Filmmaker Stories are crowdsourced articles from the Filmmaker Freedom community. To learn more about writing and submitting your own Filmmaker Story, click here.
FILMMAKER: Beatriz Browne
STORY: How a Full-Time Producer Makes Time for Her Own Films
One of the challenges of being a filmmaker is deciding whether you want to play the lottery or remain satisfied with dividend stocks.
And by that I mean, making your own films and hoping one will turn your career into a successful one, or playing it safe and having a regular job while trying to pursue your passion on the side.
In my case, I attempted both.
The first option led me to an extremely anxious year, where I began focusing on the bills I had to pay and losing the energy, passion, and desire to be a filmmaker.
I then opted for an office job, and with that, I learned that you really don’t know what you've got 'til it’s gone.
Thankfully, my office job is working as a full-time producer for a media company. So really, I’m fortunate to be doing what I love everyday.
But of course, nothing in life is butterflies and rainbows, and that job comes with long production hours, lots of energy and multi-tasking between projects, and by the time the clock strikes 6pm I’m ready to go on hiatus in my bed and watch Parks and Rec until I’m asleep.
Yet I still felt the urge to just go and pursue my own work.
But while the ideas were flowing in my head, I whirled into one desperate question: where am I going to find time to do any of this?
Quite frankly, I don’t have a straight answer, nor a formula that will work for everybody.
But as I am going through the process at the moment, I feel the ultimate need to share my experience, so it can hopefully shine a light onto some of you.
But before we get to that, a little more about me.
I am a producer and filmmaker whose focus is primarily on documentary work.
I have worked on a few docu-series, such as this one, and I’m currently producing my first feature doc, “The Monster of Carmine Street."
The film is about an independent bookstore in New York City which is home to an eccentric community of artists and writers, that is possibly the last bit of cultural heritage of the neighborhood.
I’ve had this film in mind and in pre-production for around one year, and we are finally in production. Yet there is still so much of the story left to unravel and plenty of obstacles to overcome.
I think the most important thing when having to use all of your extra time towards a passion project, is to truly be passionate about your film. Right now, I am in love with the story that is unraveling, and I feel compelled to tell a story about a community that is vanishing. That is essentially our purpose as storytellers, to keep these stories alive for years to come.
With that, here is a breakdown of the times how I’ve been managing my time:
1. Dark Hours
And by dark, I mean post-work hours. During the week I’ll commit myself to either going home and working on my project, or making use of my evening time to attend networking events, workshops, and classes that still revolve around my work.
When I head home, after refueling myself with food, I will normally sit at my desk and devote at least 2 hours to dig deep into research, pre-production, and writing (most of the time with snacks around me).
I also designated a wall in my bedroom that I call the “Doc-wall”, where I like to build storyboards and visual boards for my upcoming work to help it come to life.
However, this isn’t to say this doesn’t require a lot of discipline. In fact, it’s so easy to get home and relax, that I really have to push myself to focus.
A way I am able to do that is by setting personal deadlines (sometimes with rewards). I will do daily deadlines and weekly deadlines that I have to meet within my work, and for each deadline I meet, I get a few minutes of relaxing time.
Currently, on my film, I will also use evenings to shoot a scene or an event with my protagonist, and that will often end in late nights but the reward is often more satisfying.
Yes this unfortunately means sacrificing a lot of social time, but truthfully, there is always going to be time for that in the future and/or during vacations.
So the weekends are really my time to go out and shoot, and I am very grateful for my crew and literally everyone involved in this documentary, because they truly are also sacrificing their time for a project everyone is passionate about.
Weekends are also a great time to catch up on sleep and health, something that is extremely vital for every filmmaker, which leads me to my next point.
3. Balancing Extra Hours with Health
I’ve definitely noticed that with working overtime and on the weekends comes a great lack of sleep and self-care.
Which is severely dangerous, because without the proper nutrition and sleep, you will never be able to achieve your best work as a filmmaker.
I am guilty. I have pulled all-nighters, I’ve forgotten to eat, and I didn’t take time to breath or just take my mind off of work.
And when you work like that, it becomes draining and detrimental.
In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with pulling an all-nighter here and there, or truly working nonstop on your project. Because when you are passionate about something and ideas are flowing, nothing can stop you!
But there has to be a sense of self-control that will allow you to thrive even more, and if that means sleeping a few extra hours the following day, or having a huge meal of pasta, by all means do it.
We are all human and our bodies can only take so much. Production hours are already pretty intense, so it’s important to learn how to handle it.
My advice is to take at least an hour of the day to do some exercise, practice a different hobby, or even meditate. When it’s time to work, it’s time to work.
With that, I can safely say it’s been a challenging journey. I have failed and succeeded multiple times.
And you will too.
But that’s part of the learning process, and it will only make you more prepared for your future films.
I always dream of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, which is our final product. But it’s important to also fall in love with the process.
At the end of the day, everyone is different, but I have been learning what works for me and what doesn’t, with the uttermost importance of taking care of my health. When I feel good, I thrive in my workspace, and I am able to give my subjects, my crew, and my film my best energy and devoted time.
Finally, one of the most valuable lessons I have learned working in documentaries is that you have to be prepared to abandon any and all rules. Things change, and being able to adapt is only part of the process.
So be comfortable in the uncomfortable, and truly let the storyteller within you lead the way.
Beatriz Browne is an NYC based Producer and documentary filmmaker specializing in multimedia digital storytelling. Some of her work includes documentary series for Fatherly, “My Kid The”, and “Passing the Torch” in a collaboration with Hearst Media.
She is also currently producing her new documentary film “The Monster of Carmine Street”, which is set to circulate festivals in early 2019. Her work has been recognized by major publications such as Good Morning America, Upworthy, Babble and PopSugar.
If you enjoyed this article, you'll love Filmmaker Freedom Weekly. Each week, I share my latest writing, curated stories from around the web, a short film that I love, and a healthy dose of filmmaking inspiration.
Are you ready to take your filmmaking to the next level?