How a Full-Time Mom Is Making Her First Feature Film

How a Full-Time Mom Is Making Her First Feature Film

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FILMMAKER: Bogna Jordan

STORY: Making Films as a Full-Time Stay at Home Mom, and Building Systems to Make Filmmaking Part of Your Daily Routine

I'm a mom of three little kids (ages 5, 3, & 2), and I’m expecting the 4th in September. And every time I meet somebody and we establish that I stay at home with them, it ends discussion of what I do and who I am.

And it makes me furious.

Yes, being a mom is more than enough work to tire anybody, but I'm still a person and my personal interests happen to be filmmaking, not leading a preschool.

So how much time do I get to make films?

My "work day" starts at 6:30am and ends around 7pm. I don't get a lunch break and most of the time I do more than one thing at a time, or at least I need to have an eye on the kids to make sure the house is not getting demolished.

But I do get 5 to 10 minutes, sometimes even 20, of free time when they're playing or watching movies. I just never know how much I’ll get at that specific moment, so having to decide what I could do with that time might take up all of it.

Then, there are evenings, the only time during the day I can fully devote to whatever I want to do.

Yes, being a mom is more than enough work to tire anybody, but I’m still a person, and my personal interests happen to be filmmaking, not leading a preschool.

So even if you can't quit your day job just to make movies, there is a good chance that you have more free time than I do, and I was still able to finish some short films, and now I'm in pre-production of my first feature film. 

If I can do it, I don't see any reason you could not.

Do I really use every spare minute I have for filmmaking?

Of course not, I'm not a superhuman. It is hard to transition from preparing food, cleaning the house, and spelling words for my daughter who's learning to write into creative and efficient thoughts and actions.

For a time when things got tough (when we had a second kid), I was even thinking about waiting until they get older, and I stopped working on my filmmaking projects for about 3 months. Then I realized that there is no guarantee that in those few years it will be easier for me. 

So I started to put some work on my short film projects into my schedule. At first it was one evening a month after they went to sleep, then every two weeks, then almost every day and I realized that there are some things I can do during day, while taking care of my kids.

Setting your mind right

I like to start my day with reading film related articles or exchanging ideas with other filmmakers (Filmmaker's Community is a great place for that). It helps me to set my mind into "filmmaking mode" in the morning, so even when I have other tasks to accomplish, in the back of my mind there's always the goal of making my movie or learning more about filmmaking, or even just looking at the world differently. 

Even when I have other tasks to accomplish, in the back of my mind there’s always the goal of making my movie or learning more about filmmaking.

Sometimes I give myself a task and jot down ideas as they come to me, and by the end of the day I usually will have something to work on.

I use this tactic for example when I have writers block - I just go over and over the scene, often subconsciously, changing things around, going forward and backward in the story. It doesn't take me extra time or much effort and saves me the time looking at a blank page. 

Of course it won't work when you need your full attention and intellect focused on something else, but there are many times during the day that just our bodies are occupied (making food, dressing up, travel etc.) and we still have time to think.

Being a stay-at-home mom, I'm constantly asked for things or have to do something, but it rarely exceeds 10% of my intellectual abilities, so this approach not only works for me, but keeps me from insanity.

How I plan & categorize my filmmaking tasks

There is lots of work in the filmmaking process that requires uninterrupted time, like writing a script, scheduling, or budgeting - and that's the work that is most talked about.

But there are many other small tasks that take just few minutes and can forward you in creating or marketing your movie.

Because of my lifestyle, I categorize filmmaking tasks into 4 categories:

The most important thing is to plan ahead, so when free time comes, you know what to do.
  • 10 min. or less, may be longer, but are easily picked up when interrupted (those I can do during regular day at home)
    • Here are some examples: updating social media, writing e-mails to cast/crew or investors/funding organizations, reading filmmaking articles, doing research on things I need to learn or improve - either more effective scheduling, marketing or pitching to distributors and investors, finding locations to check out later.
  • 20-40 min. (For the car, when we're going out of town and my husband is driving) Here things start to look a little more like a standard film pre-production: creating shooting lists and storyboards, working on scripts, working on pitch documents, etc.
  • Meetings and other out-of-home tasks. Mostly location scouting and meetings with funding organizations or investors so far.
  • Evening work - I don't really look at the clock, just do them until I'm done or too tired to think creatively. Here I finally can get creative and do some 'serious' work: writing/improving/analyzing script, scheduling, budgeting, sometimes learning.

Probably the most important thing is to plan ahead, so when free time comes, you know what to do. And the great thing is that planning is a task from the first category, so you definitely can find a time to do that.

Make yourself accountable

The work on my feature film really started to pick up the pace after I cast my main actors - Skipping Tomorrows was no longer a project that I would like to do someday, but something I'm doing next summer. And suddenly I realized that I really need to start working on it now or I could miss the timing and break my word to them - which I happen to treat very seriously.

Just one last tip to help you stay creative when you're tired...

Alternate your brain's 'workout' - just like with physical workout, when you do let's say only push-ups, you'll get tired fairly quickly, but if you alternate different muscle groups, you will be warmed up for maximum efficiency and you'll be able to do much more. 

I'm not saying that you should write one sentence of the script then jump to budget etc. That's probably the worst thing you can do. But if you're working with numbers and calculations in your day job, instead of just passively resting before you can get to scheduling or budgeting, you can work on your story - improve the script, or just read it through again, understand the characters better etc.

On the other hand, when you are burned out of ideas while working on your script, drafting a schedule, shooting list or even budget for the scenes you are happy with can bring you sense of accomplishment and a starting point when you finally finish the script and it’s time to work on those.

The choice is yours

In the end you just have to decide if making movies is something you fantasize about or if it is something you actually do. 

When it comes down to it, all of us have some choice in how we spend our free time, and all of us should ask ourselves what we really want to accomplish in that time. There's no wrong answer, because you're in charge and nobody else cares. But does your daily life reflect your answer?

If not, what are you going to change - your life or your answer?

You can keep up with Bogna's first feature Skipping Tomorrows on the film's facebook page.

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