It’s true what they say...it’s a marathon, not a sprint. When you’re making a film, you will have to struggle, fight and claw your way, from day to day as you find your way towards the finish line. As you inch closer and closer to getting that final shot, you’re presented with new challenges. New issues, testing your patience, your will and your strength. The pressure mounts, requiring a perseverance you never thought you had.
Lately, I’ve been feeling that pressure. Tired, short on patience and my mind cloudy, I’m struggling my way to the finish line of ‘What About Molly?’ I can see it, it’s certainly in sight, but I often question if I’ll make it. My tank is empty and I’m running on fumes. The project has taken its toll, beating me down as we enter the 10th round and I’m not sure my legs will carry me much further. One swift blow and I could be down for the count.
WHY DOES BURNOUT HAPPEN
Burnout can be attributed to many factors, one of which is the fact that life doesn’t go on pause so you can make your film. It’s constantly happening around us, for better or worse. We take each day in stride and make the most of the time we have. Some days are smooth, allowing you to focus heavily on film activities and others will stop you dead in your tracks.
The days that stop you are the days that wear the worst. Hindering your progress and crippling your momentum, the metaphorical ball stops rolling.
At the start of a film, the day you say we’re going to make a movie, the ball is small and easy to roll. You push it forward, effortlessly and with a smile on your face. As you venture from day to day, the ball gets bigger, it gets heavier, it requires more strength. It requires forward momentum to keep rolling.
When that momentum stops and you're towards the end, you can really feel it. The film seems like it will never come to fruition. You’re tired, mentally drained and don’t have the strength to push further. Not on your own anyway.
DEALING WITH BURNOUT
Full disclosure, I might have had a mental breakdown on Sunday evening. I was exhausted and really feeling the burnout. I had a list of items to accomplish and it never seems to shrink. I knock one item off the list and 4 more seem to show up. I couldn’t handle it anymore and I broke down, literally.
Being as great as Andrea is, she pulled me away from the computer to talk, something I hate doing. During this conversation, we sorted through my thoughts and emotions, coming to the conclusion that I’m stressed, tired and feeling weak. The funny thing is, I felt better after we talked about it. Sure, in the moment I was all fired up but by the end, I felt as though I could breathe again.
One thing I learned from this is to not keep things inside. When you’re feeling burnout and your momentum has stopped, you need people to help you get the ball rolling once more. You need to talk and ask for help. Let those around you know that you need someone to lean on. You need someone to help you push. You need your team now, more than ever.
Identify those who are close to you, in life and in your film work, and let them know how you’re feeling. Let them know that you’re struggling, that the tank is empty. Let them know that you need a helping hand, even if it’s just a few words of encouragement.
Making a feature length film is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life. If you have the passion, drive and motivation I do, it will be the most difficult thing you ever attempt too. Through all the fun and excitement, you will feel the burnout at some point. Just remember it’s natural. It sucks, but it’s natural.
When the burnout comes and it certainly will, talk to your team about it. To be a good leader is to be open, honest and vulnerable with your team. Let them know where you stand, that you’re struggling, that you need help. This isn’t weakness, it’s vulnerability and there's strength in vulnerability.
It takes a team to make a film. Be open and vulnerable, let them know you need them.
- The Failed Filmmaker