It doesn't seem like anyone is trying to downplay your accomplishments, we're just trying to tell you the impression we're getting, which is pretty much what you were asking. For example, you mentioned that you want to be a writer/director, yet you made a reel showcasing your cinematography. It's a bit like you're taking a step in a different direction than what your true goals are. Yes, wearing multiple hats is a great accomplishment, especially if the end product is good, but advertising it might not be. People would be more impressed if you tell them after watching the work. A rare example of someone who fills multiple roles is Steven Soderbergh, who is Dir, editor, dp, of his own films but doesn't credit himself multiple times because he feels that each time a name is mentioned, the value of it goes down.
One of the reasons why it may not be best to advertise yourself as someone who does all those roles is that it makes the film seem "cheaper". Kind of makes it seem like you didn't have the budget to hire the right people, or know enough people to pull it off. Not saying that you need to change anything, but this is how you could look at it.
It might be good to think of the reasons why you're busy and see what you can do about that. Otherwise, think of very small pieces you can make in a short period of time. Just do a bunch of those rather than one long project that may not get finished. Time management and discipline to set aside time could also work.
If you're not getting offered union jobs then I don't think it's the right time to join. It might be best to wait a bit--you'll probably know when it's the right time. At a certain point it may be a good idea to join, but if you aren't getting union work then you're paying unnecessary costs.
I agree with Carlo in that it's better to spend a bit extra and get a filter that doesn't degrade the image. The best value for money would probably be a variable ND, so that you can dial in the exact amount.
However, getting a few solid NDs would be good for quality. Maybe in two stop increments such as: .6, 1.2, 1.8, 2.4
Those are probably the ones you would need and could adjust the rest with ISO and small aperture adjustments.
The Firecrests are really good if you're looking for great quality.
This was basically posted five days ago: http://nofilmschool.com/2017/07/watch-12-trademarks-youll-see-pretty-muc...