In the past few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about managing my time, and how I could do it more effectively. This is because I’ve recently started a second job, in addition to being self employed with 9am Films. The reason I took another job was, first and foremost, financial, as filmmaking at the independent, low-micro budget level is difficult, and this will help to provide additional financial security, as well creating capital for 9am Films.
It’s not about lessening my commitment to making a career in filmmaking, and it’s certainly not a sign that I’m abandoning it, either. It’s about recognising the challenges that come with working in low (or no) budget films, and getting myself in to the best position to meet those challenges.
Finding the balance between 9am Films and my other job hasn’t always been easy. There are days when I feel like I’ve not done enough work on my screenplay, and I get a sense of regret at the time that’s passed by. My thoughts then drift towards thinking of how my script might suffer as a result, and of how I might never get it finished.
However, I’ve come to learn two important things: firstly, you have to make time, and secondly, you have to be realistic. If this sounds like a contradiction, I can promise you that it’s not. It’s about being purposeful and deliberate in working on your script or your film, but also being logical, in that, with other commitments (work, family, etc), you’re not going to be able to devote all the time that you want to your film work.
Of course, the gold standard is getting to the point when your love of films, and all those projects you’ve been developing, then becomes your job. It might seem a long way off, particularly when you’re doing another job just to pay the bills, but the hard truth is this is a competitive industry, and you need to develop that work ethic. Working another job is a good way of doing that, as well as helping you to develop other skills and traits that will be useful in your dream career.
The distinction between making time and finding time might be small, but it’s an important one. It’s about intention. I’ve heard it said that if you try and find time to do something, then you never will. You have to be purposeful, even if that means sacrificing some socialising in favour of working on a few scenes of your screenplay, or editing that short film.
You have to treat it like another job, even if it’s not currently bringing in any money. And even if no one else seems to be taking it especially seriously. I’m not saying you should never listen to wise career advice, what I am saying is if you don’t take it seriously and treat it like a job when it’s not yet your job, then how will it ever be?
It will be hard, especially if you’ve had a busy or difficult day at work. It’s also difficult to go from a very practical role to something creative. On the other hand, being adaptable isn’t a bad trait to possess for someone working in filmmaking, so see it as a chance to develop something that will become a real asset.
The chances are that, at this level, you’ll be working with people who are having to balance their filmmaking aspirations with another, (perhaps more regular) job. You may be doing the exact same thing. If not, be understanding of those who are. It might mean that you have to reschedule filming at the last minute because someone has to work, or you could be forced to shoot your film over a longer period in order to accommodate the busy lives of those around you. It doesn’t matter – we’re all striving towards that goal of working full time in filmmaking, and for some of us this journey includes having a second job.
This brings me on to being realistic. Ideally, you’d be able to devote all the time to pursuing your filmmaking activities. Hopefully, you’ll be in a position to do that one day. The more that becomes profitable, the more time it will take up, and therefore that need for a second job will be less pressing.
Until that happens, you’re going to have to make use of the time that you have. Be creative, but be reasonable. If you can’t always make time to write lots of scenes, or edit large sections of your film, break it down into something more manageable. If you set yourself targets that are too ambitious, it will only make you feel frustrated if you fail to meet them.
Also, be sensible. If you’ve had or are about to have a particularly busy day, it’s perhaps not the best idea to then spend long hours in front of a computer screen. Not only do you need to consider your health, (as well as your other commitments), if you’re tired, what you produce in that time probably won’t be up to scratch anyway. I’ve found that it’s not just the quantity of time that counts, it’s the quality as well. So make it count, and use it wisely.
There are also other ways to stay ‘in the flow’ of your film or screenplay. If you can’t devote lots of time on a certain day (or in a week) to adding something new, how about reading/watching what you’ve got so far? Or maybe make notes on your story, your characters, the world you’ve created? Look back over any notes/research you have. Go back to your mood board (if you have one), or if you don’t have one, you could consider creating one. Anything that will help focus your mind on your project is useful.
Ultimately, even though making time to do something creative like filmmaking, when you’ve got other demands on your attention, is hard, it’s also necessary. No time, constructively spent, is ever a waste when it comes to developing your project. Think of it like a journey, where every step, even the smallest, counts towards taking you to your destination.