As I write this, my husband and I are hanging out over web cam in a corner of my 17” Macbook laptop. He lives in Texas, and I in California. It is a set-up we pretty much knew about before we got married, but even then much of my desktop is being taken over by a video editing timeline while we speak. This is my feeble attempt to multi-task so we can actually have some time together, uninterrupted, when I see him in two weeks.
As it is, being a filmmaker is a full-time job. In one year, however, I will be filming my first full-length feature film, a comedy called The Tiger Hunter. It’s a mainstream, commercial movie with potentially big actors, a hilarious script, interest from major distributors, and finally featuring a Muslim in a positive role. In that year, in order to succeed, I should think, breathe, and dream about my film. This, as one may guess, makes it very hard to have a normal marriage.
It started out pretty well. During our first couple years, we both lived in Texas and I went to California every 6 weeks or so to work on the many music videos I was directing for folks like artist Maher Zain. On most days, I stayed at home in Texas and spent my days writing my script while my husband was at work. We watched LOST together in the evenings.
All of that changed when I started getting my film off of the ground. I started staying in Texas for two weeks, and going to California for three. I fly an average of 2-3 times a month. This past December, my husband dropped me off at the airport an hour away at 6 am because he had to go to work and we have no friends in the Texas city in which we live. My flight was at 7 pm.
In return, I do all that I can to compensate. I do as much web conferencing and emailing in Texas so I can stay as long as possible. I spend hours tediously scheduling my time in California in order to fit six weeks of meetings and work into three. I always have 10 changeable Southwest tickets scheduled so I can return to California at the drop of a hat. I hang out with my husband when he’s home and work after hours when he is asleep. I got us a kitten for the apartment so it would have a semblance of normalcy (although, sadly, my husband ends up changing the litter when I’m away - to be fair, I got an automatic cat litter machine for us). And, before I travel, I cook 10-15 dishes and leave them in the fridge for him to eat.
But, I still feel bad every single day. Lately, my husband’s fingers have been starting to bleed because of how much he scrubs up for surgery. I used to be the one who wrapped them in Vaseline and sandwich bags at night so they would heal, but now I feel like a horrible human being because I’m not there for him.
I tell my husband repeatedly that I will give up my career. He says no.
All of this is only possible because of two things. First, my husband is a perpetually busy surgical resident who also has a job that caused us to sacrifice by having us move to Texas for his training. Second, he deeply loves me and believes in the intentions and prospects of my career. It may be juicier to have him be a jealous rogue who forces me to give up my profession, but it isn’t the case. I highly doubt any filmmaker could sustain this dream and be married without having a partner who is 100% on board. It is a struggle, but also a beautiful thing; there is nothing that strengthens a marriage more than sacrificing for your spouse’s dreams and goals.
For now, the struggle remains. We haven’t even started pre-production, and the task of securing the film’s last financing takes up my life. These days, we are running a Kickstarter campaign to raise the final funding and I log about 10-12 hours a day of work on the campaign alone. Today, I hung out with my husband’s parents and watched My Fair Lady – on the computer the entire time. While I conferenced with my husband, our chatting revolved around campaign ideas and he helped me brainstorm movie lines to use as Twitter publicity. It is now 2 am – my husband went to sleep and I’m still working.
I’m dedicated to The Tiger Hunter because I believe in the film and recognize that it needs to happen. And, I know that my husband sacrifices because he loves me and believes in me – and this film – too. I hope you can help make this film happen by taking a look at my campaign, pledging, and sharing it on your networks. Quite sincerely, I can’t do this without you. And it sure would make my husband (and cat!) grateful.
Lena Khan is an award-winning, independent filmmaker. To learn more about The Tiger Hunter and help support the film, visit Lena’s Kickstarter Campaign.