You will be given a date that you start and you prepare for that day; arrange your calendar, cancel holidays, book new ones, cancel that pottery course, book new a one, then the call comes, and for any number of reasons from casting to financing to weather conditions… all of which can be imperative to a responsible green light for any film or television production… they push you.
They won’t need you on Wednesday but they will start you next Monday. Then Friday comes and your new start date becomes next Thursday. Then predicting becomes futile and they just say you will start in a couple of weeks and they will let you know.
Pushing a production’s start date doesn’t always happen, but it does often enough that it can be called normal.
It is something that you may be used to if you have spent a few years in this wonderful crazy industry. But for newcomers to the industry, and for the friends and family whom we love and want to see once in a while, these folks are not used to it at all.
I am lucky to have a family that has lots of experience in our little world. My Mom, bless her heart, just says, “It’s all good, everything will work out, it always does.” So that helps… but what do you do if you are in a situation without that kind of understanding?
I have had so many questions from new Costumers on how to deal with the constant change and how to explain it friends and family.
How do you explain that, no, I can’t come out on Friday nights, or, no, I will probably not be able to book breakfast next Saturday? How do you explain that sick days don’t really apply to you, or that you have no idea what you will be doing or where you may be next week or even next March.
And when all your friends say, “You never come out with us any more,” how do you say with a straight face, “That’s true, and I’m sorry, but I probably won’t see you until after my show is finished.”
We work on a very fluid, every changing schedule. Everything we do is last minute. It is crazy… but can be exciting if you look at it the right way. Let’s face it; you have to be passionate about your chosen field if you are willing to put up with the uncertainty and the craziness. And I think this is the key to helping friends and family understand… this is not just a job to us, this is our dreams and passions rolled up into a career.
If we as human beings forgive people going after their dreams with focus and energy, then shouldn’t we be given the same leeway for going after ours? I think friends and family who are able to see it that way may be a little more forgiving.
We do not have a normal life that is 9-5 and allows for dinners or movies during the weekdays. We work on average 75 hours a week. If you have children, it is possible that you will miss soccer games, birthday parties and Brownie fly-ups. Heck, booking a dentist appointment is a challenge.
We have the worry that booking a holiday will cause us to not be considered for the next job if it conflicts. We understand that if we book a friend’s wedding in Hawaii in December, and the show we are going after runs through Christmas, we may not get hired. We can get fired if the TV show we’re working on is suddenly extended for 6 more episodes… and we have a holiday booked that conflicts with the new schedule.
It seems harsh and unforgiving, but this is the way things are right now for a film worker.
I have talked with grown up kids of film workers. One young costumer who semi-jokingly told me, “I hated my mother, she was never there when I needed her.” I laughed back at her, “and yet, you still chose to start a career in film?” “Yep,” she replied, “can’t say why, but I did.” I wonder if she understood the passion her mom had, but couldn’t quite forgive her for it. All I could do was nod and shrug, and then remind her to not forget what she just told me if she decides to have kids!
So how do we make these situations better?
Working on teams that communicate well and care for each other helps. Sometimes taking time off from work can be a simple as quietly explaining to your team what is going on and arranging for the team or an additional person to cover for you.
It’s not impossible, you can ask for a day off.
Make sure that you take care of yourself and your family first, so that you can go after your passions without feeling guilty about it. If that means learning to manage your time better at home, then… no brainer… that’s what you do. Make sure the moments you do spend with family and friends are quality ones.
There will come a time when you find yourself with almost an entire weekend off from work… and all you want to do is slide yourself between the couch cushions and become a lump!
This is important… get the rest you need, your body is telling you it needs rest… but don’t settle there for the entire time. Be aware of yourself, you may be tired and grumpy, don’t take it out on those close to you. Try to balance sleep and family so you can give them what they need but not lose everything you need as well. Your family and friends haven’t seen you all week and they are excited to have you home… isn’t it wonderful to be wanted?
Relax, enjoy your rest… and then get your butt off the sofa! Have a coffee with friends, call your parents, jump in a leaf pile with your kids… let them know how grateful you are that they understand and support you as you go after your dreams.
Being a great costumer takes more than film knowledge, it takes knowledge of self… and remembering the importance of those around you.