January is often a lean time for film freelancers. The powers that be have not recovered from Christmas sufficiently to commission any new work, the budget for the financial year is almost spent, and the weather and short hours of daylight make shooting difficult and unpleasant.
So when you’ve had enough of eating the Christmas leftovers and binge-watching Netflix, how can you gainfully fill your time? Here are some suggestions.
1. Do your taxes.
You really can’t put them off any longer!
2. Update your showreel.
Chase up producers for clips and get editing, so you can show your latest and greatest to the world and line up some exciting work for 2018. Don’t forget to add any new credits and awards to your CV as well, and update your website.
3. Apply for jobs.
Go through the job sites – Shooting People, Mandy, Film & TV Pro etc. – and write some applications. Even if there’s nothing quite up your street, why not stretch yourself and apply for something a little different? If nothing else, it’s good practice.
4. Go to events.
Attend workshops, masterclasses and seminars to broaden your knowledge and network. Shooting People and Raindance are good places to start when searching for a filmmaking event.
5. Read up.
Learn more about your craft by reading books on the subject. Great cinematography tomes include Blain Brown's Cinematography: Theory & Practice and Jack Cardiff's Magic Hour, or for a more general filmmaking read, try the excellent "making of" books for Jurassic Park and the original Star Wars trilogy.
6. Get some culture.
Go to galleries and see relevant work – a cinematographer might want to look at the use of light in classic paintings; a costume designer might want to check out an exhibition of period fashions, and so on.
7. Go to the cinema.
It's research! Even if the film is not your cup of tea, or just downright awful, there will always be something you can learn from it. Or you might want to track down some of the films tipped for Oscars, like Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri.
8. Do maintenance on your gear.
Fix those niggling things that you’ve put up with for the last few months while you’ve been busy, top up your consumables, and order those cheap accessories from Hong Kong now while you can afford to wait weeks for them to arrive.
9. Do a personal project.
Make a micro-short, write a script, take some photos. It’ll help keep your skills sharp and could lead to paid work.
10. Do something entirely unrelated to filmmaking.
Of course you could just kick back, relax, and use this quiet time to indulge your other interests and hobbies. Look at it this way: all life experience will give you more to draw from next time you're on set.