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Between Takes: Work-Life Harmony for Film & Video Creatives

Between Takes work-life harmony for film and video professionals

In our industry, having an uneven balance between work and personal life is the norm. Creative work often demands all of your mental capacities, and deadlines and expectations can keep you tied to a desk all day. Work schedules in our industry can also be unpredictable, which can be stressful for your wallet and your mental health. During the winter time, you may rarely see the sun in northern latitudes, which makes a person more susceptible to depression. You may be sleep-deprived and you may miss time with your family, too. If work-life imbalance persists, burnout is inevitable.

This article was a community project, as I inquired to many of my friends in the film/media industry about their experiences. In a way, you could say I delegated some of my work on this article. With my research and their advice, we hope to help you figure out how to better balance life and work. The goal is to be productive during your work hours so you can have more free time to enjoy life with your family and friends and avoid burnout.

“Severance” takes work-life balance to a whole other level!

Writing this article made me think of the show Severance on Apple TV, created by Ben Stiller and starring Adam Scott. In the show, characters go through a procedure that separates their personal life memories from their work memories. Severance is a great show and I highly recommend it. And if you’re wondering, season 2, delayed by the strikes in Hollywood, is in production now.

Causes of Work-Life Imbalance

In American culture, it’s often seen as a badge of honor to work 60 hours a week on a few hours of sleep per night. Sometimes it is company culture that demands it. If you work on a film crew or the post-production team, you may work long days of up to 14 hours.

If you’re running your own business, it can be a constant hustle. Dan Warvi, a veteran of video production, explains that, beyond the creative, running your own business entails wearing many hats including “promotion of oneself, billing, networking, hardware, and software training, maintenance of said equipment, and conflict resolution with clients and employees.”

“I used to wear lack of sleep like a badge of honor. For years I worked as much as I could, for people, for myself, for school, getting by on 4 hours of sleep and Red Bull. Until it made me very ill,” says Adam Mercado, owner of Influxx Media Production. “Now I work very little, broke AF, and spend time with my family much more. I think I’m happier. Not stressed about deadlines but stressed about money. Unless you’re filthy rich I dunno how you find balance. You’re either toiling to pay the bills and keep everybody happy, or you’re struggling to pay the bills and keep everyone else happy. I think the Western Protestant Work Ethic is all wrong and we as a society have misplaced values.”

We’ve mentioned a couple of the main culprits: long hours and the pressure to constantly kick out creative work. Other things that can mess with your work-life balance:

  • A lack of flexibility in your working arrangements
  • Not having much say or control over your work
  • Unclear parameters of a job
  • A toxic work culture
  • A lack of opportunities for career growth
  • Information overload
  • Restraint Collapse

What is restraint collapse?

Working a full-time job, spending time with our partners and kids, fulfilling social commitments, cooking meals, keeping up the house, making time for exercise, and everything else we do in a day, often feels impossible. There comes a time when we just can’t do it anymore. This is Restraint Collapse.[7]

Our field is full of creative people with ADHD. It’s a great career for the neurodivergent brain, full of creativity and stimulation. ADHD brains are more susceptible to Restrain Collapse due to masking their ADHD symptoms all day at work. People with ADHD often struggle to feel like valid workers and will use more brainpower than neurotypicals, overcompensating for lack of organization. Perfectionism is a common trait of neurodivergents also. At the end of the day, you just want to collapse on the couch and scroll TikTok videos, television, video games, etc.

It’s not just women, parents, and neurotypicals, but anyone who deals with mental health issues, people with disabilities, and people from marginalized communities who need to “code switch” to keep their jobs and stay safe.[7]

Self-imposed imbalance to get ahead

A lack of work-life balance can be self-induced, too. I know so many artists who will spend their evenings and weekends learning new software. “When I had jobs that I wasn’t passionate about, I would spend my nights at home trying to level up skills, applying for jobs, working on personal projects, and improving on skills I already have,” shared Ernesto Bautista. Ernesto has worked as a motion graphics artist but now works in IT because it is more predictable and stable.

Other habits that can cause imbalance are poor sleep hygiene, poor eating habits, and lack of exercise.

The impact of work-life imbalance & recognizing the signs

When your job seems to consume the majority of your time and energy, you’re likely grappling with a work-life imbalance. Indicators of this imbalance encompass fatigue, diminished motivation, procrastination, heightened stress and anxiety, skipping crucial family events, and isolating yourself from friends.[2]

Some consequences of prolonged work-life imbalance are substantial [3]:

  • Increased health risks: Long-term imbalance can contribute to heightened health issues, including heart problems, eye strain, depression, and anxiety.
  • Diminished productivity and creativity: Your ability to be productive and creative at work may decline.
  • Potential substance abuse: Some individuals resort to self-medicating or substance abuse as a coping mechanism.
  • Strained family dynamics: Imbalance can lead to family problems and, in some cases, even divorce.
  • Emotional exhaustion and burnout

I’m not suggesting that quitting your job is the solution, but rather emphasizing that you have control over your life. While acknowledging that not everything is under your control, it’s essential to recognize the significant impact you can have on your own work-life balance. Taking proactive steps towards balance is a powerful tool in preserving your well-being and professional success.

A case study: Who Needs Sleep

Watch cinematographer-documaker-social activist Haskell Wexler’s documentary about the hours that a film crew routinely works. This documentary played at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2006.

WHO NEEDS SLEEP_.mp4 from Ass.Imagem aip on Vimeo.

Safe Sets: Dying to Work in the Film Industry

Who Needs Sleep, may be almost 20 years old but it’s still a major issue for the film industry. In the upcoming documentary Safe Sets: Dying to Work in the Film Industry from Patsy Productions LLC, a doctor investigates the health and safety issues that face film and TV workers.

It talks about “Safe Sets dives into sleep deprivation, substance addiction, toxic exposure, abuse of power, accidents, and more, supported by stock, newsreel, and behind-the-scenes photos and footage. The film conveys hope that the tireless work of advocates within the industry will spark change for the better.” The documentary stars John Hamm and John Malkovich.

Strategies for achieving harmony in work-life balance

Below, you’ll learn a few ways to take back your free time. You don’t need to go as far as Severence but there are some things you can do to improve balance.

Create boundaries between work time and personal time

  • Set up defined work hours. If you work from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, stick to that schedule.
  • Limit work phone calls and texts to work hours. Make sure your colleagues and clients know your defined work hours. If someone texts you after hours, you don’t have to answer. The same goes for personal calls during work hours.
  • Keep separate emails for work and personal communication. This way, you can check your email on the weekend, and won’t see something that you can quickly take care of before Monday. Don’t allow yourself to get sucked in! And the same goes for personal emails at work. They can be distracting and whittle away your productive hours.

Hot Tip!

If your cell phone is for both work and personal use, you can set up specific times to limit communication from certain contacts or groups on your iPhone.

Make sure your brain is off the clock too

This means, don’t take work home with you. But it’s not just “work” to consider. Are you learning software during your free time? Sure, it can get you some new work, but if you’re having an issue with work-life balance, this can be a problem.

“When I’m not at work I’m not doing anything for work. Do you want me to learn new software? I’ll be doing that at work,” says Christoph Jess. “I’ve had managers tell me how they listen to tutorials over the weekend to learn the software, etc. Apart from the fact that I don’t learn like that I also won’t do tutorials on the weekend for work. That’s my time and it’s sacred.”

Achieving work-life balance goes beyond just physically logging off from work – it’s about ensuring your mind is off the clock too. If work thoughts persist while you’re playing with your kids or enjoying time with your spouse, your job is occupying mental space without compensation. Similarly, if work ruminations intrude while you’re in the shower or lying in bed, your free time becomes entangled with work hours.

It’s important to recognize that you have control over your thoughts. Cultivating mindfulness is key to noticing when work infiltrates your mind during leisure moments, and this effort is truly worthwhile.

Ask for Flexibility

Working from home can have life-changing benefits for work-life balance. No commute, you see your family more, there’s a lot more flexibility with kids, and you save money by eating lunches at home, less wear on your car, and more. There are downsides of course, but for many, working from home will have a huge positive impact.

I have worked from home for almost 20 years. It’s more difficult when you have kids at home, as many of you experienced during the pandemic lockdown. It’s nice that I can catch up with my husband or daughter during a break, or I can run some ideas by my husband in person. I love that if I want, I can roll out of bed and walk across the hall to work, with my teeth and hair unbrushed, wearing sweatpants and a hoodie. Or I can roll into the office right after a workout. If I want to work with a pet on my lap, I can! Working from home just makes life a lot more relaxed.

Working from home can make the separation more challenging, however, there are strategies to distinguish work from personal time in a home office. For instance, if you have a dedicated home office, make a habit of shutting down your computer at the end of your workday and closing the office door behind you. These actions can help create a clear mental boundary between work and personal life.

Be selective about the work you take on, i.e. Learn to say no

At times, you might find yourself assigned an overwhelming workload that seems impossible to complete within the given deadline. It’s crucial to be aware of your limits regarding the amount of work you can manage. Yes, you have the right to gracefully turn down projects that exceed your capacity.

For some individuals, asserting themselves can be a challenge, particularly for those with a tendency to please others. I’ve always leaned towards being a people-pleaser, avoiding disappointing others for as long as I can remember. However, I’ve learned the importance of saying no over the years. Taking on too much will only lead to misery and resentment, and the quality of your work can suffer as a result.

If you’re a freelancer or own your own business, you don’t have to take every job that comes your way. “The 80/20 rule is real… at least it was for me,” David Baker, owner of Classic Animation and Instructor at Ferris State University explains. “20 percent of your clients provide 80 percent of your revenue. Treat those folks well. Don’t chase after business that doesn’t respect your time or talents. This helps keep balance in your life and checkbook.”

Trent Armstrong, a senior motion designer at The Igniter Company agrees. “Pricing some projects a little high will either price me out of a project and thereby open up my schedule or give me a higher return on my time investment in the project.”

See: 10 Strategies to Overcome Your Fear of Saying NO

Prioritize your tasks

Workplace stress can come from poor time management, so it’s important to prioritize your tasks to manage your time. We all have a hundred projects and tasks we could do, but it’s essential to take care of the priorities first and make the important deadlines.

“I was more or less working all the time for years and stopped doing this about two years ago,” says Mathias Möhl of mamoworld. “I work much less now but think much more about what tasks are really important. mamoworld is more successful than ever before since that change. Take home message: Don’t try to solve everything – focus on what is really important for your success.”

Roshmond “Sum” Patten, Creative Director at GLOW Interactive, also uses the 80/20 rule alongside Lead/Lag Goal setting, which uses data to help determine which jobs you should be pouring your efforts into. “Applying the 80/20 rule (Pareto Principle) to work/life balance is pouring 80 percent of your premium effort into the vital few lead work goals that actually make a difference, and then what’s left over can be used to go on autopilot for lag goals…. then you have play energy left for life.”

“Learning how to properly prioritize things… lead goals vs. lag goals… knowing that everything that appears on fire is not,” Sum explains. “For many people, they have lag goals as a top priority and it creates stress and makes it very hard to achieve balance. Lag goals are ongoing, sometimes infinite. Learning how to identify something as a lag goal was helpful in my life.”

So how do you figure out what is a priority and what is not? There are some methods that you can use to figure out what you should work on first.

Using time management and organization tools during your workday can help with keeping track of tasks. As it is a massive topic, and this article is already long, “Time Management, Organization, and Automation” will be covered in depth in a future article.

See: 7 steps for prioritizing your workload by Brent Barnhart at

Delegate tasks

We can’t do everything ourselves, and let’s be honest, we are not all suited for every job. I struggle with detailed jobs that have a lot of steps. If you can delegate tasks that are more suited to someone else’s skills, this will free up your time to focus on tasks that are better suited to your skill set and make your workload more manageable.

Tasks that are small, time-consuming, tedious, or that you’re not suited to are the best tasks to delegate.[10] Delegation can be tough though, as it requires trust. Will the other person do the job up to your standards? Can you let go of control? Will the task be finished in time?

“Delegation is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of a strong leader,” says Genevieve Conti in her article How to Delegate Tasks Effectively (and Why It’s Important)

Schedule breaks

When we have too much to do, it’s easy to tell yourself that you don’t have time for a break. However, research has found that taking a break can help reduce stress, help focus, and improve all over well-being.

Incorporate regular breaks into your workday to get away from the computer every couple of hours to stretch your legs, chat with colleagues, or do whatever else you need to do for a quick recharge. How often? Some people take breaks on a consistent schedule. I prefer to take breaks when I end a task, or my focus is broken.

Hot Tip: If you get hyper-focused and forget to take breaks, wearable technology like an Apple Watch or FitBit can let you know when you’ve been sitting too long.

Mike Custer experiences neurodivergence, like many creatives, and this introduces the idea of being in a flow state with full concentration. According to Better Up, a flow state is “The flow state is the experience of being so absorbed by an engaging, enjoyable task that your attention is competely held by it. You generally lose sense of time, self-consciousness, and anything that doesn’t have to do with the task at hand.”[8] When you’re in a flow state, you may not want to take a break.

Mike explains, “I get crazy tunnel vision and end up leaving work hours late because I was just lost in CAD or renderings. I also can’t tell you how many times some surfacing has blown up and I keep trying to solve it via brute force method – only to have the solution hit me five minutes into a walk/break. Knowing when to unplug and give yourself mental space for solutions to form is something I’m working hard at.”

Jim Kanter, former Education Director at the Digital Film Institute and a trainer, has brought up the “Point of Diminishing Returns. How many times have we been so absorbed in our work without taking enough breaks that we think we’re coming up with brilliant solutions, only to come back the next day and spend hours undoing the last few hours of work? At a certain point, you simply have to call it a day and get some rest.”

Ali Ruth, a mental health professional, explains the importance of focus and break time. “There has to be a balance between focus time and default neural network time. That’s the background of problem-solving. Also, managing emotions: if you’re stuck, take a break by interacting with playful/funny content, speaking (not texting) with a friend.”

Breaks can also mean taking days off for mental health and refreshing creativity. Jerzy Drozda, Jr, Technical Artist and Director explains, “I don’t mean obvious ‘during the workday’ breaks, but during the month – once every two or three at the most. Allow yourself to waste time.” Jerzy recommends taking off a Wednesday, midweek, for a refresh. “It’s not always easy to do, especially when one is not organized or automated, so work on that first. If possible make Wednesday your day off.”

See: Know Your Brain: Default Mode Network

Give your eyes a break, too

Computer Vision Syndrome, also known as digital eye strain, happens when you spend a lot of time in front of screens. According to the American Optometric Association, eye strain can cause headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, and neck and shoulder pain. Besides staring at a screen for hours, poor lighting, glare on the screen, sitting too close or too far from the screen, and undiagnosed vision problems can also cause eye strain.

How do you fix this? Take breaks, fix your lighting, and make sure your monitor is at a proper distance. I like to go out for a walk to focus my eyes on objects that are far away and make sure that I move my eyes back and forth a few times. Kim Sternisha at Toolfarm adds, “If you work near a window, look out of it occasionally to focus your eyes on something in the distance.”

Artificial and blue light emitted from screens is a known cause of sleep issues. Do blue-blocking glasses work? I’ve tried a cheap pair of blue-blocking glasses with yellow lenses, but I found them to be annoying. And, they are a big problem when working with color. Now, it’s inexpensive to add clear blue light filter coatings to regular prescription glasses, which do not give the world a bright yellow tint.

Make self-care a priority

When you’re feeling stressed or on the verge of burning out, sitting in front of the TV watching reruns of The Office with a bag of Hot Cheetos may feel like what you need. That will not be nearly as beneficial as consistent self-care.

What is self-care? I’m sure you are picturing candle-lit warm baths and massages. Those ideas are lovely and definitely can help, however, self-care is about prioritizing your mental health and physical health. To avoid burnout, it’s pertinent that you get enough sleep, eat a balanced diet, stay hydrated, and get regular exercise. Watch your alcohol, junk food, social media, and news intake.

We plan to take a deeper dive into self-care for video professionals, addressing issues specific to the challenges of working in post, but the information below will give you a general idea about how you can give yourself some self-care.

Nurture your creativity

Remember, you are recharging your brain and your creativity when you take care of yourself. Get out in nature every day. Meditate. Laugh every day. Self-care also includes exploring other creative outlets. Creative writing and journaling, drawing or painting, listening to music, dancing, playing an instrument, cooking, gardening, doing arts and crafts, crocheting or knitting, or working on models are all things that can nurture your creativity.

“Schedule time to research new things and play creatively. Keeps things fresh and inspires new ways to solve problems,” says Trent Armstrong.

“I find creating something in a completely different way is relaxing and resets my brain,” says Karen Spalink. “Step away from the keyboard. Sit in a comfy place. Knit a few rows, work a puzzle? Work on a painting, start something tasty to eat later when you’re exhausted, play funky music…”

“Never minimize the importance of play in stoking one’s creativity,” says Andrew Tolar, a retired teacher.

Connect with people

It’s easy to be a hermit. Since the pandemic, I have noticed that I get anxious before social gatherings and I prefer smaller get-togethers with one or two friends.

Social support is incredibly important for wellness and resilience to stress, but it needs to be in person. Even a phone call will help. “Overall, it appears that positive social support of high quality can enhance resilience to stress, help protect against developing trauma-related psychopathology, decrease the functional consequences of trauma-induced disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and reduce medical morbidity and mortality.”[6]

Having friends at work is equally important. Building strong relationships at work has been known to increase job satisfaction and productivity. Work friends can give you emotional support, reduce stress, strengthen your team, and improve the workplace culture.[9]

Simply put, have a network of people who can support you, or talk to a therapist or life coach to help you gain work-life balance.

Tips for long-term work-life balance

Having a work-life balance is work in itself, but it will pay off. You need to be committed to keeping up boundaries with your job and your own brain. It will take work to prioritize your tasks every day and delegate what you can. Self-care is as important as any of the other points mentioned. Be sure to nurture that creativity!

I want to thank everyone who gave their input to this article and shared their experiences. Friends, you are a wealth of information. By trying out the tips in this article, you can make your work and personal life more balanced. It’s not just about feeling better—it also helps you do well in your job, especially in an industry that can be tough and unpredictable.


  1. Rantanen, J., et al. “Creating Balance.” International Perspectives on the Work-Life Integration of Professionals (2011).
  2. Triggers or Signs of Work-Life Imbalance
  3. Consequences of Work-Life Imbalance, Elizabeth Eludinni, November 24, 2016., Reward, Benefits & Wellbeing | Assoc CIPD | Mental Health First Aider | PRINCE2®
  4. Physiological stress in response to multitasking and work interruptions: Study protocol, Linda Becker, Helena C. Kaltenegger, Dennis Nowak, Matthias Weigl, Nicolas Rohleder. February 8, 2022.
  5. Computer vision syndrome American Optometric Association.
  6. Ozbay F, Johnson DC, Dimoulas E, Morgan CA, Charney D, Southwick S. Social support and resilience to stress: from neurobiology to clinical practice. Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2007 May;4(5):35-40. PMID: 20806028; PMCID: PMC2921311.
  7. Do You Suffer From Post-Work Restraint Collapse? Here’s How To Tell., Huff Post, by Ashley Broadwater, October 23, 2023.
  8. Achieving a flow state: 7 ways to get in the zone, Better Up, By Allaya Cooks-Campbell, March 7, 2022.
  9. 3 Reasons Why Work Friends Are Important,, by Chris Harley, March 29, 2023.
  10. How to Delegate Tasks Effectively (and Why It’s Important),, by Genevieve Conti, Originally published March 2017.
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