So I've decided to never start a film project again without a release date. Deadlines, as it turns out, are good! When I look back at my passed projects, the ones with a deadline were more focused and had a higher chance of being completed than the ones without.
What got me to write this post is my latest short film, Angel, that is still in post production after being filmed in June 2013. Sure, there are many legitimate reasons why it's taking so long (I had to take a 5 month break from editing to focus on my last semester of college, work, and building a studio), but only one that really matters: There was never a release date.
Angel was the project I did because I wanted to try something new and experiment with some ideas. There was never really a set deadline when it came to completing and publishing the film. I didn't take the time to evaluate how much time and effort it would take to complete roughly 50 VFX shots, edit, and color grade the film. I just went ahead and did it, and now I'm regretting it.
Before you start filming, set a release date.
Actually, don't just set the date, go out and let everyone know that's the date they should expect to see your movie. Here are some good reasons:
It helps with planning - When you have a set deadline for the completion of your project, you can better plan your work schedule. You will know how much time you need to spend on the various tasks required to complete the film. When you don't have a deadline, you have no plan and you're essentially just working when you feel like it.
It keeps you focused and accountable - Once you have a plan, your deadline keeps you focused because you have a set goal to reach. You put in the work necessary, no matter how hard it is, because if not you'll not only fail yourself, but also all the people expecting your project to be done.
Passion has an expiration date - I've noticed that the longer you work on a project without finishing, the less motivated you become to complete said project. As time goes by, new projects catch your interest, and the current unfinished project starts feeling like a burden preventing you from doing those new projects you're now very passionate about.
While I don't advise rushing through every project (doing it well is better than doing it fast), setting reasonable deadlines for yourself is a sure way to increase your efficiency. In my case, since I never really had a set release date for Angel, there just never was a sense of urgency to complete the project. When other parts of my life intervened with working on the film, I was fine with it because in my mind completing my short film wasn't an absolute priority.
So next time you're getting ready to start a project, pick a release date and set your work schedule based on that. It'll save you a lot of headache later!