September 26, 2014 at 2:24AM

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What is the film director lifestyle like for the spouse?

We all know being a film director is an exciting and stressful job. But, what is it like for the spouse of the director? Family life is extremely important to me, so I am concerned about my future wife being overwhelmed with all of the luggage that comes with the job. I know some directors/producers have suffered through divorce, but how does one avoid this tragedy especially in this day and age?

38 Comments

I've wondered the same thing, and reached the conclusion that having a profession that is on set all the time (anyone in a film crew) is basically pretty tough on family life. Think about it - any job where you're expected to work 12+ hours a day is tough on a spouse and on family life. This is one of the reasons why I think this will remain a hobby and very occasional side gig for me. I also believe that it's a big reason (not the only one) why there aren't more women in top film set roles (director or otherwise). It's basically incompatible with having a family and being a mother (or father, really). I've heard Diablo Cody (Oscar-winning screenwriter of Juno) say as much in an interview she did on a podcast I listen to (either The Treatment or The Business) about her experience of directing a movie. I believe she said that she would not want to do it again.

I'm open to the possibility that I have an inaccurate view of the situation though, and that some people may be able to make it work. I would love to hear more about it, and hope that others will respond.

September 27, 2014 at 2:59PM

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Shen
330

I think that somehow, some way, I can incorporate family life into filming. It's pretty much a lifestyle so why wouldn't I include my future spouse and children in what I do? This could lead to a few complications I'm sure, and there will have to be more time to relax and make time for their activities, but overall I would think that would bring us closer because they know who I am and what drives me.

September 28, 2014 at 1:50PM

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Dallin Wells
Director/Producer/Editor/Writer/DP/Actor
302

For sure! I'm sure that many people are able to make it work, just as doctors, lawyers, police, firefighters, and other people that work odd and/or long hours can make it work. But I would think that it makes things more difficult than if both people work a 9 to 5 job. If you can marry someone who is also on set, it might make things easier?

September 29, 2014 at 9:24PM

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Shen
330

It's hard, find the equilibrium but it's importante that you put your self limits for be with you family or future family.

September 29, 2014 at 2:36AM

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Ragüel Cremades
Film producer and director
7259

Almost every very successful director or any other role in the industry I've met is divorced or else has a really rough family life. To be clear, I'm not saying that the majority of folks who are successful in the industry are divorced, or that you can't have a good balance of work and family and be successful. But it was enough of a warning for me to commit to salaried positions with regular hours and freelancing a controlled amount on the side. It's been great for me—I have a job that I really enjoy and am challenged by, but I still have several AC gigs throughout the year.

That being said, yes, I believe it limits my career. But we all have to make a choice about priorities eventually.

September 29, 2014 at 10:18AM

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David S.
3396

Creative work will never ever lead to a 9-5 job, so you either have to marry another creative person or have a very understanding spouse.

Things become crazy hard once you add kids to the mix, which is often why creative types have such poor marriage track records.

September 29, 2014 at 4:34PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
30447

I wouldn't say that fulltime film work and marriage are totally incompatible, but your spouse needs to have an understanding that being married to someone in a creative field means that you are giving up any expectations of a "normal" life that they may have pictured marriage to be. It is tough, and a lot of work to maintain a healthy marriage with such a crazy schedule.

The hardest part for my wife is not only the long hours, but the unpredictability of schedule. For me, large projects often pop up within days before beginning the project. It makes it very hard to schedule anything. I'll get a call that the project begins in 5 days, and then I'm on a plane and gone for a couple weeks.

I am lucky enough to have found a wife who is wonderfully flexible and understands that this is part of the lifestyle. Much of it is on YOU to manage your spouse's expectations. I secretly try to under-promise and over-deliver when it comes to hours, deadlines, scheduling. It is very common for me to be on the road, and the shoot gets extended another few days for whatever reason. This is always a huge letdown for her, but she has gotten used to it. I guess at the end of the day I am thankful to have someone who is excited for me to come home, haha. We plan vacations or dinners in advance under the pretense that there is a good chance we will have to cancel or re-schedule them.

The good news is, as a freelancer, I do have time between jobs and I'm not always from one thing to the next. There are seasons where things slow down and times when my life is totally bananas. In the slow times, we get to spend all kinds of time together - at the end of the year it usually evens out.

For reference, I do cinematography (and occasionally direct) on documentary, corporate, and sports projects as a freelancer. Lots of people who work in the LA area may have more predictable schedules if they are working on larger projects for TV or film, but as others have mentioned they are typically very long hours and can be 7 days a week depending on if a deadline is looming.

September 29, 2014 at 6:18PM

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Ty
Cinematographer, Editor, Director
565

Agreed—it's all about expectations. Before marriage, my wife and I discussed exactly what she might be getting into as far as my work life goes. I'm fortunate enough to have a wife that is on board in these days when I work such ridiculous hours sometimes.

September 29, 2014 at 7:54PM

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David S.
3396

Don't let your passion slip thru your fingers. Your wife is your # 1 priority, no mistake there. But if you know without a doubt that you were meant to create and you'll work at it the rest of your life (after all, creating is not for you, it's for others - it's to serve others), then do it. Trust that you will work to love and support your spouse and then keep on creating! My wife was and is super supportive. Our first microbudget feature was something she helped out on immensely during pre-production and production. She remains my soundboard for all ideas and trusts that I will make time for her and us. That's the key. You just have to be willing to work that much harder. At the end of the day, choose her and her needs first over yours. No relationship is a turnkey operation, but like your craft, if you tend and water it, you'll be fine. Don't let fear stop you from following your dreams. Fear are worry are enemies of creation. Go forth my good man and create amazing works of art!

September 30, 2014 at 12:53PM

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When I was 18 or so I thought to not pursue the film making route even though it had been the center thing in my life since...ever...I was scribbling about movie related stuff when I was a few years old. Today, being 36 and being in the business for 11 years I know that no woman can ever be as important as my profession. If she can`t understand my addiction, then adios. And I don`t want kids. It wouldn`t be fair to them and even less to myself. I can`t exist without total freedom and all the stuff I mastered so far was only thanks to this freedom. I fear that it is this addiction which causes all those breakups. And my opinion is - if it´s not for you, then it is not for you, get a 9-5 job and play it safe!

September 30, 2014 at 1:44PM

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The best and bravest non diplomatic answer till now.

October 1, 2014 at 3:09AM

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Anirban Ray
Film-Maker, Journalist, Photographer
185

The bad news: There's no such thing as work/life balance in highly competitive fields. Anything that distracts you from your work puts you at a disadvantage compared to people who have no such distractions.

The good news: There's plenty of room for creative and even financial satisfaction without being a Hollywood A-lister. As Ty said above, the life of the freelancer offers periodic breaks for family time; as J. Cameron Keenum said, your spouse can share your creative life.

September 30, 2014 at 1:55PM

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Minor Mogul
Dilettante
773

I think that the best option is either take a period job and be 'Happy'.
Else if you are 'Mad' engage your spouse with your business.

October 1, 2014 at 3:11AM

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Anirban Ray
Film-Maker, Journalist, Photographer
185

There are many successful couples in the industry who collaborate as producer-director-actor and share that infinite dose of passion for their work. Bad news is that you may not get it right on round one.

October 5, 2014 at 9:03AM

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I work in the film industry, in los angeles, earn a good living and keep mostly regular hours. Don't listen to all these folks trying to deter you that any sort of normal life is impossible if you want to work in film. It is rubbish. If you are just starting out, like anything you will have to probably work long hours to get established but such is life. Coppola has been married near 50 years, has multiple children and day job and he has done alright yeah?

October 1, 2014 at 2:16PM

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LJ
596

That's extremely encouraging thanks LJ

October 3, 2014 at 10:27AM

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Dallin Wells
Director/Producer/Editor/Writer/DP/Actor
302

Using Coppola as an example is, I think, misleading. First, he has had a lot of huge problems in his life, like the rest of us. Maybe don't look at him now, but look at him back around UCLA, when he was paling around with Jim Morrison, Lucas, Spielberg, and so forth. All of those guys were super-hungry, and lived and breathed film (music, in Jim's case) for years. He emerged from a very special crucible of time and circumstance, too. And it was still VERY HARD. Second, if you must use him as an example (A-list, owns an island... you know, a typical director/filmmaker), then do take some of Coppola's own life experience as a guide: he has diversified his businesses (makes some nice wine, has a great restaurant in SF) and life (he is not, and has not (ever?) been dependent on Hollywood to make a living or to live... doesn't even live here).

My take on the original question: marriage is hard no matter what, and I see many of my more traditional career colleagues' marriages falling apart in midlife because they never "went for it" and now, although they're doing alright financially, they're bored and empty. I don't want that, and every woman I've been with understands that a relationship with me will be an adventure. It's not going to be easy, but it's sure gonna be interesting. Find a woman who wants to sign up for that, and you have a shot. And you CAN make it work, if you work at it and get a little lucky. But you do need to be focused, or you'll get creamed in this industry. This is NOT a 9-5 industry, unless your job is working on crew on a TV show. OK, usually not even then.

The one time I let up for a bit was when we had our child, and I got very interested in spending huge amounts of time with her instead of working for a year :-). But financial realities came back, and now I'm back to the old ways- with the change that occasionally my daughter gets to come visit me on set and see what daddy does for a living. Which is pretty cool.

October 6, 2014 at 11:58AM

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Patrick Ortman
I tell stories. Sometimes for money. Sometimes, not.
561

You can choose to believe that wives or children will hold you back and that working more hours will result in better art but it's not that black and white in my opinion. Work smarter not longer. If all you have ever done is talk shop with other filmmakers and screw lenses on 16hrs a day you might not have something as a original or sincere to say as someone who has actually lived, loved and plumbed the depths of the human experience in addition to studying and practicing cinema. Honestly just about anyone can muster a crew and learn the technical knowledge to mount a production, but few have an interesting or original voice. Browsing the latest camera gear won't help with that.

October 1, 2014 at 2:27PM

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LJ
596

This is true. Although I strongly disagree that almost anyone can learn to muster and lead a crew :-). Life experience is SO KEY.

October 6, 2014 at 12:00PM

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Patrick Ortman
I tell stories. Sometimes for money. Sometimes, not.
561

my wife is a make up artist and we deal with a lot of similar clients. i see her on sets often enough as well.
i shoot alot of raunchy stuff, do all the industry socializing crap, drink, party etc...
almost 4 years and we're pretty good. as long as you both accept each other's occupation and what comes with it.

also word of advice. get a dog. she'll have someone to sleep with when you're on location.

October 1, 2014 at 2:31PM

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Kazu Okuda
Filmmaker
1431

Like any relationship, it's all about open and honest communication, doesn't matter if you're a filmmaker or a plumber. Talk with you significant other about their wants and needs, explain yours and see how your work fits into that. Be open to change and compromise, understand there will be challenges with your schedules and be sure to make the most of your free time together.

October 1, 2014 at 10:05PM

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John Morse
Producer + Director
2408

I think there are times where you would have to sacrifice some work for the sake of your family life. For me its about picking the right work and being content with not doing every single job that comes your way but to try find some balance?

October 2, 2014 at 2:22AM

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Riaan Myburgh
DP / COLORIST
372

It is difficult to find a balance, but it can be done! Honestly if you have been with your spouse long enough you should know how she feels. If it has been established from the get go that your passion and goal in life is to be a film maker then your spouse should already know what road is ahead. You have to trust your gut and at times your going to have to make decisions that might interfere with your relationship but you also have to know when to say no to a gig. Trust me it is difficult, at least for me because my Fiance and I do almost 80% of everything together. Luckily for me she has shown an interest in my work, and is even willing to learn a few things to help me out. As great as that is i'm sure there are going to be many conflicts anyway it's just part of life. Best thing you can do is maintain that communication with your significant other as much as you can so there are no surprises down the road. One thing my Fiance hates is when I do last minute stuff, (especially when its not paid), and in this business at the indie level we need to jump on an opportunity while its there. Ultimately go with your instincts and choose wisely when it comes to projects and keep them in the loop as much as you can.

October 2, 2014 at 9:54AM

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Luis Garcia
Director/Editor
347

I recently had this conversation with a prominent 1st AC and DIT because I, like you, consider my family paramount. Although this guy is not a director, he is very active in the Hollywood system. He basically told me that in Hollywood, you either have a family, or you have a career–not both–and his personal life is testament to that fact. Now he did make a few exceptions to that, for example those who work on TV series where the rules are different than for movies. But he did tell me that one year, he was away from home something like 360 days of the year. I'm sure you can imagine how your future wife would feel about that.

With all that said, that is one man's experience, and as others have mentioned, I'm sure can be done. But I can guarantee you that it will not be easy, nor will it be without significant sacrifice.

October 4, 2014 at 4:31PM

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Brynn Sankey
Cinematographer
356

To be honest I have no real idea if it is very hard or not. But think this, In the military soldiers can be gone for 9 months straight. That's very rough and I would say it's all about explaining to the spouse what you're doing, why you're doing, and that it's what you love.

October 4, 2014 at 4:49PM

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Lensroam Team
Editor / DP / Director
161

I just finished film school last year and was often on set the majority of weekends during the semester. To add to that I am married 17 years and have a daughter (age 5-8 during my time in film school). I can say your spouse must be understanding, which she was due to her time in medical school. We managed with ease, it was the schedule that was hard but we never underestimated what film school would entail.

Ironically, I also saw married professors who worked in the industry as well as other married students experience divorce during my time in the film program.

To keep things in perspective I said this to myself at least once a day: "Celluloid and pixels won't love you back" - I.E. My family will! This was most apparent to me in the lonely faces I percieved on many during the holidays.

My advice is to build your own content/audience in your own time (write, study the trends, industry) but prioritize what's important. We're in a situation where my wife's position as a physician in hospice allows me to build slowly and raise our child without neglect and the work I do to build now will pay off when she's older.

Oh, and the biggest threat if your not careful - debt. It's the biggest hinderence I hear my former classmates are experiencing in LA and it's also what we're prioritizing to rid ourself of asap and we're almost there. This will help my craft in the back end later.

October 4, 2014 at 5:12PM

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James Eimmerman
Writer, Producer Director, Editor
67

Waiting for a female experience on this topic...

October 4, 2014 at 6:00PM

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I married my husband in 2006 and a year later film school came up as an option! I was in! I knew it would be hard but I didn't know just how hard it'd be. As the 7 years of film school passed slowly by I felt very alone and neglected but it was all for the sake of art! You see, My husband's dream of becoming a great Writer/ Director means more to me than my own selfish wants. He loves me and I love him. I have made many sacrifices for my family and it's all for the sake of living the dream! We have been married now for 8 years and going strong! We have our bumps like all marriages will and my advice for everyone is to figure out what your dreams are and never look back! Never compromise! The right spouse will come along and respect you and have your back when it comes to working in the Entertainment business. It's not a walk in the park but at the end of the day, to see my husband's face glowing after a long hard day at work doing what he loves.. I wouldn't have it any other way!

October 4, 2014 at 6:37PM

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Very refreshing approach!

October 5, 2014 at 10:12AM

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I've had this discussion numerous times with friends and colleagues, and I believe there is no "correct answer". Working in film/TV, especially in key positions (Director, Producer, DP, etc) is a way of life. It is a passion that requires not only your time "on set", but your whole life. It never sleeps. If you can find someone who either shares that lifestyle/passion, or is willing to commit to it with you, you will be fine. Just as long haul truckers, loggers, journalists, etc find themselves away from home/family for months at a time with sporadic schedules, creative types and people in the film industry can find a balance that works for them, provided they find someone who shares their wants and needs.

No relationship is "easy", regardless of you or your spouse's profession. It's all about a healthy balance and a mutual love and respect for your partner and their passion(s).

October 4, 2014 at 7:23PM

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David Sherbrook
Writer/Director
19

You asked for a female perspective, Maxine.

My husband and I both work in TV, we've been married for 26 years and we have children. We are both freelance and both travel for work, however we’re rarely booked on the same programs.

I think the success of combining a TV career and marriage really depends on the individuals and their expectations. My husband and I were already working in TV when we met, and because we both already traveled for work we were totally used to being apart before we ever decided to tie the knot and start a family.

Being in the same industry means we understand and appreciated each other's work commitments and crazy schedules, it means we understand when the other can’t take a call, and it also means that we know those drinks in the hotel bar after a long day are just drinks, and don’t automatically assume something inappropriate is going on; I’ve seen a lot of industry relationships break down because of trust issues.

I've always felt pleased when a great job's come in for my husband and he's always been equally supportive of my career, although having kids and both working in the industry involves give and take and an awful lot of juggling, especially when there’s no family living nearby to help out!

Supporting each other, but also seeing each other as individuals and not relying on the other for happiness is key, but then surely that’s the same in any relationship, and there’s no reason why working in TV and film and having a relationship should be any different to other jobs with long hours, travel and changeable schedules.

October 4, 2014 at 11:24PM

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Sarah
16

I work in Canada (Toronto) and primarily work on self-produced projects, with side gigs here and there to help pay the bills. I work primarily from a home-based studio on self-produced projects and while I occasionally have to pull long hours for a few days or a week or two, I find this approach works well for me.

A few years ago while working on development of a large documentary project that required the assistance of several special FX technicians who usually do TV shows and movies up here, they were frequently blown away by the hours our studio kept - 10am -5pm (sometimes 9-6 when we're on a deadline). One of the guys used to tease me all the time saying things like "don't you know how this industry works? Where's the panic? Where's the overtime?!"

I think that says a lot about the industry.

Contrast that to a recent shoot on someone else's set where I did a 7am - 10pm days because of external budget pressures.

It's very possible to have a balanced life, but the trick is being able to control your schedule and having the resources as well as the will to budget them in a way in that are conducive to that. It also sometimes may mean passing up opportunities.

Some of the smartest, happiest people I've met do a lot of corporate work, which isn't as sexy as films or commercials, but often pays just as well or better and usually has much better hours.

You have to decide what your priorities are and make decisions accordingly. If your goal is to be a rockstar Hollywood filmmaker, you may find that necessitates sacrifices that make marriages and long-term relationships difficult.

October 5, 2014 at 12:45PM, Edited October 5, 12:45PM

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Andrew Young
Filmmaker / SFX Supervisor
91

Directing, especially when you are the screenwriter and have been working on the production since early development, can cause a lot of stress in relationships. Especially if you have kids. Most directors require a lot of concentration. They live in the world they are creating and can't have a lot of distraction. On set, they are asked hundreds of questions and must keep their focus on how everything is going to work in editing. So, suffice it to say that if there is a lot of stress at home, this can severely limit a director's ability to do his job. So, family lives need to be stable. Directors have to eat, drink and sleep their films while in production so its good to work out issues at home in advance. I would go so far as to say, if a production is around a month, directors who have issues at home may want to stay in a hotel or something so they can stay focused.

October 5, 2014 at 3:03PM

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Jason Buff
Teacher at IFA.
142

I've done exactly this, Jason, on short shoots. Not only to get the space I need to do my job, but also to be closer to the shoot. It's good advice!

October 7, 2014 at 10:52AM

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Patrick Ortman
I tell stories. Sometimes for money. Sometimes, not.
561

Honestly, I can only think of one scenario where it would be an issue.

If your spouse is successful and has a career of their own (not a creative/artistic one...a "9-5") and you are struggling to keep up your end of the finances.

If you have a good relationship, you will be OK for a while. After a year of struggling to get work while she is steadily doing her part? That's when it could become tough to justify.

Any other scenario and I think it's the same as every other career though.

October 8, 2014 at 10:12PM

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Luke Neumann
Cinematographer/Composer/Editor
2647

Question for people in a Director/Actor dynamic...

My partner is a film maker and I'm an actor. How can I manage expectations when your partner doesn't bring you in to audition for parts that you know would be a good fit for you?

Very complicated situation to be in.

October 30, 2014 at 7:47PM

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Your partner doesn't want to judge you AND/or doesn't want anyone feel you got the part, because it's your partner. It may indeed be hard to understand, but it is a very clear approach to a situation that could be far more complicated if you'd audition.

Look:
- you audition and don't get the part: disapointment
- you audition and get the job, while someone else was better: regret of that choice when it's less than perfect (maybe even a damaged reputation for your partner)
- you audition, get the job, but don't deliver on set: tension (and maybe even a damaged reputation for your partner)
- you audition, get the job because you were the best: there can still be rumors about 'other skills' you used to get the part
- you audition, get the job and don't take directions seriously, because normally you are equals: frustration
- you audition, get the part, but don't like the final result: blame
- you audition and everything goes perfectly as planned: great

All these possible scenarios of which the majority isn't nice, are now avoided.

January 7, 2015 at 10:49AM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
8794

My long reply seem to have dissappeared...

Anyway, I guess your partner doesn't want to judge you.
Unless you are the perfect choice doing a perfect job, there will always be someone who will be hurt.

January 8, 2015 at 1:38PM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
8794

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