If you’re in the production, film or photography industry you’re likely well aware of the toll a 12+ hour shoot day can take on your body, and your sanity. Protecting your mental health on a film set is something that’s become a priority for so many people these days, with more and more professionals noticing the very real effects of stress, anxiety and burnout.
Neglecting your mental health on a film set can very well lead to a bad production day, and fast! According to Help Guide, “burnout reduces productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful.” With symptoms like withdrawing from responsibilities, procrastinating, skipping work and food, and drug and alcohol abuse, it’s obvious that an unhealthy head can affect all areas of your life – not just on set.
We asked the production industry community on Facebook this simple question:
“What are some ways you care for your mental health on a film set?”
To our surprise, the post blew up on production groups, and we received over 100 responses, with suggestions that ranged from simple tricks like stretching and naps breaks, tips for planning ahead and some other (fairly cut-throat) advice! Ultimately, all of these responses boiled down into four main categories: quick and easy solutions, planning ahead, changing your viewpoint, and LOLs.
Here’s what the production industry is doing to protect their mental health…
Quick and Easy Tips…
to protect your mental health on a film set
One of the tips that we saw over and over again was the value in finding a team that you can laugh with. This wholesome response makes a lot of sense, people even say that laughter is the best medicine. But working with a team that you can share some jokes and humour with during breaks throughout your day is medically proven to make you feel more relaxed, triggering a release of endorphins (our body’s natural feel-good chemicals).
Hot tip from one of our peers: make friends with the makeup artists and wardrobe – they always seem to know what’s going on or know some juicy information that’s sure to make you laugh!
Some other easy solutions include; staying hydrated; having healthy snacks available; and taking the time to stretch, meditate, take deep breaths, or go for a walk during your breaks. This all ultimately comes down to “self-care” and wellness, and we’ll admit, things we should probably be doing everyday regardless of our job title or work load.
“When your body is feeling good it can help your brain feel good, and to quote Elle Woods from Legally Blonde “exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy!” (I’m assuming no one is murdering their husbands on set).”Sarah Davis
Feeling overwhelmed on set a need a quick solution?
Drink some water, have a healthy snack and get outside.
Try following this box breathing video recommended by one of the members of our community, Alex Poutiainen:
Then come back to your team and share some jokes.
Some other quick and easy tips from the production community:
Read a book, avoid trash talking and toxic attitudes, call a friend or loved one, watch some dog videos on YouTube, clean and organize your gear, lay down.
to protect your mental health during a long shoot day
A tip from plenty of industry vets was to bring an extra pair of shoes and an extra pair of socks, and we’ll be honest: we’re not exactly sure why. No one really explained why or how this works but given the frequency of this response clearly there is some industry secret! Maybe it’s simply a placebo effect connecting the relationship between endorphins and a fresh pair of socks. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to give it a try!
Planning ahead means carving out a routine in your regular day-to-day to maintain your physical health through exercise and downtime. Make an evening routine: when you’re unloading your SD cards take the time to have a hot shower, make tea and brush your teeth, no matter how late.
Have too much on your plate? Hire a PA to help with smaller tasks so you can focus on the parts of your shoot day that you love. This will also allow you to build extra time into your schedule, giving you more time for quick breaks and to fit in those quick and easy tips that we’ve mentioned previously.
Other tips to think about ahead from the production community:
The day before your shoot day, get to a yoga class, drink plenty of water and go to bed early for a solid eight hours of sleep. Layout your production blacks the night before so you don’t have to rush in the morning.
Changing your viewpoint…
to protect your mental health on a film set
When it comes to mental health, changing your viewpoint or mindset isn’t a simple solution. We acknowledge that if you’re feeling overwhelming symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress or burnout that you should seek out professional advice.
Of course, some of our peers weren’t happy with our question…
“What I do is: the job. Put that in your blog”
Given the overwhelming responses encouraging our community to count their blessings and love the job, the most valuable takeaway we found was to vocalize your gratitude.
“I often vocalize them with the people around me as well to try and lighten the environment on set as well and make it more enjoyable for everyone. Just remind yourself why you got into your job, most of the time it’s because you love it! Remind yourself of your passion that put you there in the first place and try to be excited about that.”Sam Sosnowski
Do your best to remember, it’s just a movie (or commercial or music video)! Long production days are oftentimes an unfortunate reality of the production industry. If someone tells you to stop complaining about being busy, also remember that your mental health is important and a big part of making the production day run smoothly. A burnt out producer means a messy production day, a stressed out cinematopher could mean an unfocused shot, and an overwhelmed PA means no one is getting coffee.
We don’t address our mental health enough, especially in a competitive industry. Talk to your Production Manager and let them know what’s going on so solutions can be found to lighten your load and give you the time you need to address it.
Laugh the pain away…
to protect your mental health on a long shoot day.
Of course, there are crew members who’ve committed to embracing the madness that is a 12+ hour production day, with responses like:
“I think about the ongoing pursuit of the equilibrium between doing a good job and not giving a f*ck”, “I think about sharpening my knife”, and “I pray, and then revert to offering up anything to the devil”.
Then plenty others like, “stay sane?” and “what is sanity?!”.
So ya, a long shoot day can be rough, and we get it.
“The red-carpet glamour can sometimes hide the stressful realities of working in the film business: job insecurity, low pay, burnout, rejection and intense periods with long hours away from family and friends is just the tip of the iceberg.”Wendy Mitchell
Too often is mental health portrayed as a character flaw or personal issue. In this industry it doesn’t come as a surprise that mental health is something a lot of our peers are talking about! If you’re struggling with mental health on the job, it doesnt make you less of a professional, any less organized, creative or trustworthy. It’s okay if you’re struggling at your dream job, especially in this wild, fast-paced and competitive production industry.
Remember that it’s okay to prioritize yourself and your well-being.
Have you got any tips for something that’s helped you protect your mental health during a long production day?
Leave it in the comments below and keep our community talking about mental health.
Thank you Rebecca, mental health advocate, for providing valuable advice and guidance in writing this piece.
From the community, special thank you to Aaron Tocheri, Sam Sosnowski, Alex Poutiainen, Lauren Schell, Cindy Lou, Neil Scott, Christina Knox, Kareen Mallon, and Kyle Iannuzzi for your unique and helpful insight.