Color grading (and post production in general) is an all-encompassing job. It requires lots of time, dedication, and an obsessive drive in order to move forward in your career. Each job, day after day, is just as important as the last. It doesn’t matter how great yesterday’s session went, you have to prove yourself again on the next one. It’s your job to complete each session to the best of your ability all while trying to learn new techniques and explore new creative avenues. If you don’t, you’ll quickly fall behind.
All this requires a lot of time and energy. It’s not your typical 9-5 job. There have been times where I have slept at work in order to have a leg up on the next day’s session. There have been times where I have worked through the weekend just to make sure that I don’t fall behind and hit my deadlines. Unfortunately, it’s part of the business. I’m sure most people involved in post production have had similar experiences. Is it right? No. Definitely not. But as of now, that’s the reality. Competition is fierce, and stakes are high. Doing your best to get ahead of the competition and set yourself up for success is what you need to do in order to progress.
Now if you’re young, single, and living by yourself this isn’t all that hard to do. That was my case when I started out. As an assistant I’d regularly log 80+ hour work weeks trying to learn all aspects of post. I was obsessed. It was basically my life. I’d go home, get some sleep, and come back in the next day just to do it all over again. I did that for two years. I learned a lot. Looking back at it, that was the foundation for my career. But I had no social life at all and no real friends outside of work. While my professional career was fulfilling, my personal life was not. I eventually decided that I needed to rectify the situation. But that was easier said than done.
Fast forward to meeting my wife, getting married, and having kids. Each aspect was slightly different than the last in relation to my work/life balance.
When I started dating my wife she knew that my work was important to me and that I was very driven to succeed. She gave me my space when I needed it and was always incredibly supportive. I quickly learned that the most important thing in our relationship in terms of my work was communication. My hours fluctuated greatly and were anything from predictable. Just a quick text or phone call as an update as to where things stood helped a lot. When I was single, it didn’t matter how long or late I worked. But once someone else was in the picture, things changed. I tried to look at things from her perspective. It would be incredibly annoying to have plans or expect someone to be home only to be left waiting for hours. In the past it didn’t matter, but now it did.
I share a lot of my work stories with my wife. Things that have happened in sessions, problems or issues I’m having, potential upcoming jobs, etc. She’s incredibly smart and has a great business sense – she’d make a great producer. What I’m getting at here is that it’s really nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of. Someone that you can trust. While she may not know all the ins and outs of post production she has a great sense for business and customer service. Sometimes I struggle with asking for help or advice from industry people because I tend not to trust them. I worry that someone would air out my dirty laundry or basically slander me if I had a particular question. Is it a little paranoid? Definitely. But I know I don’t have to worry about that with my wife. No question is too stupid or comment too dumb. I can freely brainstorm with her with zero consequences.
Once we had kids, things really got crazy. Suddenly I had two humans to care for. I fully admit, I lean on my wife for a lot of this. She has a job with regular hours that are predictable and scheduled. Again, the key here is communication. Discussing when the kids will be picked up. Who will be watching the kids. Who will be taking them to their art classes. All of those things. I regularly put in for hard outs at my work at a certain time to ensure that I’ll be able to fulfill my parenting duties. But if a client requests to work during that time I have to scramble and make arrangements. Sometimes that involves a babysitter or my mother in law helping out. Other times the client is willing to work with me and shift their timeframe (which I’m always very grateful for). Most people understand since a lot of them have kids themselves. As a courtesy to the client, I always try to make myself available later if I have to rearrange our reschedule. A lot of time that means heading back into work after my kids are in bed or coming in over the weekend. Basically I want the client to know that I’m committed to the job and that I will make it happen for them. That involves a little bit of flexibility on my end in order to be a good parent for my kids.
Probably the one thing that suffers the most because of work is my social life. And that’s something I’m working on. Maybe it’s just part of getting older, but with my wife, kids, and work, there isn’t a lot of extra time for socializing. By nature, I’m pretty introverted. But I was always very active in sports and had lots of friends and teammates when I was growing up. I hadn’t been in that environment for years and missed it. So three years ago I joined a softball team and have made some new friends and have really enjoyed the camaraderie. There have been times where I have been at work, left to go to a game, and then gone back to work to hit my deadlines. It’s a little silly, I admit. But I feel it’s very important to have a social outlet. I’m working on getting back in touch with friends from college and high school through phone calls and visits, but it’s easier said than done. That being said, I’m always glad when I do it. Scheduling around work isn’t easy, but if I don’t try to make it happen, then it never will.
Ultimately, my work is all encompassing. It pretty much runs my life. And to be successful in this career, I feel like that’s kind of a necessity. The work/life balance is incredibly difficult to maintain, but I need to be conscious of it. Support from home, my wife, and my family is what really makes everything work. An open line of communication and understanding the perspectives of others benefits everyone. If I were to treat my job as I did when I was single it would not be fair to the most important people in my life. Having their support allows me to push forward do better every day.