We had the good fortune of connecting with George A. Tramountanas and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi George, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
Work-life balance is something that’s always been a consideration to me, but my view of it as a priority has definitely shifted during my lifetime. As a matter of fact, I made an entire feature film that deals with this topic called “Win a Trip to Browntown!” While the movie centers around a comedic bet, one of the themes I wanted to address when I wrote the script was the challenge artists/creatives face in seeking a work-life balance.
I should begin by saying that I’m 50 now, so I’m able to look at my life with the “wisdom” (if you want to call it that) of hindsight. Back in high school and college, I worked extremely hard and had great success, so I always felt that anything was possible if I spent enough time and energy. This thinking led me to have some big dreams; that said, I came from a close-knit family and knew I wanted that for myself too. Back then, I just figured I could have both without an issue. I assumed the work-life balance would just sort itself out as it had previously, allowing me a social life in addition to any dreams I considered. This didn’t happen – or it didn’t happen in the way I planned, at least.
Of all the dreams I considered, I chose to be a filmmaker (maybe that was my first mistake). I also married straight out of college, so there was the other half I had to balance. Initially, my work was in a production office and the hours were almost normal, so there wasn’t an issue. Then I got into USC Graduate Filmmaking Program, and that eventually would throw the balance way off.
Certain jobs (like moviemaking) require months of labor where work consists of 10-16 hour days. And while this alone probably doesn’t sound too appealing, it gets worse: to even be considered for those jobs, you probably have to put yourself through the same kinds of hours but in an unpaid status (e.g. working as an intern, making video samples, writing scripts). And on top of that, there are thousands of people competing against you for these jobs.
As that was my dream, I thought I could focus on the “work” portion of my balance for 5-10 years, and that the “life” portion would be waiting for me once I established myself (foolishly assuming that was a given). But I didn’t make it 5 years. I don’t think I even made it 2 years. My balance was way off and I was losing my “life” in ways that are hard to describe.
To reestablish my balance, I had to put the work aside, which wasn’t easy. I kept assuming I’d get back to it, and I was frustrated when it didn’t happen. I thought I’d get to it at age 30, but I had little kids. There was no question they had to be the focus, so work (not my dream work, but a 9-to-5 job) had to serve the purpose of allowing me the time and funding to raise my kids and enjoy them with my wife.
At the age of 40, the kids were teens, but I was still needed. In addition to the kids going through “growing pains,” the house needed fixes, my parents were getting older, and my wife and I had things we were still figuring out. But fortunately, while all this was going on, I was getting more time to do some of the work my dreams required. And more importantly, I was figuring out what those dreams really meant to me and how to enjoy the pursuit of those dreams in ways I hadn’t before.
Finally, in my late 40s, I had figured out a way to do the thing I really wanted to do – make a movie – without losing my work-life balance. What I was striving for became much clearer after those years focusing on the “life” part of the balance. I talked to my wife and kids about my idea, and they signed on to help me make it happen. My wife produced and my kids were my assistants, and in the summer of 2019, we made a movie! It was what I wanted to do and the way I wanted to do it – work-life balance intact!
I should add here that I don’t think the scale that measures work-life balance is something that ever is in perfect balance. It always leans one way or another. I think a person just needs to know which way they prefer it to lean, redistribute the balance when needed, and make sure it never tips over.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
As indicated in my initial answer, I’m a filmmaker. Actually, I think it’s probably more accurate to say that I’m a storyteller. I enjoy all forms of storytelling, whether they’re in the form of a movie, a book, or a comic book (especially a comic book!).
And it wasn’t easy. I always had the stories in my head, but figuring out how to put them out into the world was a challenge. It was a combination of absorbing stories, studying, writing and failing that got me to where I am today. I also really had to learn more about myself to be effective in what I was trying to do.
What do I want the world to know about MY brand and story? Well, anything I put out is something that I want to see. The stories I tell don’t necessarily reflect who I am as a person, but you’ll likely find a part of me in them. Sometimes that part of me is funny, surprising, or scary, and the story is just my way of exploring that aspect.
I love to laugh. I love it when the “good guy” wins. I love the feeling of hope.
I’m not perfect, and neither are my creations. But I always try my best, and I hope audiences will at least be able to sense that in anything I make.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live in Seattle, so I’d probably show them the well-known sites first: the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, the University of Washington campus.
After that, I’d take them on a stroll through Ballard, where I grew up. I’d show them the locks (where the boats are) and fish ladder, grab some fish and chips and a local brew, and then take them over to Shilshole Beach to enjoy the sunset.
If we had enough time, we’d go on a ferry and head over to Bainbridge. We’d check out some of the small shops and then ride back. Visiting some of the wineries in Woodinville would be a good time too!
Then we’d head back to my home, sit on the deck, have a cocktail, and watch the squirrels hop around the trees in my backyard. Overall, it would be a busy week but an enjoyable one.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My wife definitely deserves a shoutout. We’ve been together for over 33 years. She’s the reason I am where I’m at today, and I love where I am!
My kids (Manoli & Eleanor) deserve a shoutout too. They’ve helped me figure out what life means and what to prioritize.
My parents get the final shoutout. A good foundation in life will help you get through the jillion mistakes you’re going to make, and they gave me that.