Who Needs Sleep?

I heard about this documentary film by Haskell Wexler while I was teaching Documentary Production last spring, but I could not find it then. It’s on Vimeo now and you need to see it. If you are in production at any level this is important.

I have done deadline-oriented creative production since the 10th grade and I’ll be 41 in a couple of months. I’ve done a lot of long hour days and all-nighters for very high-stress and big-budget projects (even no-budget projects). It’s not healthy. It’s not sustainable. It’s an problem caused by any combination of:

  • poor planning
  • not defining clear goals
  • over-zealousness
  • exploitation and/or disrespect
  • poor management
  • not understanding available resources (budget, HR, materials) – going beyond the scope of what is reasonably possible by the available resources
  • ego
  • poor time-management
  • poor scheduling
  • under-budgeting/bidding
  • needing to please
  • being afraid to say no

The intent behind long-hour days isn’t always malicious (unlike manufacturing cell phones I suppose), but the macho/egotistical/over-zealous nature of the creative person on a deadline can make the long days seem more like a badge of honor, paying one’s dues, or just the way it’s done. If we kept doing things like they have always been done then we would still be thrilled about the fire we just lit or the wheel we just carved from a freshly cut tree (dried trees are way too hard to carve with the tools the haven’t changed).

Poor working habits lead to mental and physical problems and breakdowns in personal relationships. I gained a lot of weight (I got up to 235lbs on my 5’10″frame). I almost lost the most important person in my life all because I was putting my work/professional priorities above everything else by working long-hour days and all-nighters on a regular basis. I too know people in the industry who are split-up or divorced because the job was more important than the life. I’m not immune from the occasional 18-hour day completely, but I work to build that immunity every day.

Watch the film! And, read these articles posted by Scott Squires in the comments on Vimeo:

Overtime hurts your health and life.
Study: “working more than 11 hours a day increased the risk of heart disease by 67 percent” bit.ly/fxl36H
Crunch time and why it doesn’t work :enginesofmischief.com/makers/evan/pubs/crunch.html
Lost of productivity for OT: danzpage.com/Construction-Management-Resources/Calculating_Loss_of_Productivity_Due_to_OT_Using_Charts_-_Nov_2001.pdf

BTW, this is a major problem in the visual effects industry too. Here’s a podcast to get you up to speed.