I’m an anxious guy.
Even in the most relaxed environments, I have a tendency to overthink, overanalyse, and anticipate the worst possible outcomes. My troublesome mind can twist even the simplest task into an unsettling affair racked with tension. The phone rings: what if I didn’t pay my taxes? I need to go to the dentist: what if they’re offended by my clearly contemptuous attitude towards flossing? I’m invited to a large social gathering: what if I say something that exposes me for the nervous and neurotic numpty they probably always thought I was?
On the worst days, these irrational feelings of anxiety lay deep at the pit of my stomach, as though I’m leaning back in a chair, constantly on the cusp of falling.
With that in mind, a film set is maybe the last place on Earth that I should be gravitating towards. Even the most strong-willed of characters would be forgiven for crumbling under the immense pressure that looms over every production. Time and money being the most obvious sources of such pressure. Or rather, a distinct lack of either.
Yet, somehow, on a film set I feel right at home. Not only that, but I enjoy every second I spend there; I revel in the fast-paced aura of every production which, once wrapped, I find myself looking for excuses to return to as soon as I possibly can.
The biggest comfort you can give yourself is ensuring that your cast and crew are made up of hard-working, passionate, and considerate individuals, thus removing any unwanted and unwelcome animosity from the set. It doesn’t matter if your second assistant camera has never held a clapper before; how do you feel about having them on set? Sometimes, kindness and compassion are the only qualities worth considering.
When I was fifteen, my Drama teacher tried to break me. They’d taken a chance and cast me in a play that, much to everyone’s eventual regret, would require me to scream at the top of my lungs at the rest of the cast. Over the course of an intensive few weeks of rehearsals, they pushed, prodded and begged me to raise the volume of my voice until it was that of a banshee that’d just stubbed their toe. After refusing to utter anything beyond a whimper, I finally decided to meet my teacher’s unrelenting demands, and I let rip a cry so furious it shook the foundations of the school. The prolonged screech took everyone’s breath away, including mine. I was left red in the face and proceeded to faint, putting an abrupt end to my short-lived acting career.
As a result of this particular trauma, I’m now known as ‘the quiet one’ by most, which is something I’ve come to accept, and isn’t an image I try to outrun even on set.

Having a conversation with a member of the cast on the set of 'Boredom'.

I’d consider myself a quiet director, as oxymoronic as that may sound. When working with actors, our conversations are loose and light-hearted; an exchange of ideas rather than a list of demands. These conversations usually happen individually, or in a small group, and in private. The ultimate goal is always to make sure that we’re making the same film, and that that film is the best that it can be. Everyone wants to be a part of something that they can be proud of, after all, and these conversations are all about figuring out how we can make that happen together.
Elliot Grove, the founder of Raindance Film Festival, once told me that when you’re making a film, you’re also making an “ecosystem”, and he couldn’t be more right. Every film set is a community, and it's important that everyone within that community is inspired to do the best job that they can, including you. That’s why, when I step onto set, I don’t feel the need to shed the nervous, neurotic aspects of my personality that I’ve had to share my head with for most of my life. Instead, an ecosystem is created in which these feelings are acknowledged and understood and, in some cases, even come in handy.
Yes, I might be scared when I step onto a film set, but filmmaking is scary, and by acknowledging this, you can create an ecosystem that overflows with compassion and enthusiasm and, ultimately, inspire bravery in your cast and crew. Such is the job of the director.
It’s okay to be scared. After all, you can’t be brave without first being scared.
To learn more about the causes, effects and possible treatments for anxiety, follow the link below:
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