I spent large part of December scared out of my mind. After a year of super low-budget shooting, I'd scored an opportunity to direct a film short for Stage 5 TV's YouTube show, The Continuum. I had a fantastic script and a great producer. And I found myself fighting paralyzing fear. The kind that finds you sitting on your couch watching too much TV because to turn away means facing the terrifying fear sitting right next to you.
Of course, I sat there watching relevent content and thinking about shot design. We had hugely successful casting, attaching wonderful actors I can't wait to work with. Meetings with our wonderful crew. The work got done.
But the fact that this was such a cool opportunity - and perhaps because of the great script, cast, producer, crew, I was frequently feeling very blocked by fear. And not even some exotic type of fear, either. This was straight up fear of failure and self-doubt.
And the answer is always to do the work. What's in front of you to do? Do that.
But I would come home and sit on my couch, and there it was, my new unwanted companion.
It was already subsiding when I sat across a table sipping coffee with a good friend and described it as a giant monster who left me frozen, unable to think. Once I got closer to the shoot, my inner director kicked in, and to some extent the fear falls away. Or my focused energy simply takes up all the space in my head. I still marvel at the first day I was on set directing at film school and realized who I am when I'm there, what directing awakens in me.
But back to the giant monster on my couch.
The very next day after I described my fear as a giant monster, I read this on Tiny Buddha in a post called How To Believe In Yourself In The Face Of Overwhelming Self-Doubt:
Before, I imagined self-doubt as a life-sucking monster. Now, I realize it’s actually a fearful, angry, and lost creature secretly crying for help.
I was blown away that I had *just* described my fear as a monster the day before!
Now, it's important to the story to note that I've been watching a lot of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, because the pacing and the tone are similar to my upcoming film short, Zero Sight: Bad Call. And so the moment I read those words, I knew.
I knew that Overwhelming Fear of Failure was the Fear Demon, featured in the season 4 episode, Fear Itself. I don't want to tell you the whole episode, but ultimately, the Fear Demon's bark is worse than his bite. It's available on HuluPlus, you should totally check it out.
What I love about the post on Tiny Buddha is that the author, Melissa Ng, goes on to say:
Like fear, joy, and sadness, doubt is part of human nature, and it needs understanding. If you want to improve yourself, you need to tame your self-doubt, not fight with it. That means paying attention to how you react to things, understanding the root of your insecurities, and taking steps to address your fears.
So, the Fear Demon isn't a monster to defeat - although that certainly made a satisfying ending to the Buffy episode - instead he just needs a little love and understanding. We don't have to be scared just 'cause he's trying to bust up the party. That's just how he do.
I decided right then and there to keep him right where I could see him, on my project notebook. "Who's a little fear demon? Come on. Who's a little fear demon?"
As an epilogue, the next day I attended the "8th Annual Focus On Female Directors" at the Egyptian in Hollywood. I've been many times, as I love short films and it's always exceptionally curated. The panel was asked to share their biggest challenge on their projects, and director Jill Soloway shared that with every project she faces self-doubt.
My good friend and actress, Kerry Hite, who will play The Woman in Zero Sight: Bad Call, turned to me and said, "Do you feel better now?"
And I do. I really do.