It’s the empty calendar that scares us. The days without call sheets, the afternoons with nothing to do, and the nights open for drinking with friends.
That’s scary for the freelancer. Scarier than even the most intimidating job.
Imagine a train blowing full-steam ahead and hitting a wall. It’s a similar jolt going from 12 hour days of lugging a camera to not working at all. As you race to the end of a shoot, you have to brace yourself for impact.
Then — boom — you’re at home. Several days go by and you’re quickly wondering, “What’s next?”
The best you can do is look for an upcoming job — actively seek out industry contacts to see what they’re doing (this is where networking becomes crucial) or look for a gig using more traditional methods like job boards, cold calls, and resume drops.
You make these efforts to clear yourself of the empty calendar, those blank dates and vacant squares. The way they relentlessly mock you as you fail to fill them makes you hate the calendar. It becomes your enemy.
To fight back, you frantically work to fill it with names, dates, and projects. You want a calendar so packed you’ll barely have time to spend all the money you’re making (a terrible problem, no doubt).
You want so much work that you don’t have to stare at the calendar because there won’t be time to.
The last thing you want to do is relax.
But an empty calendar doesn’t have to be so bad. It can be empowering. It can be your friend. The bare dates give you time to work on personal projects, improve waning skills, learn new ones, or make something useful for set.
The days without call times don’t have to give you cabin fever as long as you repurpose them in a way to push your freelance career forward. Have you thought about making business cards or building that website you always thought about? (This blog is a result of a lull in work.) Maybe it’s time to do your taxes, deal with your backlog of email, or reorganize your toolkit.
After all, crewing in film isn’t entirely about the shoot. There’s also lots of administrative work to do.
Perhaps most importantly, though, an empty calendar gives you time to reconnect with friends and family. Remember them? I’m sure they miss seeing you.
If that doesn’t sound appealing, take time to reconnect with yourself. Go for a walk, listen to some music, or watch a movie and remember why you fell in love with this crazy industry in the first place.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to rush back to set. Working on films, for as grueling as it can be, is incredibly rewarding and stupidly fun.
But there’s also nothing wrong with taking your time to get back there, even if it isn’t by choice.
So soak in those days that are blank in your black book. Stop nervously checking your email or waiting for the call sheets to get sent out. Stop and smell the roses, as they say.
At least until the water bill cuts off.
Once that happens, you have my permission to start panicking about the empty calendar. Because let’s be honest: you can’t enjoy time off when no one in the house has showered — at that point, it’s not roses you’re smelling.