When Lydia Hurlbut graduated from the University in 1995 with a Masters Degree in Forensic Nursing, the film industry was barely on her radar. Her initial plan was to investigate sexual assault cases. When Lydia’s husband, Shane, started focusing more heavily on his cinematography career, she decided to take some time off to take care of their kids.
But Lydia began to notice glaring problems with the film industry’s approach to wellness and, subsequently, burnout. She saw the intense pressure put on filmmakers to deliver big-budget movies on short schedules, leading to long hours and little sleep for all involved.
"Filmmakers are under an incredible amount of stress, and sometimes they get completely overwhelmed,” Lydia said. “We are trying to build a community where people can bond and talk things through with others going through the same issues."
Depression can also be a major symptom of this sort of burnout, leading creatives to question if they were even interested in film anymore.
Lydia and Shane realized that there were wide knowledge gaps for filmmakers, both in terms of wellness and technical ability. So, the Hurlbuts began the Hurlbut Academy, recently renamed the Filmmakers Academy, bringing both of their specialties together. Though physically located in Burbank, California, the Academy mainly works digitally, and shares multiple online courses with its members.
The Hurlbuts’ goal was to teach filmmakers what they needed to know to thrive in the industry, both in terms of technical knowledge and physical wellness. They wanted the knowledge that had taken them years to learn to be easily accessible to new and old filmmakers alike.
“You see a need, and then you create something to fill that need,” Lydia said. “And it kind of takes off in a way that's completely unexpected.”
And Filmmakers Academy has certainly taken off. Since its founding in 2009, the Academy has grown exponentially, expanding to support new members. In addition to the Hurlbuts, the Academy has brought on a variety of different mentors to teach their members about all the film industry has to offer. These mentors range from cinematographers to producers to colorists, and are all specialists in their respective fields. They offer one-on-one sessions in which they can critique work and point out “blind spots” that the filmmaker might have missed.
“Part of what I love about our community is that we love filmmakers,” Lydia said. “We're here like a global film family and we are the people that you know that have your back.”
This aspect of community is one of the main goals behind the Filmmaker Academy’s recent expansion. Lydia has been working to expand their resources and create a more user-friendly interface that filmmakers can take with them wherever they go. She also wants to include group private coaching sessions that would be more affordable for members.
“This year was really about broadening out the content which we have done and continuing to deliver excellence in terms of the quality [of our content],” Lydia said.
This content isn’t just for new filmmakers, either. Another goal of the Filmmakers Academy is to be a resource for veterans of the industry and to keep them up to date with the latest filmmaking techniques. With the industry always changing and evolving, knowledge and growth are crucial for success.
“You always have to push yourself as an artist out of your comfort zone.” Shane said. “If you are comfortable, you stagnate. So this is why it is so important to learn the latest techniques … so that you are prepared to push yourself out of that comfort zone.
One of the biggest lessons that Lydia wants to teach through her content is that of listening to your body and its needs. As a Reiki practitioner — a Japanese stress reduction technique focused on the internal workings of the body — Hurlbut strongly believes in taking steps to balance the energy within the body and channeling it to maintain health and prevent burnout.
“Even when you get on this insane project with crazy hours, you've done a few simple things to beef yourself up and to make you the best you that you can be, so that when you are doing this, you're giving your best work,” Lydia said. “I kind of feel like that's my job and my message to filmmakers.”
This is at the core of the Filmmakers Academy — guiding filmmakers toward greatness. Lydia Hurlbut and the Academy want their members to achieve excellence, both in terms of physical health and creative capabilities. Though the Academy may change and grow, the Hurlbuts’ aspirations for excellence will stay at the heart of all it does. The Academy can be found on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.