Updated: Jul 22, 2021
While businesses across Georgia are slowly reopening their doors, many creatives find themselves still stuck at home—particularly those who work in the film industry. Though much of the state seems ready to resume a sense of normalcy, it may take a while longer for many of the slated productions to get back on schedule. And for those of us with that burning passion to create, self-isolation can feel more excruciating than being trapped behind the prison walls of Shawshank. While it might be some time before we can gather back on set, luckily there are still ways to keep that fire burning and scratch that creative itch. Here are three tips for staying productive during the quarantine.
1. Set Goals
It might seem like all hope is lost. It might be tempting to veg out in bed like the grandparents from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, binge Netflix, and wait for this dark cloud to pass. That may be the easy way, but it’s not the only way. Many people, myself included, might not be used to having this much free time on their hands, and that could be a tad overwhelming. What is the best way to use it? It’s easy to pressure yourself and say, “I’m going to write a novel!” or “I’m finally going to tackle that feature screenplay!” (Been there.) On the flip side, you could also find yourself buckling under that pressure and instead of eating a carton of Ben & Jerry’s while watching episode after episode of Tiger King. (Been there, too.)
Progress begins with making small, reasonable goals. Don’t be frustrated if you haven’t penned your magnum opus yet. Instead, set out to write a page or two a day, and if you’re inspired to keep going—awesome! Maybe you’ve got an idea for a great podcast. Instead of rushing to record it, reach out to a friend (i.e. potential co-host or guest) and brainstorm some possible topics. This is a strange time, and it might not always be clear what to do with it. Instead of trying to do everything at once and drowning in the sea of endless possibilities, take it slow. Setting small, obtainable goals will lend some structure to these empty days and give you measurable progress. Baby steps!
Though we might not be able to gather with our casts and crews on set, there is still plenty we can do ourselves, from the comfort and safety of our homes. What’s stopping us, filmmakers and actors, from teleworking? This is the perfect time to work on projects you can do by yourself! For instance, I’m planning a YouTube channel with video essays where I’ll be analyzing different films. If you’re an actor, record yourself reciting a famous monologue—or better yet, write your own monologue and film it—to continue to hone your craft during this downtime. This is also an excellent time for pre-production. If you’re a writer, director, or producer, use this time for scripting, storyboarding, budgeting, compiling shot lists for your next project. That way, when the floodgates open again, you’ll be prepared to come back in full swing!
And there’s also the podcast idea. All you need is a decent mic, an interesting premise, and a buddy or two (buddies are optional but the more the merrier!) and we can record engaging content right from our homes. And if you’re especially pioneering, I’ve got a friend who directed a short film via Zoom, with the actors all filming independently on their iPhones from their respective houses. Thanks to the wonders of technology, we can connect with virtually anyone, anywhere. Many of us might be confined to our homes like Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window, but we don’t have to let this quarantine box us in creatively. We can counter it by thinking outside of that box and utilizing this valuable time. (And maybe, like Jimmy Stewart, you’ll even discover your neighbor is a murderer and bring them to justice!)
3. Learn New Skills
Let’s face it. We may never have this much free time on our hands again. In Groundhog Day, Bill Murray used his unprecedented amount of time to master the piano, take up ice sculpting, and learn everything about the girl he was trying to win over. We can use this time similarly, minus the creeping! Are there any skills you’ve wanted to learn but never had the time before? Maybe you’re a DP but always wanted to try your hand at writing. Open up a book on screenwriting, watch some of your favorite movies and take notes on the story structure, and try putting your pen to paper. Maybe you’re an actor but you want to learn to edit. Da Vinci Resolve is free to download and YouTube tutorials are your friend. Maybe you’re an editor but you want to get better at VFX. Open up After Effects and start playing around.
There are a ton of helpful resources like Skillshare and Lynda that offer professional online courses for all sorts of different skills. They’re reasonably priced, but if you’re worried about breaking the bank… you can learn practically anything you need to know for free on YouTube. Now is the time to do these things! I think we can all take a page out of Bill Murray’s book and use these long, repetitive days to better ourselves and build our skills. (And while it’s great to set goals, don’t forget Tip #1—no pressure!)
I hope you enjoyed and can ultimately use these tips for optimizing creativity during the quarantine. I’ve been using them and so far they’ve worked pretty well for me. These times can be frustrating and uncertain, but they don’t have to be stifling. There are ways to keep the creative energy flowing and keep that spark alive. Hopefully, we’ll all be back on set soon, and when we do… we’ll come back swinging!