After 8 years of working and educating myself on filmmaking I decided that I didn’t want to work on film sets anymore. – More honestly I couldn’t bare to work on film sets anymore. My last set was 2 years ago and I left it on my first day after having an anxiety attack.
I have been talking about my filmmaking dreams since I was 15. Ever since I stopped working on film sets I been bombarded with questions – ‘When are going back to film? Why are you not working on film sets anymore? Have you given up on your dreams?’
The truth has been difficult to put into words these past few years. I didn’t quite understand it myself, I thought film was something I wanted to do and then a switch went off in my head and I made an assertive decision that it was not for me.
Last week I was working on my supermarket till when I served a lad who went to my university. He also pursued film and I knew he had been on some well known TV sets last year as a runner. Then he told he had recently quit film and ' turned down Star Wars' it is quite a statement to make but one I understand. You could ask me to work on the biggest film sets right now and as I stand I would say no. I would turn down Star Wars. It’s not worth it. I will try to give my reasons:
First off being a freelancer is hard. I said in a previous post that I worked for a year as script supervisor and only made £10,000. Sometimes I would work months on end (75hr, 6 day weeks), sometimes I would have no work on for up to a month before I could find the next job. Finding work for yourself is hard, there is no guarantee you will find work. On my worst month I made £450 on my best £4000 but still I only made £10K that year. Take off all of the additional travel costs and gear I needed to buy and I just scraped through living that year.
Second off being a freelancer is hard. You have no idea when the next job will be and so you take any job you get. I was working with a professional sound team on one shoot who like me (regardless of their gear costing thousands) were working for less than minimum wage (£3.50 an hr). I met camera assistants living out of cars and runners working for free. At the end of one shoot I asked a runner if he enjoyed the experience and he replied ‘No, its not for me, I don’t ever want work on a film sets again”.
Third off bullshit and show-business. Me to producer ‘I’m only getting £40 a day?’ Producer to me ‘Yes but I promise you will be hired on the next shoot and get paid industry rates’ I was a sucker to fall for that one. More producer bullshit – lying to investors by saying that everyone was getting paid on their set, having crew get a 4hr. turnover for the next day (causing many people to drive exhausted back home at night), terrible food (so bad the director refuses to eat it and eats at a restaurant instead whilst the crew are left picking at cold sandwiches or having to take out money from their miserable wage of £3 an hr – on a set that has the funding for well known actors).
Fourth the job is boring. Yes working on film sets for 12hrs a day is boring. My first experiences of film sets was as a runner (where people really do treat you like the dirt off their shoes). Moving up the line to Script Supervisor did help, you are treated better when you have a set job to do. Continuity however is a tedious and lonely job. I might save the day a million times but lose all respect from everyone for making one mistake. Often directors do not know what a script supervisor does, which brings me to my anxiety attack on my final set when a director told me to join the art department because he had no idea what my job was and wasn’t willing to learn. I wasn’t going to stay on that set after being tossed aside like that- so after an argument I left and I’ve never been back on a film set since.
Working days are too long. I could only find one hour at the end of each day to have to myself (it cuts into your sleep but as an introvert human I need some time alone every day). For me I hated working on films with bad scripts, there were a few good films I worked on but mostly the scripts were truly awful (and everyone knows it but you have to pretend the film is going to be good because producers and directors are deluded on what makes a good film).
I have not quit film but I have quit film sets. Or more honestly I have quit working for other people. I believe in a film industry where 8-10hr shooting days are the usual, where everyone is paid fairly depending on the budget, where the film industry strives towards making great work that will stand the test of time. Have patience the story should be the most important element of a film- a bad script will produce a bad film regardless of how much CGI and named actors you throw at it.
Perhaps we all need to be aware of what is happening on film sets. I understand that by having a known actor in a film the film will sell better and be more likely to get noticed – but I am uncertain that your camera team should be sleeping in their cars because all of the funding has went on the actors wage and their hotel room. I like the phrase ‘If I’m getting paid, then your getting paid’. I disagree with unpaid internships – especially on films will budgets in the millions. A set run well, is a happy set and the story will get round that you are good to work with.
I have not given up working in film. I will work within film again in the future.