, extravagant getaway, and simple is often the way to go.
After a year or two, you will become accustomed to the lengthy hours, but it will still take a week or two every time you start a job to get used to the long days again, particularly if you’ve had a bit of a break. At the end of a job you will find yourself exhausted and a break is often well deserved.
If you do happen to do back-to-back jobs, you will definitely start to feel it toward the end of the second or third job as the exhaustion builds. By applying some of these tips, you will hopefully be more prepared to manage the exhaustive long hours and demands that a career in the film industry requires.
Matt Webb is the author of Setlife: A Guide To Getting A Job in Film (And Keeping It). He is an Assistant Director with credits including The Great Gatsby, Mad Max: Fury Road, Hacksaw Ridge, Pirates of the Carribean and Alien: Covenant.
Setlife: A Guide To Getting A… is a must-have guide designed to prepare you for what happens on a typical day on a film set. Matt Webb’s no-fuss, practical tips are essential reading for anyone chasing a career in the film industry and dealing with film schedule. The book is available for $25 from Amazon.
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