How a shy woman found the confidence to direct her own film⋅
Taking the Plunge – the pathway to building confidence
This is Catherine’s account of how, despite being hampered by shyness, she turned her dream of directing her own film into a reality. This is what she did to overcome her shyness and inhibitions., building her confidence so she could take on such a big task.
A Ten-Year Dream
For more than ten years, I have wanted to write and direct (and act in) my own films – I have known this for all that time, though it took me years to admit this to myself, let alone anyone else.
So I followed various circular paths that took me nowhere (except in circles!). All the while repeating my mantra, “Someday I’m going to be a film director”. On and on and on.
Playing the Waiting Game
I was well aware of all the issues holding me back. Huge lack of confidence, lack of focus, lack of technical awareness, lack of drive, lack of money, lack of this, that and the other. And there were plenty of excuses and diversions to be found.
So I waited and waited, convincing myself that one day I would “suddenly” develop all the things I lacked. And that all the dormant creativity would appear at the same time, ready and waiting to be used. (I am an occasional realist, so I knew I was kidding myself. But I carried on kidding myself anyway).
I even forked out a fair amount of money I didn’t have, to produce two admittedly low-budget short films for friends of mine. I could dip my toe in the water, could tell people I was a filmmaker. But I took a back seat and wimped out of making any creative decisions.
Both were disastrous affairs. The films turned out ok, but the friendships didn’t.
I carried on in the same vein for years. Messing up good opportunities and hiding away in jobs that had no hope of fulfilling any of my potential.
I attended drama classes and hid behind my classmates most of the time. I attended a writing class and wrote one (still unfinished) “powerful” short story and felt that I had done enough.
I wallowed in all the bad memories I could possibly find without allowing myself to challenge them or let go of them. I felt stifled for years – and I let that happen.
I began 2005 feeling that this would be the year – “something” would happen.
I had learned to accept that I would not wake up one day feeling confident enough to write/direct a film. That I would only develop the confidence by actually doing it.
So I became an intention in search of an idea. Not that I lacked ideas. But I did not feel that any of them were “important” enough. I know now that I did not let any of these ideas “breathe”. Still, I clung to this strong feeling that something would happen at some point during the year.
I had come across information about Claire Schrader’s work some time ago. Although I was very interested, I didn’t follow it up. I decided to rectify this earlier this year and signed up for the Introductory Evening.
I had already agreed with myself that I would get “stuck in” at the intro evening, I know that if I am quiet at the beginning of a workshop, I will remain quiet throughout. I enjoyed the evening and decided to sign up for the Express and Create group (an earlier version of the Breakthrough Group) due to begin soon after.
Attending the group presented so many challenges for me. Challenges I had deliberately sought. With such a small group, there was nowhere to hide. I have great difficulty trusting people, yet would not have been able to function in the course without trust.
There would be times I knew when I would need to “improvise”, and I would not always be in complete control. I feel self-conscious virtually all of the time, and this is something I would need to shed.
I got so much out of the course. I found long-lost elements of myself, I felt that I bonded with a group of people despite myself, and there were times when I would suggest things that we would develop as a group.
All group members challenged themselves, explored emotions that were at times very difficult and showed great courage in doing so. We supported one another throughout, and I feel that we learnt from one another.
The Power of Rubbish
So the seed that someone planted in me was the fact that I had taken on board all the rubbish that others had dumped on me over the years. I already knew this. But no one had put it quite like this before.
So this seed grew into the image of a person who is literally asleep under a pile of rubbish. The pile of rubbish that holds her back has also become something of a security blanket. After all, she has had opportunities to dismantle the pile of rubbish and has chosen not to do this.
This became my idea that I felt was “important” enough to work with. And once I had allowed it to breathe, it began to grow on its own. In the final weeks of the course, we explored an image that each of us had drawn. Inevitably my image was related to my idea. This had now become the basis of a short film I intended to make, and this was all I had been able to think about for several weeks.
So as a group, we explored how people had dumped all kinds of “rubbish” on me. Telling me I wasn’t good enough. Making me feel ashamed of my physicality. Depriving me of things I enjoyed (dance being one of them).
As an adult, I can see this “dumping of rubbish” with a certain amount of detachment. (And admittedly, there were certain things I couldn’t bring myself to share with the group. Ideas that may be explored in future films). I took so much on board as a child. I never fought back. I felt a strong desire to fight back with all my ferocity as an adult.
During this exploration, it was suggested that the various pieces of rubbish are allowed to float away. This idea suited me perfectly. As despite what I have already said, I am not really into blame. We are all human after all.
So the idea continued to develop to the point where filming was scheduled. Cast and crew were involved, which meant that I could no longer back out. (One of my favourite things).
“Every Little Thing”
The short film was to be called “Every Little Thing”, which was more than appropriate. As prior to filming, I worried about absolutely every little thing. Would the equipment get damaged? Would we all get along? What happens if we run out of money? What if it rains when we are filming outdoors? etc.).
The film depicts a woman asleep under a pile of rubbish, initially on Brighton Beach. Then in an art studio, where students draw the pile of rubbish, unconcerned about the woman lying underneath.
The film then returns to Brighton Beach, where a concerned passerby stops to try and wake her up. She does but is annoyed at being disturbed. The would-be rescuer, in turn, becomes annoyed and throws more rubbish at the pile.
The next scene is set in a cinema, with the woman and the pile of rubbish lying in front of the screen.
The audience quickly gets bored with the film they are watching and turns their attention to the woman. They start throwing popcorn at her. Then two audience members get up, walk over to the woman and start kicking her and the pile of rubbish she is covered by as other audience members passively watch.
As the kicking becomes more insistent, she reacts. Because she no longer has any choice. Her assailants are startled and walk away.
The final scene shows the woman under the pile in the middle of a stream. She is now sitting up and quickly dismantles the pile, letting the pieces wash downstream.
When she is able, she stands up and crosses the stream. As she walks through the trees, she encounters three other women who represent her potential. She acknowledges them and then walks away to who knows where, and that is the end of the film.
Ultimately the idea became not only a means of completing my own first short film but also had a therapeutic element to it. I was able to explore situations that had caused me great pain. And to begin to put those experiences to rest.
Initially, I was going to act in the film myself. In some way, this seemed to be a logical conclusion to the whole process. In the end, I hired an actress for the role, which turned out to be the right thing to do at the time.
Shooting the Film
It was an interesting experience sharing my idea with the cast and crew. The majority of them understood the messages behind it and were also happy to discuss their own interpretations, which I found fascinating.
There is no doubt that my work in the course helped me in this situation where I needed to trust people quickly, and where I was no longer in control of absolutely everything. I enjoyed working in an environment where all the participants felt that they could put forward their own ideas and suggestions.
We shot the film in four days and filmed everything that we needed. All cast and crew commented on how organised everything was, and how good the atmosphere was, and there were no major disasters!
I am someone who feels that I am constantly fighting. So the fact that there was no major drama on set and no major disasters, was a strange feeling.
The course that I took part in finished around the end of July. Yet I feel that I am only beginning to reflect on it now. It feels like it’s been a long time since I thanked the people that participated for the trust and the bond that we developed as a group. I hope that before the end of January 2006, I will have a finished film to show, certain elements of which I think you will recognise!
Published in the Making Moves Newsletter
Commentary by Claire
In her article, Catherine knew there was something calling her from out of the shadows, however much she ignored it or pretended to herself, she knew she couldn’t continue to sell out on herself. And Catherine had very real reasons to feel fear. She didn’t just want to make a film. The film that was calling to be made involved her exposing herself and allowing the most vulnerable aspects of herself to be seen.
I remember very well the moment in the course (now known as the Breakthrough Group) when she explored her idea, and where she had all the materials in my dressing up suitcase heaped over her. It was a potent metaphor of how she had experienced her life up to then. And which so many can relate to who have experienced abuse in any form or repeated negative programming. Her idea not only had the potential to heal herself but also to reach out and touch others, and maybe give them the courage to wake up too.
It was hugely poignant to me that the main character is asleep under the pile of rubbish, seemingly oblivious of the filth piled on top of her.
How many of us choose to stay asleep however uncomfortable we might be rather than truly face the reality of our lives? Is it time like Catherine to wake yourself up, drag yourself out of your hiding places and throw off that pile of rubbish?
Don’t put it off any longer.
Your life is just too precious.
The hardest thing is making the move to do something about it. After that, it takes staying power to stick with it. But once the momentum has been created the process just gets easier.
I commend Catherine for her determination and courage in facing her fears in the course. It is inspiring to see how quickly she has made the film and how well in the end she was supported by her production team.
© Claire Schrader
How you can build an effortless self-confidence?
If you relate to what Catherine has been speaking about you might want to consider joining one of my twelve-week confidence building courses in London.