Life in production means long hours, that’s almost always a given. Life as a freelancer in production means INSANE hours, sometimes nearly 24-36-48 hours without a real break as you go from one job to the next. When you work day to day, saying “No” too often means you might not get called again. Thus, you can be left with a choice, can you push your body to the limit, working multiple gigs on the same day if needed?
This practice is commonly called “Double Dipping” as in you are doing two jobs in the same day or stretch and thus, doubling your paychecks or double dipping in to your checking account. It can be just as sweet as overtime or the magical phrases: “Penalty Time” or “Travel Day”, but usually it comes with risks unless you are very careful about it.
1. Stay Hydrated
This is easily the most overlooked step but also the most important. Many people will say that the key is to stay caffeinated, pounding coffee, Red Bull, 5 Hour Energy and anything else to keep you perked up. However, all of those drinks also leave you dehydrated and that is the real killer. Your energy will slip and you will begin to get the dreaded headaches and painful eyes that come with it as your body searches for more water.
Drink lots of water and some sports drinks for the electrolytes whenever possible. Almost to the point of having to urine every hour. Obviously, you won’t be able to leave and run to the bathroom all the time so finding that sweet spot is vital and will take practice. Even if you aren’t the biggest water drinker, you need to force yourself to drink.
Whatever you do, don’t drink alcohol or at least not more than a beer or two. Not because it is irresponsible, but because it will slow down your motor skills slightly and more importantly get you sleepy or at the very least, foggy. The enemy is getting too tired because then you’ll just lose all momentum. Double Dipping is about surviving and getting through the day and putting an obstacle like getting drowsy from alcohol is a no-no. You’ll have plenty of time (and money!) to drink when your shifts are done.
2. Eat Wisely
A good breakfast is a big key in pulling off the double dip successfully. Especially when you know you’re going to be up, you need to fuel yourself properly. If at all possible, you want to eat protein for energy and avoid carbs as much as you can because they WILL make you lethargic. The problem is that carbs just taste SO good and are so readily available at most craft spots: donuts, bagels, muffins.
If you can avoid them for the most part or keep them to a minimum, you’ll keep your energy level higher. Seek out eggs, meats, nuts, granola, yogurt, fruit; food that will fuel you without making you want to nap.
Pack wisely as well for the day. Energy bars can help, same with trail mix or some nuts that you can grab in a pinch. Always have a banana or apple handy as that will feed your sweet tooth and give you an energy boost without hitting a wall right after.
Also, Vitamin C is very important to have in your system. By pushing yourself so hard, your immune system will be weakened. Drink OJ, grapefruit or any kind of high vitamin C juice or take vitamins and supplements to keep your immune system boosted. The last thing you need or want is to get sick. That makes these sort of shifts even more miserable.
3. Using Down Time
Let’s be honest, on any given shift, there will be down time. Some days and jobs more than others, but you almost always will get a break. The earlier the call time, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to take your time once on set or location. Get your coffee, eat your breakfast (As advised in step 2) and then find a good spot to unwind. Somewhere dark and quiet is key. You don’t want to get roped in to a conversation that may eat up all of your energy. You can tackle your down time one of two ways to get through these hellish days: stay engaged or rest, which we’ll cover in a minute.
Staying engaged means doing little tasks to keep your brain awake. Answer some emails, shoot off some texts to friends, maybe do some reading or even writing! Crossword puzzles, Words with Friends on your phone, Sudoku, anything that keeps your mind engaged but is not a minimal task will help keep you awake longer. However, if you really want to rest:
4. The 20 or 4 Rule
Take either a 20 minute power nap or if you have enough time, a 4 hour rest. It has been my experience that these two numbers give the maximum return without waking up feeling even more groggy. The 20 minutes are a lifesaver if you need to drive somewhere and have about an hour or so to get there. 20 minutes of rest can give your eyes and brain a chance to relax for just enough time to recharge a bit.
A 4 hour rest seems to be the minimum amount of time your body can really start to hit a sleep cycle. Obviously, this is only possible if you have enough time between gigs but if you are within 5 hours of two different jobs and don’t want to go home, crashing for a 4 hour rest in your car or somewhere secure can be a real help. My rule of thumb is to drive to the next job early, find a place to park or “hide” at the place and then set up a little camp for your rest.
Packing for this is essential. Having a pillow and a small blanket in the car already will help add to the comfort. Taking off your shoes, contacts, belt, anything that can help you be more comfortable is a lot easier if you are already where you need to be too. A toothbrush, some mouthwash and deodorant is also good to have for when you wake and your fellow crewmembers will love you for that.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, SET THAT ALARM MULTIPLE TIMES. If you are going to rest, make sure something will wake you up. When in doubt, if you have a buddy at the gig, have them call or find you about ten minutes before you are supposed to be there so you can wake up and get ready.
Also, for those interested, the image above is an actual thing: A power nap pillow!
5. Don’t Be A Hero
Don’t try to do this too many times in a row. Even the best prepared or physically fit people need to sleep eventually, so don’t try to double dip day after day after day. Eventually, no amount of napping or resting will be enough and you WILL begin to crash. For as hard as you work, make sure you give yourself as much time to recover and sleep just as much.
There’s no way to spend all that hard earned money if you end up in the hospital. Be safe, be smart and you’ll know your limits. If done correctly, unlike food, “Double Dipping” In Production can be very promising for all involved.