Top 5 Reasons Why People Leave the Film Industry
I know what you’re probably thinking – “Wait, people leave the Film Industry, but why?! Aren’t all people on set just living the dream?” Filmmaking isn’t all glitz, glamour, and celebrities. Behind all the movie magic there’s a long stressful grueling process that breaks you. It either makes you tougher, or more set in your ways. And this ultimately forces you to decide if the film industry is really meant for you or not, and essentially how you want to live your life. Here are the top reasons why people leave the film industry.
When I say long hours – I really mean LONG HOURS! Most, if not all sets (except if you have an Executive Producer who demands a shorter work day – which does happen) will work 12 hours or more. That’s not even including your time it takes to wrap out gear at the end of the day, or the PAs that were there 3 hours early to get Actors ready. I’ve heard of commercials filming for 24 straight hours! I, myself, have even done 20 hours on set. You don’t feel great after, I can tell you that.
The hours you work on a film set is no joke! I can argue that people either love the hours because of all the overtime money, or they hate the hours. The hours can go by very quickly, but regardless of how quick those hours go by you’re still left with just enough time in that 24 hour period to get home, and sleep, only to get up, shower, and go back to set.
If you’re working in any of the major film markets (NYC, LA, Atlanta) traffic is not your friend. A majority of people who work in film already have a horrible commute. The average travel time is just over an hour. And add a ton more time if you have to drive during rush hour.
The long hours definitely take a toll on you, and is a huge reason why people leave the film industry.
This is a tricky reason why people leave the film industry only because how you treat your body is a huge factor on the physical toll the film industry will take on your body.
You will be moving around A LOT! You might also be standing A LOT! Or you might be lugging around crazy heavy equipment A LOT. And depending on the department you work in you might have to do crazy mental gymnastics which also take a toll on you mentally, and which eventually leads to physical strain.
Either way, everyone on set gets a bunch of wear and tear on their body working those 12+ hours.
If you eat horrible, smoke, drink, party instead of sleep, do any hard drugs, don’t drink enough water, don’t exercise, or even just stretch a little bit your body takes a steep dive into feeling like you got hit by a truck everyday.
And by the time the weekend comes there just enough time to totally recoup.
A lot of folks don’t want to change their habits, it does take work to take care of your body to make sure you are at least feeling “ok” while working and get through the day. It takes time and effort to actually do that, and depending on the project you’re working on some folks don’t have that luxury. When people start to realize that they don’t have time to take care of themselves it’s a big reason why people leave the film industry.
If I were to rank these – this one might be the most powerful reason why people leave the film industry, and I say that because the people you work with honestly make or break an experience for you on any given show. And with enough assholes on each project you do, you can become fed up with all of film in general – which is sad when you really think about it.
It almost happened to me. I worked on a horrible feature film, and almost walked away from film altogether.
Since you work so many hours together you REALLY get to know the people on set. You grow to really love folks, or truly despise them, and when you really hate a certain person in film, with it being a such a small community, you will 100% see them again on another project. There’s no avoiding it.
The difficult personalities do make set life that much more unbearable, some are blatantly disrespectful, yell and scream at you, others will tear you down so they feel bigger than you. And the “shit rolls down hill” mentality is heavily in play on film sets unfortunately.
I once saw a Prop Master completely tear down an Assistant Props Person – a grown man, right in front of me. I’m not even sure what exactly the issue was, but to lay into the guy for 20-25 minutes? While I was in the room? She was swearing, yelling, pointing in his face, the whole 9 yards. I don’t care what the issue was how she went about it was just flat out wrong. God bless the guy for his patience!
There are some people out there that love the fact that they have the power to ruin someone’s day. I wish it wasn’t this way, and it’s exactly why people leave the film industry and it’s just shitty.
Personal Life/Work Life Balance
A big question I get a lot is: “How do you keep a relationship going? How do you have a have a family AND work in film? Is it even possible?”
I will say this – The divorce rate is quite high when it comes to people who work in film. A relationship is possible, but whoever you happen to be with has to understand your life, your dreams, your goals, and what film life is really like.
It’s also the reason why film people marry other film people because they understand, and sometimes get to work on the same projects together.
I don’t see my husband for days at a time when I’m on a show, and then factor in the shows where I am on location possibly states away. It takes work and discipline. Your partner has to be comfortable with being away from you, and vice versa. It’s no cake walk.
The amount of hours you work plays a huge factor when thinking about what type of personal life you get to have. The running joke in the film community is that you have no life when you’re on a project. That project IS your life. You hope and pray for great people, and a rewarding project – that’s for damn sure!
If you don’t enjoy your time on set, what are you doing there? Once this very question is asked, and you have an answer, it’s why people soon realize they have to leave the industry knowing it’s not worth giving up their personal life goals. Maybe they do want kids – well when set takes up 16 hours of your day you will never see them. Dogs? Save it for the weekend. Oh, and you can forget trying to factor in time with friends outside of film. It’s nearly impossible.
You have to have great time management skills, the energy to figure it out, and actually make and follow through with plans. Hell, I didn’t even talk about personal time for you alone, or personal errands like mailing things, doing laundry, or cleaning your car and house. (When you make enough this is where cleaning services come into play – big time! It’s lifesaving.) It all adds up!
This is a very reasonable, because you want a life that you’re happy with! It’s why a lot of folks gravitate towards commercial work, and stay away from the very long TV shows.
Me, personally I always make sure after each big project to take a week or two…or 3 if I need to recharge, spend time with my family and friends. I also am pretty addicted to productivity and trying to get the absolute most out of my weekends. I literally have no time to waste!
No Job Security
This is the #1 reason why most people leave the film industry. They can’t take the freelance lifestyle. They can NOT take not knowing when and where their next gig will happen. Certain people can’t handle the chance of it all. They worry extremely too much, even when they are currently working, about their next gig. It stresses them out to the max.
I will be honest – there is no guarantee you will get hired for another gig. Let’s be real though – working any job there’s not really any security. You may think there is, but even when you make tenure as a doctor at a big hospital, all it takes is one major f*ck up. Then you’re out the job, and probably a career.
I love the fact that I don’t know what I’m working on next. I LOVE how every single day on set is different from the last. Some folks hate that.
People ask me all the time: “Amber, how do you deal with the anxiety of finding your next gig?” The simple answer is: I don’t – I just don’t. I know the jobs will come. I don’t waste energy on thinking that I wont get a gig. I’m great at what I do, I do great work on set. And I know people know that.
The jobs will come.
This is definitely a certain mindset. And trust me I had to train myself to get there.
But this kind of lifestyle is not for everyone. Some people need to know when their next pay check is coming, and where it’s coming from. For this very reason it’s why a lot of people gravitate to long standing TV shows like “Law and Order” that have 20-23 episodes where they shoot July to April. That show has provided 20 years of film job security for a lot of people. These types of people are the folks who will not mind those long hours at all, as long as they keep working.
Don’t Leave the Film Industry
It takes a little bit of time to find out what type of filming fits right for the lifestyle you want to live. There’s a lot out there. Commercials – Movies – TV – Documentary – Reality TV – Soap Operas maybe? They all bring something different. I would say give yourself a little time before you leave the film industry altogether. If you are just starting your film career now I’m glad you’re reading this so you have a good idea of what can happen, and just know the hardships you might encounter – You’re not alone, not at all. It’s hard to find your footing in Film, and I hope you find yours.
There is no right way to pursue your film dreams, just the way that makes you happy.
Want more on this topic? Feel free to check out the video!