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Navigating the Emotional and Financial Strains of the Film Industry: A Survival Guide

If you’re part of the film and TV sector, chances are you have been through the wringer over the past couple of years. From the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to the unexpected twist of the 2023 writers' and actors' strike, the industry has been anything but predictable. As we roll into early 2024, it's time to take stock of where we are at and find ways to navigate the emotional and financial strains we have faced.

The Emotional Toll

Let us start by acknowledging the emotional rollercoaster we have all been on. The film industry has always been synonymous with unpredictability, but recent events have taken it to a whole new level.

  1. Feeling of Uncertainty and Unpredictability One minute, you are back on set, the next, productions are delayed or canceled, and your schedule is up in the air. It is enough to make your head spin. The constant uncertainty can leave you feeling anxious and on edge.

  2. Coping with Financial Instability For many of us, the pandemic brought a sudden halt to our income. With bills to pay and mouths to feed, financial instability can be one of the most challenging aspects to cope with.

  3. Loneliness and Isolation for Those Not on Set And then there is the loneliness. When you are not on set, it can feel like you have been cut off from your second family. The camaraderie that comes with working on a production is hard to replicate, and isolation can take a toll on your mental health.

  4. Mental Health Concerns in the Industry All these factors can contribute to mental health concerns. Anxiety, depression, and stress can become all too familiar companions in our line of work.

So, what can we do to address these emotional strains?
  • Reach out for support. Do not hesitate to talk to friends, family, or colleagues who understand the unique challenges of our industry. Sharing your feelings can be cathartic and provide a sense of camaraderie. Consider joining one of AFC’s monthly Designated Sharing Times (DST) , a virtual meeting space to talk, vent, problem-solve, laugh, collaborate, cry, and feel the strength of others from our sector. 

  • Seek professional help. If the emotional burden becomes overwhelming, consider reaching out to a therapist or counselor. Mental health resources are available to help you navigate these challenging times. Check out your unions resources here or our public resources section here.

  • Embrace self-care. Prioritize activities that nurture your emotional well-being, whether it is practicing mindfulness, engaging in physical exercise, or pursuing hobbies that bring you joy.

The Financial Challenges

Now, let us talk about money. The film industry is no't just about creativity and entertainment; it is also about making a living. But the past few years have thrown some major financial curveballs our way:

  1. Income Loss During the Pandemic The pandemic hit us like a ton of bricks. With productions shutting down and gigs drying up, many of us faced a sudden and significant loss of income.

  2. Delayed Financial Recovery Just when we thought we were getting back on our feet, the 2023 strikes came along. It has delayed our financial recovery and left many of us in a precarious, severely strained position.

  3. Fewer Opportunities and Lower Income in 2024 Even as productions resume, it is no secret that there are fewer opportunities and fewer production starts so far in 2024. Production companies and networks like Netflix are cutting back on original content, impacting our ability to secure consistent work.

So, how do we manage these financial challenges?

  • Budget wisely. Take a close look at your finances and create a budget that helps you make the most of what you have. Prioritize essential expenses and cut back on non-essentials where you can. For more on this check out our Calltime Podcast episode Personal Finances When Times Are Tight here.

  • Explore alternative income sources. It is time to diversify your skills and explore alternative income sources. Can you offer your expertise in other ways, such as consulting or freelance work? Check out the free resources at your online and at your local WorkBC Centre. IATSE members also have access to a free LinkedIn Learning account through the IATSE Training Trust. More information is here

  • Tap into union resources. Many unions offer assistance programs that can provide financial support and guidance during tough times. Access career, life, or financial coaching available though your union’s Employe/Member Assistance Program. Find your benefits here. 

Navigating the Changing Landscape

As we navigate these turbulent waters, it is essential to adapt to the changing landscape of the film industry.

  1. Adaptability and Diversification of Skills One thing we've learned is that adaptability is key. Consider expanding your skill set to remain competitive and flexible in a shifting job market. 

  2. Exploring Alternative Income Sources Think outside the box. Are there other industries or roles where your skills can shine? Do not be afraid to explore new opportunities. Gig and freelance work, marketed directly or through crowdsource platforms like Upwork can provide temporary or additional income.  

  3. Networking and Staying Connected Stay connected with your industry peers, even if you're not on set. Networking can open doors to unexpected opportunities and provide emotional support during challenging times. Others you know may need support too - why not reach out and create a group of peers?

  4. Union Resources and Sector Assistance Programs Your union is a valuable resource. They can provide assistance, information on available programs, and even emotional support during tough times. Check out our recent Calltime Podcast featuring Emily Hill, Case Manager at the AFC (Actors’ Fund of Canada) to hear about their programs and resources and mental health in the film sector.

  5. The Importance of Setting Realistic Expectations Finally, it is crucial to set realistic expectations. The film industry has always been a rollercoaster, and it may take some time before things stabilize. Be patient with yourself and your career, and be honest when you need help or it’s time to consider your options. 

Stay strong

In the face of adversity, the film industry has always shown resilience. While these past few years have tested us in ways we couldn't have imagined, we are a community that knows how to adapt and persevere.

Reach out to your fellow industry workers, share your experiences, and offer support where you can. Let's continue to look out for one another and ensure that no one feels left behind.

Remember, the show will go on. The film industry has faced challenges before, and it will rise again. Until then, stay strong, stay hopeful, and stay united. We've got this!

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