Managing Pre-Production Jitters

Posted on: May 09, 2024

Photo Credit: Nattakorn_Maneerat // Shutterstock

By Manuel Izquierdo

The pre-production jitters, the night before set sweats or the overwhelming paranoia of planning—these forms of anxiety before a big project are common experiences for filmmakers. I’ve encountered them firsthand throughout my career. Here I share some strategies for mitigating the pre-production anxiety as you head into production, drawing from personal experiences and mindset shifts that have allowed me to approach big shoots with a sense of calm.

Embrace Positivity and Preparation

Getting rid of this anxiety does come with time, but you’ll notice after a few years of either producing, or being a director of photographer on larger projects, that the anxiety may not go away completely. A healthy level of being scared is key to growth and being able to insure a certain level of preparedness. But this is more of a guide to find the right focus to promote a healthier mindset going into set, and to prevent a borderline obsession with a project. It took me a while, but I learned to manage the sleepless nights before a big shoot, transitioning from relying on melatonin gummies to finding peace through positive thinking. This mindset shift doesn’t happen overnight, but evolves with experience and conscious effort.

Structured Pre-Production

Allocate dedicated times for pre-production. By setting aside specific periods for planning, you avoid obsessing over the project and diving too deep into unhelpful worries. Remember, it’s crucial to anticipate potential issues—Murphy’s law is always in action. However, being prepared helps mitigate these concerns. Engage with your crew during this phase, even if it’s just a brief call to understand their needs, which can significantly contribute to on-set success.

Rely on Your Crew

Understanding that you’re not alone and that you have a dedicated team ready to tackle challenges can significantly reduce anxiety. Early in my career, I felt like I needed to personally handle every aspect of production and every little detail of the project solo, which became daunting. However, realizing that seasoned professionals I was working with were there to support me, and giving them the space they needed to be creative, changed my perspective. Remind yourself of your competence; whether you’re working solo or with a crew, believe in your ability to manage whatever comes your way. Then use that competence affirmation with whomever you’re working with, and trust that they will also be able to handle anything that comes their way. 

Mindset is Everything

The most crucial advice I can offer is to not take yourself too seriously. Yes, production involves significant financial contribution from your clients, but it’s important to remember that we’re not performing brain surgery. Our primary goal as media professionals is to have fun and tell engaging, unique stories. Shifting your mindset to understand that setbacks aren’t the end of the world, but are opportunities to create something remarkable, can transform your approach to production. You’re being hired not only to execute at a high level, but also to be an expert who can handle challenges that come your way and overcome them, since that is an inevitability that will occur in any industry. Have you ever noticed when you worry so much about a project, and then you show up on-set, it’s never as bad as it was in your head?

Let’s Wrap

These strategies—from changing your mindset and planning efficiently, to relying on your crew and not sweating the small stuff—can help alleviate the anxiety that comes with pre-production. Remember, you’re not alone in facing these challenges and with the right approach, you can navigate them successfully.

Manuel Izquierdo is a Hispanic American filmmaker that runs his own video production company based in Miami, Florida called Mi Media Productions. He loves to bring to life unique and innovative stories to share with the world, and also believes in promoting a healthier film community, so don’t forget to stop by and say hello.

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