I’m Rob Speranza, married and father of one lovely little boy. As a production manager, line producer and producer, sometimes you need to go where the work is, like any other member of the crew.
Sometimes, though, you need to be away from home scoping out locations, going to to cast auditions, meeting HoDs in different cities and spending, generally, a lot of time away from the home base. It is a time-consuming job, and while you are not working in a locale that is physically far away from home, much of the time you might be home but not wholly ‘there’ if you get my meaning. Producing and line producing, when working on high budget shorts and low-budget features, tends to be all-consuming.
That has been my experience.
On a recent job, I felt that I was reaching a point where I was away from my family too much and too often. My son, who is seven, was achieving things like winning his primary school spelling bee and getting his first martial arts belt, and I was not able to see the events or attend award ceremonies. My wife was going through some hard times herself, coping with the death of a family member – and again, I was not able to be there for her as much as I wanted to.
So, after coming close to seeing everything disastrously crumble, I decided I would take the longer and more intense jobs less often and make them more few and far between. Since 2010 I have made five low-budget features and six short films, which might not seem like that much, but it’s a lot for a producer or line producer. During that time I’ve had to travel internationally or far-away nationally a good many times as well. I have decided that it was taking too much a toll on my family and the time I was able to spend with them, so I needed to address my work/life balance. I’ve had to politely refuse a couple of feature jobs this year, jobs that I wanted, but I had to see a bigger picture.
Since then my family life has been happier and I’ve managed to secure more locally based work that doesn’t take up so much of my time, and doesn’t require me being on the road so much. I’ve focused more on the local network and the production company that I run in Sheffield (www.syfn.org) and am finding myself incredibly busy but able to come home every night. It’s a better balance, for now, but the future worries me. I’ll one day definitely do more features, more international work and the like, but will we fall into the same traps as before? Will it be difficult to manage a work/life balance again?
For now, I’m not going to worry about it, but I know that I have to figure out a methodology and mindset that puts my family above all else. In film, that isn’t easy.