Last night I came home after a particularly difficult six day workweek and collapsed on my couch. Scrolling through Facebook, I was struck by the two categories of posts I saw. On one side were friends writing about summer vacations, weddings, and the daily happenings in their lives. On the other were my film industry colleagues and friends. These posts relayed the tragic news that a driver on one show had fallen asleep at the wheel after an excessively long day and been killed in a car accident. Another friend spoke of the wife he hasn’t seen in his three months on the road. And another ranted about having just worked an 85 hour week with less than 36 hours off until he had to do it all again, “the film industry chews you up and spits you out,” he wrote.
After working an 80 hour week myself, in a canyon of white sand, wrapped head to toe in UV graded clothing, in temperatures over 100 F, I had to ask myself why? Why do this?
When I began working in the industry, just before my 24th birthday, I had a recently acquired Bachelor’s Degree and no plan to speak of. The Industry seemed exotic and I quickly found myself the member of not one but two IATSE Locals, complete with a pension, dental, and the ego boost that came when acquaintances learned that I worked on movies and around famous people. I liked the excitement, I enjoyed working in different cities, and I quickly became accustomed to the money I earned through excessive overtime.
But, I also began to lose touch with friends, mail went unopened, and my already developed insomnia worsened. I went months on a diet of caffeine and adrenaline, driving when I was too tired to safely be behind the wheel. I used being “on location” as the perfect excuse to postpone dealing with things that adults have to deal with, be those break ups or home repairs or any number of other unpleasant matters.
I am using the past tense because I like to think that in the past year, I’ve done some difficult and good course correction. I decided to choose my jobs based on if they were in town, if they weren’t too long, and if I liked the people I would be working with. But, even taking all of that into account, over the past month I’ve spent most of my days in ski goggles to keep out the blowing dust, I’ve worked several 18 hour days, and driven when I shouldn’t have.
How to turn the fantasies of owning a small hotel or being a writer/traveler/blogger/creative into reality? How to let go of the fear that keeps me coming back to films for more, hoping that maybe, maybe this time, it will be different. But, it is what it is. It’s an industry that uses its perceived glamor to remind the crew there’s a line of people who would kill to replace them. Almost twelve years in, I see the young starry eyed 24 year olds and it seems like another lifetime that I was one of them.
And yet, after all of that, I know I was not meant for a 9-5 existence. I would crumble at a desk. Finding some type of balance between the two seems to be my current universe-sent task. In the meantime, I will try to work as safely as possible, to be grateful that I’m employed, to continue paying off debt, to keep my eyes open for new opportunities, to save money, and to be kind to my fellow crew members who look as tired and hot as I am.