I’m not yet a full-time producer, just an aspiring one who has managed to shift her paid work to around the industry rather than outside it. I stupidly started my film-making and parenting journeys within a couple of years of each other – although in some ways that’s good as I’ve never known anything different than the endless juggling of work (“day job”), domestic and my film projects. Becoming a parent made me more fiercely protective of my personal goals, but also more realistic that they will take years to achieve.
I wouldn’t consider my experience ideal in any way, but having read others’ testimonials it really strikes me how different it is for everyone. So here is a summary of the broad phases I’ve been through:
1. One baby: I was determined not to lose focus after only starting to pursue my goals at the end of my 20s, so I threw myself into personal development opportunities and film-making when my daughter was small. Most of my short credits and the feature doc were achieved in this period and, to be honest, I can’t really remember how I did it other than a) working in a producing team with someone who was more flexible than me (but was still juggling caring responsibilities for her elderly mother) and b) using some of my expensive childcare time for unpaid projects. I also found a flexible way to develop my skills faster by taking on the NFTS part-time script development diploma.
2. Toddler and new baby: a totally different ball game. All the energy and focus I had for my own projects with one child was totally absorbed by the new arrival (who, by the way, didn’t sleep through the night properly until he started school, but that’s another story!), so I decided that my “hobby” of filmmaking had to merge into the day job or I would lose it completely.
3. One school age and one toddler: working full-time for the first time since I had kids, commuting 3 hours a day and generally feeling guilty about not being at the school gate at all during my daughter’s first year. And my job at the BFI was quite corporate and not at all creative, although I learned more about how the industry works. All I could manage on the film-making front was trying to maintain relationships with collaborators I had already met, and talking with anyone who approached me with a script. I did manage to work on one short during this time, and develop another feature project.
4. Two at school (now 9 and 6): this potentially liberating moment dovetailed with a move from the South East to Cornwall, as well as a shift back to freelance working. Having them both in one place was definitely easier, and we were lucky to have really flexible wraparound care on site when needed – but the school day still ends at 3pm and we lived life in six weeks blocks in between school holidays so childcare was still an issue as we no longer had family close by. I was much more realistic about my limitations and at peace with the work/life balance I want to strike. So much so that I let go of a project I’d developed for two years and could have continued to produce myself because I knew it had a better chance of getting made with someone else at the helm.
5. Two years further on, and with one child due to move up to senior school this year, I am finally getting back into production. Having started working with Raising Films in early 2016 the founders gave me back some inspiration, as did the people come through our training programmes. And some life coaching with the fantastic Pippa Best (one of the RF coaches on CLOSR) helped me focus on the untapped ambitions I still had. I reached out to Emily Morgan to see if there were any opportunities on MAKE UP, an iFeatures production from writer/director Claire Oakley due to shoot in Cornwall this year, and am now part of their fantastic team. The shoot in April/May will be a juggle, as always, but I know it will be worth it.
PS: Resolution during writing this: everyone who contributes free or paid childcare while I’m working on my next film should get a thank you credit – they’re part of the team after all.