Since I began working in film, I’ve become accustomed to the phrase “this is not normal”. Sometimes the phrase is followed by an explanation, sometimes not, but even in the absence of such, I have an understanding of what is meant by it. It is used in different situations by people who I suppose in some way have a perspective of what “normal” is in the context of their past experience. Every time I hear it, it always begs the question what is/was the norm? Does such a thing as “normal” even exist? Taking into account the ever-changing digital aspect of the industry for example, “this is not normal” is a phrase that perhaps may never go away. Now with everything that’s been happening in recent times, working from home is one of those things that fall under the category of “not normal”, which unlike most things, I think, might actually become the new norm going forward technology allowing.
Over the past few months I’ve been working from home, which is great, but comes with its own challenges. Home is usually the place for relaxation; therefore under such circumstances often one sort of has to fight against their nature in order to be productive. There are practical things I implement in order to help myself stay focused and be as productive as I possibly can, simple things such as creating a dedicated workspace, structuring my day and managing my time.
The home editing suite for me is the most obvious space to use as a dedicated workspace. For most people if working from home isn’t doing it for them they go to coffee shops or public lounges, but during the lock down this was not an option. Also in film postproduction, such options aren’t normally available as one is usually limited to working on the editing machine, as this is where the majority of the work is done. However, I wanted to take advantage of the benefits of working from home and not be tied down to a single workstation by utilising other areas around my home. So prepping the workspace for me is not just about prepping the editing suite, but also assessing the suitability of other areas around the home that I can potentially work in should I need to.
For this to work effectively often the process goes hand in hand with how I structure my day and manage my time. For example, to enhance my productivity, I schedule tasks such as exports that lock me out of the machine for the afternoons, and at the same time work on any admin related tasks such as VFX lists or anything else I don’t need to do on the editing machine outside, taking advantage of sunny afternoons. Working like this brings a whole different meaning to working from home for me, I love the freedom it offers, the idea that I don’t necessarily have to be tied down to one work area, which also helps with stimulating my brain.
When working from home, it can be very easy to get carried away and not switch off. Everything is in the same environment after all; therefore it can be easy to loose track of time and work beyond the work hours. This is easily done especially when you are enjoying what you are working on, or when you are working on an on-going project. This is one of the difficult things about creative work, having the feeling of never really being finished; feeling like there is always one more thing you’ve got to do. Hard work is great but one needs to be kind to themself and find time to relax. The importance of time management then comes into play in being disciplined about rest by actually factoring it into the planning. Setting boundaries in terms of working hours is important. One way of achieving this is making little rules like for example not working beyond 6pm, a tip I got from editor Luke Dunkley.
Overall, working from home has really been a blessing to me in many ways. It has given me the time to do a lot of things that I’ve been putting on the back burner for a while, one of those being writing reflective and educational blogs on film editing. I’ve conducted interviews with a few editors specifically for this during the lockdown, and more to follow over the following months. It was quite interesting discovering through these interviews how each editor varies in their approach. It is important to note that the variations usually exist mainly because each film is different, and collaborations between Directors and Editors also differ. Although I have always found this to be true in my own experience, it was quite fascinating discovering the same sentiments mirrored by people who have been doing this longer than I have. I will be publishing material from these interviews over the coming weeks. They’ve been very useful to me and will no doubt benefit anyone who wants to know more about the detailed process editors go through when making decisions in the cutting room.