I am a director, and father of two sons, currently aged 5 and 3. I was always determined not to let my insane choice of a career stop me from starting a family.
I knew a few people who were constantly saying,”When I do this/achieve that/make that film…THEN I’ll be able to have kids”, except as we all know, we just cannot rely on anything ever happening when/how we want it to, so I always felt strongly that decisions on our family life should be taken as if I worked a ‘normal’ 9-5 career.
Further to that, when I’m not in production, I also try to work within a normal office hours routine. I try not to take phone calls/emails or do work outside of office hours, or certainly when my kids are still awake. It’s not always possible of course, but I find it a good rule to try and live by at least. After the kids go to bed, I might do some work, but I just try to keep it as normal as possible and as routine as possible.
I directed my first feature film in 2012, when my second son was only 6 weeks old (so my eldest was only 2.5 at the time). Suffice to say, this was an incredibly challenging period to be away from my family for four weeks. At such a crucial time, it was incredibly tough on my wife, and also on me. I felt like I was in dereliction of duty, and to make matters worse the entire shoot was nightshoots, and six nights a week too. So I had one day at home each weekend, but my bodyclock was so awry that I was basically a zombie and I felt like I wasn’t making the most of that time when it was at such a premium.
We were originally slated to shoot four months earlier, so the plan was to be well into post-production when the baby was born, but an inevitable schedule slip meant that I just had to make it when I had the chance, and that was when I truly realised that production waits for nobody. When the time is now, you just have to do it, and hope that it doesn’t piss off too many of your loved ones when it does! (I also missed the stag dos of my best friend, and my brother which all fell within the same four week period). To say I felt guilty at upsetting so many of my loved ones is an understatement.
Obviously I could never have gone to do this without an incredibly supportive partner, and indeed that applies to my entire career – and I feel very lucky to have someone that does understand that side of things. I feel very, very lucky that my film went on to win a Welsh BAFTA, as I was then able to thank my wife in the most public way possible, which I think made her feel that all the pain was almost worth it!
I think probably the biggest challenge I find is the lack of ability to plan anything. This year we are hoping to make my next film, and originally it was due to be in the summer, so I have been having to hold off making any holiday plans, as I might have been in production. So my wife booked tickets for her and the kids to go away to a festival, but now it looks like we won’t be shooting during that period, and the festival is sold out, so they are going without me! (I’m sure they will still have a great time 😉
I hope that as the kids get older, all of this will get a little easier, but I really won’t know until the time comes. Until then, my wife and I will just keep trying to “pretend to be normal”!!