Living with Fear, Anxiety, & Depression as a Filmmaker

Living with Fear, Anxiety, & Depression as a Filmmaker

My name is Pablo Carranza. I’m a filmmaker and (in part) failed producer/writer. I’m also the Creative Director and Producer at indiefilmTO. I’ll be doing a series of these articles for the next while.

For the first one, I’ve been sitting here thinking about what I wanted to say.

It’s not that I can’t think of anything, but sometimes you just get that feeling, the one that is way down in your gut and causes even the thought of doing anything related to work to make you physically sick.

I get that a lot.

It honestly feels like it’s only a step away from hanging myself in the closet.

But as much as that is a comforting thought (it would be over at least), I’d probably just end up standing in the closet for a few seconds, wonder why I wear the same three outfits, and ultimately chicken out.

And then I’d be coming out of the closet.

 *silence for effect*

 *a tumble weed rolls by, crickets are heard*

….anyway. I find myself living with the inability to hide my failure every day; from myself and from the Supreme Overlords who review my drafts and tell me when it’s horrible.

I can’t get anything right.

I am depressed.

Yet here I am.

The fears of nothing and yet everything

“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.” - Marcus Aurelius

Well he certainly doesn’t have to worry about death anymore since he is dead. Lucky bastard.

But I bet even an almost 2000 year old Roman emperor wrote those passages to keep his own mental boat steady. Shows you how long we’ve all been going through it.

Sometimes I’m left with more questions than answers. The main one being: 

What is fear and why do we let ourselves be crippled by it?

We crave fear, it guides us in some cases. It shows us what to be scared of and puts us in fight or flight mode.

This is a good thing right? So we don’t get shot or run over or stabbed, but how much of it is rational? How much of it is based in reality?

Mental illness is not shameful. It is not something to be put aside to deal with later. It can control our lives and impact our work/relationships, but rest assured that you always have the choice of perspective.

True story. I went to go buy cargo shorts at this military surplus store and I had this gut wrenching feeling that the old guy who was serving us was a pedophile.

I was 13 years old at the time but the feeling was unreal. I made my mom stand in front of the change room curtain just to make sure he wasn’t going to sneak in.  That’s how bad it was.

But was this fact or fiction? Should I trust my instincts or not? 

Irrational fears are not uncommon, but fear is an irrational emotion by default.

Did I prevent my tender 13 year old anus from being deflowered by a 60 year old man? 

Who knows. 

The point is that fear would follow me for most of my adult life.

But what is the root of that irrational fear why does it stop us from working? Why does it make us depressed? And more importantly, what can we actually do about it?

Getting Over It: In Theory and In Action

I am a failure at the traditional concept of “getting over” something, at least in terms of what most people think Getting Over It means.  

You don’t get over constant fear because the heart of it is depression. Mostly.

It’s always the same process of learning how to walk again. The same way that I never know what to write every time I open a blank page. The same way anxiety seems to cripple creatives of every type.

Put more accurately, it’s like learning to walk again while on stilts with your hands tied behind your back and someone across the room yelling at you, trying to make you scared of some approaching deadline.

”You only have 21 hours, 14, minutes and 11 seconds! Now you only have 21 hours, 14 minutes, and 10 seconds! Now you only have…”

Shut the fuck up!

That’s what you want to say anyway, but you can’t. 

Top 4 reasons why you can’t:

  • It needs to get done and no else is going to do it.
  • The “someone” is just you anyway.
  • You are depressed.
  • It’s only a metaphor you made up for an article.

*Cough*

So why should I be depressed about being depressed? I can’t exactly control it. None of us can.

My mantra is ‘we are all disgusting and weak sacks of human flesh, therefore, we have nothing to lose.’

It’s irrational but we suffer the consequences anyway.  Even when we know we should just let it go. (Don’t think of the song, this is a better song anyway)

We try to learn how to adapt, make it work with us and not against us. We accept it as it is.

My mantra is “we are all disgusting and weak sacks of human flesh, therefore, we have nothing to lose.”

As I repeat this mantra, I try to go through my list of things to remember:

Pablo’s Top 3 ways to “Get Over It”

  1. Sleeping at least 7 to 8 hours a night: Don’t underestimate the power of getting a good night’s sleep. If you take away nothing else from this article, at least start taking your sleep seriously because science says it's the most important thing we can do for ourselves.
  2. Speaking to others that have Gotten Over It before: Art is a chaotic community. Depression is rampant. Even though it’s easier to isolate yourself, you have to find the cojones to speak to other people. Seek comfort in those you love/respect, who you know wouldn’t give you terrible advice (because a lot of people do).
  3. If all else fails, keep yourself distracted with creative work: Sometimes the thoughts of sleeping forever in a nice warm casket are comforting, but those are only thoughts. Talk about it, write about it, make films about it. It seems impossible but just take that first step towards creating something and build up some momentum. Just look what I’m doing right now, you think this article writes itself? Thanks depression.

These things are what I have to do personally. Sometimes I’m actually just hungry or sleepy. 

A few minutes ago I didn’t want to look at this article ever again, but then I ate and here we are, at another draft.

Then depression makes you feel like a failure, and the cycle starts all over.

“I’m going to fail, I know it”

“Treat it as a test”

“It’s not about failure, cause you will fail, it’s about how you react to it”

He’s talking about business but it applies. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to keep a lot of this ideas in my mind.

But then combine them with my basic principles of living life:

The 3 Principles of Pablo

  1. Failure is a perspective and if it’s appearing everywhere you look, you are probably depressed.
  2. Reality is an illusion, but truth is just reality filtered through our perspective. Depression is unreality.
  3. All principles are subjective and the fiction created by them is relative to our personal human experience.

The “fiction” of it is the truthful emotion we feel, but it’s still unreality because it does not exist on physical plane, only in the internal metaphysical one. 

It only has real world consequences because our emotions tell us the internal world and external world are the same thing.

Which they are not.

Confused? Sure, of course.

It’s just a fancy way to say that things are not as bad as they seem and perspectives should and can be changed by choice.

Here is a good tool for that:

Yeah, Tony Robbins, the motivation guy. 

I understand the feeling of bullshit that comes with watching or reading these self help things but you can take something useful from it at least.

I know I’m giving you a lot of homework but this video touches on the subject of self perspective and how to get things a little every day.

Things are not as bad as they seem and perspectives should and can be changed by choice.

This is the mentality behind what we do at indiefilmTO. A lot of practical steps to get things done.

It was the idea behind our annual indiefilmTO Festival and our 60 Day Feature Film Challenge last year (coming again soon, you can sign up for our newsletter here to be notified), to get people motivated to do what they have been trying to do forever.

Getting that feature script done and then having a festival to show it off at. It’s all about taking action.

Action Step

Get a pen and paper and write down ten things you are scared of. Seriously, stop reading and do this right now. I'll wait.

Then from those ten things, how many of them are rational? How many of them are irrational? How many of them involve working? How many of them stop you from doing what you want to do?

Be completely honest with yourself here, and remember, irrational fears are subconscious, but it’s the conscious actions we take that impact our lives. 

Everything else doesn’t actually matter.

Replace the golf club with a camera at the end and you’ll get it.

Wrapping Up

I have to keep typing that to myself because not doing my work feels like dying. It’s a wonder I don’t blow my brains out every time a word is misplelt or my grammar is off;

See what I did there?

Sometimes the only thing keeping me on god's green earth is the idea of Getting Over It.

Getting over my own personal bullshit and not taking the world so seriously. 

Which leaves me exposed, “free”, to talk about it and share it with you in article form or to laugh about it as a dark joke (which thankfully seems to be a hit with my Editors).

Mental illness is not shameful, it is not something to be put aside to deal with later.

It can control our lives and impact our work/relationships but rest assured that you always have the choice of perspective.

In the end, that’s the only thing we can really control. 

-Pablo



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