Filmmaking, Screenwriting, Acting and Managing a Day Job

Watch the full list of videos here on Youtube – Managing a Day Job and a Film Career
Love it or hate it, most of us have to pay our way. Whether you’re a manager overseeing large teams of people but yearn for time alone to write or a faceless (and extremely necessary) worker who tires of dealing with thankless public demands seeking to create something meaningful. The question is, can you be effectively creative and have a job? Everyone wonders if they can really do it. Someone like Charles Bukowski allowed his frustration with the day job to fuel his work. What would his writing have been like if money had not been a concern in his early years?


Barring most people who simply can’t leave a job, those who might change to a part-time one won’t because of a certain standard of living that they’re used to. If you’ve existed with the certainty of employer-provided health insurance, two weeks vacation, flex-time, etc., a life of freelance jobs (not to mention the effort it takes to find those jobs) shakes you from your comfort zone. Add in social pressure from family and friends (not wanting to slip into a different income bracket lest losing your social standing with a core group). Or the very real issue of paying for day care, medical bills, saving for a child’s education and wanting nice things for yourself, stop most people. Whatever your choice, it’s yours to make but it comes with a price. The payoff can be many things if disciplined enough, but nothing is promised. For born risk takers, it’s “challenge accepted!” For those who have responsibilities and don’t want to consider what would happen if a creative project doesn’t pan out financially, it’s too uncomfortable to take the leap.


Below are a few thoughts from fellow creatives on having a day job.

How I Became A Professional Screenwriter by Christine Conradt

Christine Conradt:  This is a lot earlier (obviously) in my career. I graduated from film school. I went to USC. I kind of thought (like everybody does) when you graduate from film school that you’re going to graduate with like a three picture deal and that really isn’t how it works. And so while I was in college I had worked as a lifeguard and kind of as an aerobics instructor at a YMCA and they kept promoting me. And someone would quit and they would say “Do you want to learn how to do this job.” And I always said “Yes.”So eventually I worked my way up to program director and ultimately…Senior Program Director, which is right under the Executive Director. The Executive Director heads up a branch and then there’s a Senior Program Director or two and then all the program directors under that person.

I had been working there and I mean it was fine, it wasn’t what my degree was in. At one point finally I thought well…I had a lot of school debt. Going to USC obviously…I think I was about $60,000 to $70,000 in debt at that point.  And my executive director came to me and said “You know, we’d really love to give you your own branch. But we need a five year commitment from you to do that.”  And they were going to pay me over $100,000 dollars a year and that would have been great going toward my debt. And so I said “Let me think about that.”

I went home that night and I really thought about what I wanted to do with my life. I had gone to film school and I really hadn’t given it the chance that it deserved. So I thought “Well I’m this much in debt anyway, I’m going to take the chance on being a screenwriter.” (Watch the video interview on Youtube here).

The Artist in the Office: How to Creatively Survive and Thrive

Seven Days a Week by Summer Pierre



The Two Worlds Of A Young Screenwriter by Mark Sanderson


Mark Sanderson: Well, the day that I was in Variety, the headline was this new company had formed and they optioned my script and  they were going to buy it and make it into their first movie. And that day in Variety I had to do a catering job at one of the biggest producer’s in Hollywood’s house. And so it was this catering company and my friend and I drove up to Beverly Hills and here we are at this giant mansion of this producer and it was a big breakfast meeting with big power players, former Prime Minister of a Middle Eastern country, (you know) security everywhere, and I was thinking “Wow? I’m in Variety today? Why should I be catering?”And also I was thinking in a way (which story is in the book) “What if this producer had rejected my screenplay?” Here I am in his house, serving him coffee, you know? So just be careful of who you disrespect on the way up or down because you just might end up in their house pouring coffee for them…(Watch the video on Youtube here).

When Is It Time To Leave A 9 To 5 Job To Be A Hollywood Screenwriter? by William C. Martell

Film Courage:  You were in and out of working for Safeway with a warehouse job while writing scripts?

William C. Martell:  Yes…I worked in the store for three years and then in the warehouse for years afterward.


Film Courage: When did you finally quit that job?

William C. Martell:  When I sold the script to Paramount, literally. The script that got passed to the actress to all of the way through to a production company on the Paramount lot and they asked if they could fly me in and put me up in a hotel and discuss my script and I said “Yeah? I think that sounds okay.” And they bought the script. And basically I made two years of Safeway money off of that sale.

I went back and gave my 6-week notice because I was going to give a 2-week notice and they said “Look Bill, we really need you to stay for a little longer.” And I said “Okay. I could do that.” And it was in…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).

The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Language by Natalie Goldberg


The Moment My Filmmaking Dream Became A Reality

by Jay Duplass


Film Courage:  Do you remember when filmmaking was no longer a dream and had become a reality for you?

Jay Duplass: I’ve had several stages of realizing that, it’s still happening. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and am like “Wow! I’m being paid to make movies. That’s a good thing.”

But honestly that one click never…there’s never really one click of the dream is now a reality and I think it really has to do with the fact that I guess I’ve always known subconsciously that it’s all about just making stuff.  It’s all about just making art. And you can do that whether or not someone is paying you to do that. It’s just something that you do and I’ve always done it…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).


Advice To Filmmakers Who Want To Leave Their Day Job

by Hunter Weeks


Hunter Weeks:  If you’re thinking about it because there are more day jobs to come. And unless we all crash (which we’ll all do together) there’s going to continue to be jobs as far as I’m concerned. If you’re a self-thinker, a self-motivator, you know, somebody who is motivated and can make stuff happen, then take your chance. Leave your day job. I think we’ll all ultimately maybe know when to go back…I hope.  I say that too because I throw a little caution out there because I have had that moment back in 2008 when…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).


The Day My Day Job Let Me Go by Jason Horton


Jason Horton:  I wanted out so bad and I never like mindfully wanted something to end so bad and then I got laid off and I was so, so happy. But I was like [exhales] “You are really burning me here, people!” And like meanwhile I was like “I cannot wait until this is over so I can just engage everything and turn everything on.” Because I was ready to go. When that job was over, I hit the ground running and just attack, attack, attack, and create as much as possible.  Because even at that time [of the job] I…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).

Advice To Any Artist Who Wants To Leave Their Day Job by Jason Horton – watch the video interview on Youtube here

Filmmaker John Sayles on His Rejection of a Standard 9-5 Job in Order to Write 


John Sayles: Well, I wouldn’t say shunned is the word…I don’t think I could have gotten a corporate job.  You know, I got out of college in 1972 with a BA in psychology, which was not especially useful. I had been working summers since I was in high school just to make money so I immediately went back to what I’d done before, working in factories and hospitals. So I wasn’t actually shunning [corporate work], I just got the best job that I could.  Eventually I got lucky and a couple years after I was out of college I got a union job as a meatpacker, which paid probably about four times what minimum wage back then about a $1.00 to $1.10 an hour and…(Listen to the podcast interview on Youtube here).

Real Artists Have Day Jobs:

(And Other Awesome Things They Don’t Teach You in School) by Sara Benicasa


Most People Think You Can’t Make Money As A Creative

by Alexis Kirke


Alexis Kirke:  I see frustrated creatives all the time. It seems to be symptomatic of the situation. I mean I went through that long period of trying to find how do I do this? There doesn’t seem to be a manual. Maybe there is a manual, but I read it and I didn’t listen to it. It’s really hard to take advice about this, I find (I don’t know why that is).

But yeah…I would come across people all the time [in the workplace]. I think a lot of people just think that you can’t be a creative and make a living, that you can’t make money from this. I think they divide the world, people who are frustrated creatives…I mean I’m talking about myself really.  But where I was then, I kind of divided the world into the creative people who could make money from it and those like myself who were probably very talented, but for some reason couldn’t make money from it.  No one understood, no one appreciated me. And I created that wall.

I think there is also a frustration because working on Wall Street, working in Artificial Intelligence, working in a tech startup, these are all defined career plans. And there were simple steps I could take which…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).



It Is Possible To Be A Doctor & Full-Time Actor by Paul Sidhu


Paul Sidhu: I’m very much interested in medicine and I will always be interested in helping my patients. That’s a part of me that I signed up for when I took the Hippocratic oath, so that I won’t leave behind.

But I’m also interested in being a full-time actor.  A lot of time people get confused when you tell them, how can you be a professional in one field and want to do acting? They’ll say “Okay, you’re a doctor. But you want to be an actor?” But you can be a professional in two different careers, it’s very possible. It’s just what’s called time management. That’s all it boils down to.

So I very much am pursuing a full-time career in acting but I’m not leaving medicine behind.  I will still in some form run my practice and be very involved in that aspect. And I certainly believe I can do both. I’ve looked at people’s schedules, actor’s schedules and how they work….(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).


Successfully Unemployed: 16 Real Life Lessons You Must Learn Before You Quit Your Job and Live the Life of Your Dreams by Dustin Heiner


8 Hours On The Grind, 8 Hours On The Passion by Christopher Miles & Angel Valerio


Christopher Miles: Everybody has their day job. Well, some people are lucky enough to have their day job actually be their passion. But for me, it’s not there yet. So I work my day job and after that (you know, the moment the clock ticks) it’s Street Films time and I do that. And I try to live by the mantra that if I’m going to put in 8 hours on the grind, I’m putting 8 hours on my passion. I live by that everyday. As a writer, I try to write a scene a day. That was my thing, if you do a scene a day, you’re going to have a script done in about two months. And I did that and that’s my thing…whether it’s a good one or not…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).


How To Stop Being A Dreamer & Make Your Passion Your Life by Gary W. Goldstein


Gary W. Goldstein:  It’s a matter of discipline, you hit the word.  I mean there are people who are dreamers. I was a dreamer. I went to law school (in part) not because I wanted to be an attorney, but because I wanted to learn an adult language and a discipline and a framework where I could ground myself because I really was quite a dreamer and it worked. And I am very disciplined in my approach to stuff which is…you know it’s one of the great paradoxes…who wrote the book Flow and the book Creativity who talk about the 10 paradoxes of the creative personality? And one of them is that you are…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).


What Caused Me To Leave My Day Job For Filmmaking by Brandon M. Freer


Brandon Freer:  I mean this was the whole reason I came to LA. It was the whole reason I wanted to be in LA was to pursue a career in film and so why am I not doing it…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).


The Perfect Day Job For Screenwriters by Zoran Lisinac


Zoran Lisinac: Then I started writing at my work. My uncle got me a job at a hotel in Santa Monica. I worked at the front desk since I got here and before I shot this film [ALONG THE ROADSIDE], that’s when I quit. It wasn’t like [makes middle finger gesture] “I’m going to Hollywood!” It was like a really big support of all of them there, knowing that this is coming. But I wrote all the scripts at the front desk…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).


Writing Down Your Soul: How to Activate and Listen to the

Extraordinary Voice Within by Janet Conner


Finding Self-Worth Outside The Day Job by Tennyson Stead


Film Courage:  Tennyson, most people who’ve come to LA have had a humbling job or two or three. And LA is an easy place to feel humbled, have you ever been in this situation? And (if so) how did you take care of yourself, because there is a mindset that you can adopt to survive these humbling jobs?

Tennyson Stead: …At the end of the day, I need to pay the rent, I need to keep food on the table.  I am…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).


You Will Have 9 Careers In Your Lifetime by Adam Leipzig


Adam Leipzig: I really never counsel people to quit their jobs, especially in today’s economy [editor’s note: this video was shot in 2012]. And I think there’s a really rational model where people can have days jobs and night jobs and a job where you’re paying the rent and then you go home and do other stuff. And when I work with people who are screenwriters, they do one for them, one for me, and that way they keep their soul alive. So one big studio gig, one little movie that may never get made, but I really want to write it…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).






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