4 Self-Care Tips for Filmmaking Entrepreneurs
With 20 years of experience advancing the rights of women and listed on the 2021 FemiList 100, Carolyn Seaman produces films and documentaries focused on social change. Carolyn also heads the Girl Nation Film Academy where she trained hundreds of young African women to write, shoot, direct, and edit their own films. She currently serves as the festival director of WIFFEN (Women’s International Film Festival: Nigeria), a nonprofit organization that empowers Nigerian women to tell their stories through filmmaking.
Thomas Jeffery is a filmmaker who works in tandem with his wife, Carolyn, producing films and documentary projects in Nigeria and beyond. Thomas Jeffery has found Shane’s mentorship to be one of the most influential factors that has defined his growth as a filmmaker following film school. He serves as the CEO of the African film production company, Cine Culture Films.
The conversation in this episode explores love, gratitude, self-care, and the ripple effect that is produced by entrepreneurship. In the case of Thomas and Carolyn, their ripple created a huge impact bringing filmmaking education to thousands of women in Nigeria.
Being A Filmmaker and Entrepreneur Is Stressful!
Let’s be clear, every filmmaker is a business owner from the freelance boom operator to the director who runs their own production company. Filmmakers are ‘filmpreneurs’. Whether you’re an artist trying to break into the film industry or a leader who wants to build the infrastructure to educate an underrepresented class, it’s essential to pace yourself and set realistic goals.
That was certainly the case for Carolyn Seaman who suffered from burnout that led her to the hospital on two occasions before she discovered self-care.
“That was a big one,” says Carolyn, “because for me to get to the point of being hospitalized, it means I don’t even get any warning signs. I’m literally going on until my body is no longer going.”
The influx of responsibilities that come with running an organization like WIFFEN and educating over 800,000 girls in Nigeria is a lot to juggle for any one person.
So, Carolyn enrolled in empowerment and self-development programs that encouraged her to prioritize her mental health and wellness. She improved her anxiety with stress management techniques like meditation and unplugging from work.
Let’s explore some self-care tips to help you sustain your career as a filmmaking entrepreneur!
Tips For Managing Stress And Anxiety
Carolyn realized that her journey of self-care is a personal one — as we each have needs that are specific to our experiences.
Ask Yourself The Right Questions
For Carolyn, there was a need to try and take on every single project tossed her way. However, this kind of approach became unsustainable and led to severe burnout. Now, she learned to ask herself questions to better understand her circumstances.
Say she receives an opportunity for a new project, Carolyn will ask herself:
- How critical is this opportunity to my growth as a leader?
- How practical is adding another responsibility to my already existing workload?
- What’s the deadline and how much of a window do I have to accomplish it?
- I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew, so how flexible are they?
In the past, Carolyn would respond to every email and try to appear at every single event and commitment. But realizing a career is a marathon rather than a sprint, she learned to better pace herself.
“Now I’ve learned to say, let me look at my schedule and get back to you,” she explains. “I used to think saying that was pretending to be some celebrity. Like who am I to be looking at some schedule?”
However, it doesn’t make you conceited to put your health and wellness first. It’s better to be practical about what you can achieve and work with a manageable timeline. Now, Carolyn has changed the tune of her questions.
Create A Healthy Work-Life Balance
Managing a healthy work-life balance goes far beyond working until you reach vacation time. It’s all about a change of mindset. Some of us feel guilty for taking time off work and prioritizing ourselves — but it’s actually the other way around.
If you find yourself absolutely fried, take a step back. If you have a deadline, just know you will find a way to overcome it. That’s why it’s essential to surround yourself with a caring and like-minded team.
If you really struggle to set time aside for yourself, take a lesson from Carolyn. If you need longer weekends, set your schedule to allow a regular three-day weekend.
Value Sleep And Rest
No matter what way you look at wellness, your sleep schedule is the cornerstone.
In the past, Carolyn and Thomas Jeffery would arrive home and fall over exhausted on the couch only to wake up at 6:00 AM still in their clothes from the day before. Then, they would have to be ready to train by 9:00 AM.
After two decades, they realized they had to value their sleep schedule. So, if you’re tired, here’s a word of advice, go to bed.
All that said, rest is much more than sleep. For instance, Thomas Jeffery hadn’t truly rested for five years when he was approached to lead a big project. Even though he had initially agreed to the project, he ultimately decided to bow out to take the necessary time to recover without feeling guilty.
This brings us to our next tip…
Don’t Make Decisions Based On Fear
With the state of the film industry and dealing with the loss of work due to the strike, it’s easy to fall into fear-based thinking. You don’t want to turn jobs down because what if work dries up? Then, you find yourself suspended in a never-ending cycle like a hampster wheel.
Another reason to avoid fear-based thinking is because it tends to manifest stress in your body. How does it do that? Well, your fear puts you into a fight or flight paradigm which is troubling for your nervous system. This is not an ideal headspace for making sound decisions and considering your well-being.
Before You Say, “That’s Just The Film Industry…”
There was a time when anywhere from 12 to 14-hour days was the norm of the film industry, but the pandemic revealed that’s just not so.
White papers were sent out that advised productions to keep to a 10-hour day to rest their immune systems only to find that’s just good practice. Before the pandemic, filmmakers never had time after work to go see a movie, attend their kids’ events, or even go out to dinner.
But it’s all actually possible but hinges on a change of mindset. If you have better planning, you will make your day. The new generation of filmmakers understands this shift which is full of great benefits.
There is significant value in 10-hour work days which leads to better performance and happier crews. This is something to consider when you’re planning your next project.
WIFFEN: Women’s International Film Festival Nigeria
The Women’s International Film Festival Nigeria is a premier film festival in Nigeria. The goal of the festival is to celebrate women in film around the world.
The festival was birthed out of the desire to build a community of female filmmakers supporting and empowering one another to grow and thrive in the global film industry. It was created by Girls Voices Initiative with support from the French Embasssy to Nigeria. WIFFEN encourages women filmmakers to think, imagine, create, and share their stories with the world. The festival accepts submissions for FREE.
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