Blog #20: Anxiety

Whether a filmmaker is meeting a writing deadline, pulling long hours on a shoot or secluded to an editing room, they face a level of natural (or external) anxiety. People in other work situations deal with natural anxiety, too. But the question I pose is: what if you're anxious beforehand?

Yes, the anticipation of work brings about anxiety beforehand, but what I'm talking about is internal anxiety. This degree of anxiety isn't brought upon by a deadline or long hours, although internal anxiety can make natural anxiety much worse than it normally would be. Internal anxiety is brought into play by predisposition-based factors such as trauma-based triggers or other mental health conditions.

Imagine you're a delicious cake being made. Some cakes have one layer, a standard base layer. Other cakes have multiple layers, adding additional stress and tension to the standard base layer. If you're a single layer cake, you might only experience natural anxiety. If you're a multi-layer cake, then you're prone to develop additional layer of anxiety which are internally manifested.

So, why am I putting "making a movie" and "having anxiety" together?

It's because I am a the metaphorical multi-layered cake.

Watching a movie is typically fun, occasionally (dis)stressful, but making a movie is a VERY different experience. During the film-making process, I experience natural anxiety at each stage of the process. For example, I hypothetically complete a draft of a screenplay and send it folks for cast and crew roles. Naturally, I am anxious for getting the roles filled. Internally, I am freaking out because:

  • What if they don't care to look at it?

  • What if they're busy and can't be apart of the project?

  • What if they hate it and don't want to work with me?

  • What if they share the screenplay with other people and rip it apart?

  • What if...

My anxiety isn't just isolated to my individual self during the film-making process: it influences the process. At times during production, I can be hesitant or narrow-focused to the point that communication becomes fragmented. At the same time, I can create facilitate an empathetic experience for the characters/story or between the cast and crew, at least when I'm not having an anxiety attack.

I remember explaining to someone my intention behind Harrison Monroe's character in 'Passage' (2019). Not once did I mention her being "anxious" in the screenplay outside of another character (David Rose) asking her if she's anxious. The film's perspective is her's and it would be a disservice to have Meghan (who played Harrison) act "anxious" from scene to scene. Instead, there's situations where she encounters natural anxiety and the cinematography/editing/sound design is utilized to create how internal anxiety is manifested in Harrison's shoes. When she's in class, the camera is still and she's uneasy. When she's on her own, the camera moves and is free and bombastic, like her mind.

The point I'm getting at is that my anxiety doesn't just influence the process, but the art itself. If I didn't have internal anxiety, then Harrison's story likely wouldn't exist, or at least in its current form.

Some days, my anxiety is an emotive expletive. Other days, it's a creative blessing. Everyday, I have it. I can't stop and fix it, I just move forward. So, I have what I have, but I won't stop creating because of it, even if the process gets ugly.


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