Is NOT Making Films One of the Best Things You Can Do for Your Filmmaking Career?

Filmmaking may be the most important part of your life, but sometimes a change of focus is needed to put everything into perspective.

Working is the key to success, right? You're not a very good screenwriter? Work. Your cinematography skills are amateurish? Work. Can't seem to get your project in front of an audience. Fuggin work, buddy! We hear this constantly; I have said it myself plenty of times: keep writing, keep shooting, keeping hustling, giving all of you simplistic axioms like, "If you're not working, you're not trying."

What a load of shit.

Okay, to be fair, working is important and yeah, you need to work in order to actually do filmmaking, but what if working isn't the solution to your professional obstacles? What if the solution is actually—not—working—like, literally putting your camera down and walking away from it? Before you hurl your keyboards or laptops or phones or Bedazzlers or whatever it is you have in your hand at the moment, watch this fantastic video by Simon Cade of DSLRguide.

I'll admit it, I'm a workaholic. For the first three years of my career, you couldn't pull me away from my computer—not on weekends, not on my days off, not on Thanksgiving or Christmas or my anniversary. I'd be up at 8 AM writing and wouldn't close my laptop until 2 or 3 in the morning. I even woke up at 4:30 AM out of a dead sleep to find breaking news about a new Sony camera and wrote that shit right then and there. 

I was ferocious! I was killing it! And I was super duper depressed.

Yeah, I know, I'm getting real on you now, but this is a topic we don't often talk about in the indie film community (because feelings) even though it's something that we all face at some point. It's not just about depression or ennui or anxiety, it's about believing the lie that working non-stop like a machine will result in a quality product because a lot of the time it doesn't.

Maybe right now you're on the upswing and you're hungry and motivated and hustling like crazy with awesome results. That's excellent! However, for those who are starting to lose their momentum, your product might be losing quality because you're running on fumes, and the answer may not be pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. Your dogs are tired as hell! They may need a rest.

I remember a couple of years back. I was on the shitty end of my second all-nighter, hadn't slept in easily 40 hours, and had to finish some pretty important work. I was staring at my computer trying to put words together in some kind of intelligible fashion, but not only could I not form a single sentence but my eyes just could not focus on the screen. I was doing the whole cartoonish "am I really seeing this" thing, rubbing my eyes and widening them, but all I could see was a bright, fuzzy blob in front of me. I was tired and I needed some rest—not just for the night, but for a season.

I had a moment of clarity: I want so badly to focus on my work, but because I'm not allowing myself to rest, I'm unable to. Seasons of great rest, in my experience, result in seasons of great focus.

Burn out is a real thing and giving yourself the permission to rest is absolutely crucial if you want to stay in the game. Toughing it up won't cut it. Sometimes you need to walk away from the thing you love to be able to truly love it. Resting and focusing on other things is not you giving up on filmmaking, it's allowing yourself to find that which nourishes you so you can have the energy, the drive, and the passion to return and work harder than you ever have before.

Besides, even machines require maintenance every once in a while.     

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Your Comment


Please stop writing articles for this website. The vast majority of your articles bring no value to this site ...

February 17, 2018 at 5:44PM


The last time she had worked in the industry was in 2011....

February 18, 2018 at 8:02AM, Edited February 18, 8:02AM

John Dureuil

Totally agree. I know an article is Renée's from glancing at the buzzwordy title. I guess I'm now dumber for actually have clicked here though :L

February 19, 2018 at 3:17PM

Tom McKenna
Jack of all trades

What value does your comment bring? You do realize people will probably not want to work with someone like you solely based on your attitude -I for sure wouldn't. What value is there in bringing down someone who contributes content to this site? Or any filmmaker for that matter? We should be lifting each other up as fellow filmmakers not tearing people down because their content isn't to our personal tastes. Grow up dude, there are enough dicks in this industry already.

February 19, 2018 at 4:40PM, Edited February 19, 4:40PM

Stephen Herron

Mike Wilson's comment brings no value to the site. Keep writing, Renee. I appreciate your articles.

March 17, 2018 at 8:27AM, Edited March 17, 8:27AM


Ian Brander wants to be an internet dick sucker, please keep writing, show us all your smart-ass side!

March 17, 2018 at 9:56AM

David Yao
Director of Photograhy / Camera Assistant

Dear Editor, I don't know how old you are and where you are from, but you sound like a cyborg coming from another planet to suddenly discover that rest is as important as work for a human being. Your self-preservation should had told you!
You are just sharing an evidence that everybody already knows, at least in all the countries I had lived and worked in.
Being enslaved by production, work or profit is just making humanity worst as all best things in life need time, personal time: friendship, love, philosophy, literature, education, understanding (thinking), creativity, cooking...
I think that your writing style reflects the aggressive world you are living in, and I guess that you should go for a simpler life with less needed income.
Less money you need to live and truer to yourself, more imaginative, happier (less stress) and freer, you will get.
There is a limit, and this is the biggest dilemma in our capitalist life:
To be fully (truly) creative, none of your production should be related to income and time.
Without that freedom, you always need to please someone: boss, producer, critics, market, sponsors, audience...
Thus, cinema (an art form) became "industry" and "entertainment” creating boring production dedicated to (huge) income: blockbusters.
Creative "risks", surprise or spiritual elevation are not allowed in such production.
And at a certain point in his career, even an Indie filmmaker looking for success will have to join this path to last and make a living from his creation.
Being a creator and having time to fully express it might be possible with a heritage, a donation, assets or a lottery jackpot...
Personally, I decided to teach cinematography and my students are my producer to create short films together without any external help and no ambition to be viewed and famous.
Total freedom!

February 18, 2018 at 12:36AM

Franc Sanka
Director of Photography / Film and Photography Teacher

As a master student in music composition, with special interest in soundtrack composition, professors tell me that teaching is one way out to have an income. However, someone I know who has two masters, one in film directing, and another in medieval singing, told me even teaching in a school isn't always good for an artist. In Belgium it involves a lot of bureaucracy and stupid work, not related to teaching. So as an art student in composition and cross-over (interested in camera work and editing) I don't have perspective to actual live in a country that is supposed to be the center of Europe. If you work, you can't make compositions. Passive income is the only answer...

February 19, 2018 at 8:34AM


"What a load of shit."

There is no polite way to say this, but this is my reaction to 99% of this writer's posts on here.
I'm sorry, but your posts are under-educated at best, and incorrect advice at worst.

February 18, 2018 at 1:49AM, Edited February 18, 1:49AM


Hey V, there is no polite way to say this, but you should write an article about how nobody in the film industry wants to work with the Mark Frost edge-lords because they act like such incomprehensible tools.

March 17, 2018 at 8:38AM


Hey everyone, look at this Ian Brander guy! stop trying to be a nice guy on the internet, you are probably a fuking dick in real life yourself.

March 17, 2018 at 9:52AM

David Yao
Director of Photograhy / Camera Assistant

Whao ... so much hate! Weird... I think this was a great piece... I think it's one of the most important pieces of advice for anyone in any field where creativity is a commodity. "Giving yourself permission to rest" is absolutely crucial, and with how we are constantly bombarded by media from all angles it can seem like if you are not working you are not living. This was a much needed post, and I think anyone that cant see the value may want to take a sec to evaluate their own work/life balance. And if anyone is attacking an editor for posting this they may also want to think about chilling the F out.

February 18, 2018 at 7:22AM

Roberto Serrini
Director • Editor

Nothing but disrespect for all the guys writing that stuff. Even if you don't enjoy it, there's a classy and respectful way to bring constructive criticism. I doubt the guys who write these things even work in the industry, and if they do, I'm sure they burn a lot of bridges in their attempts.

March 17, 2018 at 8:31AM


Thank you for sharing, V Renée.

February 18, 2018 at 1:39PM


Making a film is an incredible and hard process, but in the end, you will get the best result)

February 19, 2018 at 2:59AM

Jeremy Brown
App Developer

People are mean. Don't listen to them - thanks for posting this. Loved it.

February 19, 2018 at 12:53PM

Seth Deming

Great post, V.

Like you, Simon gets a lot of hate from some people. But don’t let them get to you, most of those who like your posts, don’t comment.

Keep up the good work !

February 20, 2018 at 5:31AM


I'm wondering about myself right now. I don't like most of this author's articles and a lot of times I can be a bit hater, being a pessimist and depressed regularly. But this article is quite good. So I'm amazed about the amount of hate. What happened, guys???

March 17, 2018 at 8:36AM


Thanks for your posts, V! Glad you're writing.

March 17, 2018 at 8:39AM


Wasnt' this article posted about 2 month ago??????????????????????????????????????? V Renee? Hello? WTF?

March 17, 2018 at 9:54AM, Edited March 17, 9:54AM

David Yao
Director of Photograhy / Camera Assistant

I can completely visualize the people that are posting rude comments here. It’s folks like them with a chip on their shoulders that made me step away from film production for a year, as they had no respect for my personality and no patience for me while I was learning the craft.

And now I’m doing just fine selectively working only with people who have the decency to show me some basic respect.

Please keep writing V.

March 18, 2018 at 8:11AM

John Haas