How to Be a Movie Director and Still Have a Life

movie directorWorking in the cinematic world can be a thrilling, but often times emotionally and physically draining experience. Anyone who’s been through it can attest to that.

There is a well-known saying that when you find a job you love, it no longer feels like a job – it’s just you and your passion.

While there is a great deal of truth to that, it is worth remembering that many of us have families and friends in our lives and it’s precisely this balance between work and a personal life that is so hard to achieve when working in the entertainment industry.

Being a movie director is certainly not a 9 to 5 job. When you finally get all your ducks in a row and your project is set to begin, it can take up to 9 months of living 4000 miles away from your home, getting up at 4 a.m. and working 16-hour days.

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Debunking the Myth

Many people believe that this job means you get to sit in a chair all day long and tell actors and crew members what to do. Filmmaking is first and foremost a collaborative effort and sometimes a director needs to be all things to all people.

They have to help the actors become emotionally engaged in their roles, make decisions on various technical issues, talk about budgeting and even get involved in certain production aspects.

All of that makes for a stressful and exhausting experience, with little room for any sort of personal life.

movie director

Even for the great directors, like Martin Scorsese, making a film is never easy

Werner Herzog once said that he would travel down to hell and wrestle a film away from the devil if it was necessary. That goes to show how invested filmmakers are in their projects and often times it becomes an incredible burden for their loved ones.

When asked about the downside of filmmaking a few years ago, Martin Scorsese said: “It’s a dangerous thing, because it’s to the exclusion of almost anyone else in your life. You have to make this film, you have to feel this strongly.”

Nevertheless, while there are many challenges and obstacles that come as a package deal with this type of career, there is certainly a way to achieve your goals without ruining your health, finances, and personal relationships in the process.

Here are some basic tips to manage your personal life and still have a successful career as a movie director:

Keep the lines of communication open

When you are directing a movie, often times you get completely immersed in that experience, making it easy to forget about the outside world. Just remember that a phone call or a simple text message to your family members and close friends can help preserve those relationships on the long run. A simple “Hey, how are things with you?” can be enough to restore that connection and put you back in touch with the people you cherish most.

If you are one of those people who has to remember to keep in touch (much like myself), then setting up a daily reminder on your phone might actually do wonders in this case.

Bring your family along for the ride

It is one thing to call your wife/husband and kids and tell them over the phone everything you’ve done for the day and a completely different experience to have them on set with you and allowing them to be a part of your world for a little while.

Many people are curious to learn how a movie is made, so it can be an extremely fun and enlightening experience for your family and it will also help them understand the pressures of your job and why you have to stay away from them for so long.

Maintain a healthy eating routine

When you are involved in a lengthy project and you’re away from your familiar surroundings, it can be pretty challenging to maintain a normal eating routine, but making an effort in this respect can go a long way.

You may think: “OK, but how do I make time to actually sit down and eat when there are time constrains involved with making a movie?” Well, since you are the director, you have some say over what happens on set and if you tell your crew members that they should take one hour for lunch, it will not be the end of the world. That I promise.

Do something completely unrelated

While filmmaking seems like a lot of fun from the outside (and sometimes it is), there is also a great deal of stress that comes along with it. In order to keep our mental and physical health in check, sometimes we need to engage in different types of activities that are completely unrelated to work.

Whether it’s hitting the gym, playing tennis, going sightseeing, hanging out with your crew members and getting to know them personally or meeting new people, all of that can help you detach from the situation and see the world from a different perspective.

Have a back-up plan

Even though filmmaking school graduates dream of one day becoming a future David Lynch and earning millions of dollars per movie, let’s face it: this is an extremely competitive market and the odds of success are slim.

Furthermore, even if you do manage to get a few projects done, the volume of work in this industry is often times inconsistent, which is why you might consider finding a secondary job.

Since you don’t want to abandon your field of expertise, you can always start looking for alternative opportunities related to storytelling. There are currently numerous resources and platforms available, it’s up to you to give it a go. A writing gig is a good solution in this case, since it helps get that creative juice flowing and also brings a steady paycheck to the table.

There are tons of opportunities to explore, so just remember to keep an open mind and a realistic attitude when it comes to this industry and, by all means, keep chasing that dream as it is the only thing that’s truly yours.

About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the broadcast media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for &

Recently Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, you should.