Filmmaking / Directing : Directing Anxiety by Marie-Louise Nkashama

Marie-Louise Nkashama

Directing Anxiety

Hello people of Stage 32, Exactly a week from today, I start directing my very first short film. This is a lot bigger of a production than I usually do and the nerves are starting to get the best of me. I'm doubting everything, but more importantly I'm starting to doubt my ability to direct and set everything up so that my cast and crew feel confident in my directing them. Any advice on how to silence this anxiety? Thanks, Marie-Louise

JD Glasscock

haha all great things are just a bunch of small steps done well put worries, butterflies are normal, you'll be fine once your on set starting....and surround yoursefl with beautiful to your endeavor

Travis Calvert

Breathe. Seriously. Taking a deep breath (or twelve) will calm anxiety. Next, prepare. Do what you can to put yourself in the best possible position to obtain the best results. Where you can... delegate. If this is a big production, then I assume that means you have other folks working with you. Do your part to communicate your expectations and goals and let people help you. Prioritize. Pick the most important elements that you simply cannot live without... cast and crew are almost always first. Filmmaking is a collaborative effort and as such it means working with other people. Put people first. Give of yourself and you'll be amazed at how others respond in kind. Trust yourself. This one is huge. Anxiety is really nothing more than doubt in self. Let it go. You are enough. No one is perfect. We all have our flaws and they make us who we are. Embrace it. I don't know you at all, but I am convinced that if anyone truly puts their best out there and believes the results will show something beautiful.

Elisabeth Meier

I agree to both. You are only one step further than usual, so be confident you'll make it. Easy said, but true. Breathing is a good advice, so take time to relax after your day's work. If the tension is too high do some sports. Concerning the excitement and doubts - you're excited and this is normal. Enjoy it, because this belongs to the thrill of anticipation. This is the best part of it. From the moment you direct this feeling will change and after the last picture you'll probably miss it (the directing, the excitement) and feel kind of sadness that it's already over. Hence, simply relax and enjoy each single moment - it will never feel again as it feels for the very first time. Good luck and all the best!

Ellecina Eck

Like those before me have said, breathe, try to relax, and trust yourself. Don't forget to have a good time! You're making a movie, not stepping into battle (despite many comparisons of film sets to doing so) ;) I also would remind you to eat! With so much on your metaphorical plate, it's easy to forget to fill your real one! On my first shoot, I only nibbled on snacks until later on, once I finally relaxed enough to actually eat. Good luck, and do let us know how things go! Embrace your nerves; doing so can make you feel in the moment. E

Marie-Louise Nkashama

Thank you guys so much! I still don't know how to personally respond to every comment but still I want to thank you all so much!

Rafael Pinero

Marie, you wanna make sure you arrive to the set with a shooting plan, a shot list. This way you will know what you need to cover in each scene and you'll feel more confident. Your crew will help you but they do need to feel confident that you know what you're doing shot after shot. By knowing that you have your shots planned already, you can concentrate also in directing your actors and try to achieve what you expect from them. Although you have planned your shots feel free to improvise your plan as necessary. Just remember that it's your movie and you call the shots, most of the crew don't know what's in your mind and they might think you're making mistakes, do not pay attention to this because the movie is in your head not on theirs.

Elisabeth Meier

True, Rafael. So, Marie, prepare with a concept, make notes only for your eyes and involve your camera team about the shots you plan to make so they will be prepared and will get a better understanding for your ideas and improvising later - and work or react faster or even come with suggestions you never thought of. You are the director, the one who has the film in her head, but filmmaking is always a teamwork as well.

Shane M Wheeler

First, congrats on shooting your first short! Second, don't worry too much. If your team is well assembled and plans in place, everything should run relatively smoothly. I've found that with good cast, crew, and pre-production (written script, shot list, and a call sheet), things can almost run themselves. Third, don't expect everything to go perfectly. First shoots, second shoots, every shoot I've been on will have some level of manageable chaos. Actor or Actress doesn't show up? Substitute someone in. Sound doesn't turn out? ADR the line later. Prop or Line isn't working? Brainstorm something new. As long as you don't give up, you never lose. Fourth, remember that no matter what, good, bad, or ugly, you're going to learn something, and that your next production will be all the stronger for it. Fifth, read everyone else's posts, cause they all pretty much said anything else I might add. Good luck and have fun!

Michael Bott

Silencing anxiety? First step is recognising it for what it is. Monkey brain chattering away trying to protect you from danger - or what it perceives as danger. However, although you should thank it for its efforts, what it is telling you is a wholly made-up story that bears no relation to reality. The fact is; you're doing what you're doing, and that takes courage and guts. Pat yourself on the back for that, realise that monkey brain is probably not going to stop chattering and that YOU get to choose whether to listen or not. My guess is, once on set all that nonsense will be drowned out by the concerns of the job in hand. Trust in yourself because the evidence shows that you care. It's all normal for talented people - we all have that voice in the head - you're certainly not alone.

John Garrett

You want to know what will be awesome? When you are there in the thick of it realizing that everyone around you is working toward the same goal. They are talented and capable. Together you will work through all challenges. My first professional director gig....14 hours before shoot my location retracts permission to shoot. Found a new location. Day of shoot ends up being coldest day of the year (-20s F) so a gaffer could not get to the new site. All talent and makeup were late because of car issues and added distance. The area we were shooting in was heated but the heat couldn't keep up. So ever 20 minutes we had a warm up break. Circuit breaker feeding half of the lighting died. Had to go buy heavy gauge extension cords at the local hardware store. Competed the shot list with a few extra shots that came to mind during the shoot. Everyone was incredible. Everyone focused on fixing the problems and we got it done. We have all the shots, and we have a great story! You will be fine.

Jon Bonnell

The biggest thing? Make sure you have a great team to support you. Don't try to do it all yourself. You may up until you step on set, but once you step on set just worry about directing and have great team members to do everything else and that includes producing. Just breathe, relax, and focus on the one job and trust everyone else to do theirs. My first big shoot? Like John we had the location for the first day cancel... but they canceled as we showed up. Quick team breakfast, replan. Move the next few shoot days around and the first day's shooting goes to the last days shooting. No problem. The new location was better than the first. Brought more character to the project. My first feature? Lead actress decided to let us know she was four months pregnant about a week before we started shooting. Meant she was going to start showing while we shot. Almost delayed everything but she got a doctor's note, we made some costuming changes, and everything worked out great and no one was the wiser but us. You go with the flow.

Gina Juliet

Check out a technique called EFT :) Wishing you the best!!

Boris Damast

The crew will respect you based on how thorough your prep has been. If you have detailed shot-lists and or shooting boards that show everyone (including yourself) what they can expect at any given moment on the shoot -- and how much you intend to accomplish each day. Armed with this the cast and crew will feel you're on top of it. So will you. Nerves will disappear the moment you call CUT on your first set-up.

Tarkan Ozel

As long as you know what you want you will not get lost on the set. The producers, crew and the actors must trust you. I had directed a movie with 120 people on the set it is hard when every one is creative with lots of ideas. But as a result it is the directors point of view. Sometimes when it gets to much just take 5 and go to your private spot. double check the script and do everything your own way. Trust yourself and the others will follow :)

Gary Sales
1... be prepared and know what you want and develop a shot list and then a smart shooting order with your DP & First AD. #2.. you can't always know everything, especially early in your career, so rely on the expertise of those you're working with if they're more experienced. #3.. You are the director and you get some points for that right from the gitgo--- so if you've done #1 & #2 just point the direction to your vision from cast and crew and enlist them to achieving your vision. Cast & crew want to be told which way to go and they also want to feel heard when they try to collaborate. Listen to what they have to say and use what works and politely turn down what doesn't fit your vision and you'll be fine. Break-a-leg!
Terri Marie

HI Marie-Louise, First of all congrats. Next realize everyone that's successful at this has been there. Sending you blessings for a successful shoot. You go!

Shaun O'Banion

Make sure you're absolutely as prepared as you can be. Now realize that no matter how much you prepare, no matter how many details you've thought of... no matter how well you've selected your team and cast your film, you won't be able to escape that fear... the fear that you missed something or aren't ready to step up. And now that you've realized THAT, realize that it's bulls*t. Because you ARE ready. You HAVE prepared and you WILL get through it. Academy Award-winning editor Chris Rouse once said in an interview that the night before the first edit day on any film, he thinks to himself, "I can't cut this film. I'm out of my depth here and now this is it. This is the one where they find out I'm a hack... a fraud... and I get fired." Spielberg has openly talked about vomiting on the morning of the first shoot day... In other words, you're in good company. Use the fear. Embrace it. Make your film. You're going to do great.

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