It’s Natural To Get Depressed When Making A Movie – David F. Sandberg

Film Courage: If we were going to do a mini “making of documentary”
from LIGHTS OUT (the short film version) all until now, what kind of emotional highs and lows
would you put in that documentary? David F. Sandberg (a.k.a. PonySmasher on Youtube): Well I mean sort of the lows would be you know
during LIGHTS OUT I’ve got pretty depressed there for a while when it’s
like it’s just that shock of oh this isn’t what I thought it was gonna be or
like I didn’t think it was going to turn out this way when you see something but
I think I mean on everything I’ve done halfway through I get really depressed
that’s true for the shorts even like every short look that I’ve made halfway
through I want to quit because I’m like this is crap, this is garbage I want to
do it and then she convinces me to actually go through with it and then
you’re very happy about it later on and that’s sort of the thing that’s happened
on every movie like halfway through you’re like oh this is this is bad this
is not what I wanted and but you have to go through with it and then even on
lights out the producer told me that you know when you see your first cut you’re
gonna be you know not very happy who do we like the first sort of assembly of it
because he was saying that you know when Ben Affleck saw the first cut of ARGO
he was like my career’s over and then he like won an Oscar and everything and
that’s even though I was told that first time I saw the cut first kind of lights
out it was like well this is shit I’ve ruined I fudge this up you know maybe
they can cut a cool trailer of it but the movie is terrible but then you just
keep working out you cut out all those little things that bother you and you
get the music in there and the DI and everything and then at the end it’s like
it’s actually pretty cool so but but on lights up for the post-production there
I was quite depressed and really thought it was bad until we had a test screening
and I could hear the audience and feel that energy aside okay and then that’s
when it started like okay maybe this is pretty good and that that happens on
every movie and also after every movie wraps I also
get depressed but now after three movies I know myself very well so I’d sort of
get through it better like when Shazam was robbed winding down was talking to a
lot about how yeah I’m gonna get depressed afterwards and it’s gonna be
pretty hard but I know it’s coming I’m sure enough it does and then since
you’ve been through it so many times you were able to write it out better because
like it’s temporary even though when you’re depressed it never feels
temporary because depression sort of yeah it tells you that everything will
be shit and it tells you everything has been shit even the good things are bad
you know so yeah every every I think that every movie is a roller coaster but
with highs and lows throughout but I think just in comparing the movies I
think Annabelle Creation has been the most pleasant one because it you know
after lights out it felt like okay I know how movies are made here I know the
whole process now how it works there’s nothing sort of unexpected and Annabelle
creation was just like it was just a bigger budget sort of the same thing
which is like okay we have more resources we have more days we can build
sets in a studio and it’s like that was the best experience so far even though
you still have that depression and everything and then Shazam that was such
a step up with like a hundred million dollar whatever a budget so it was kind
of back to lights out almost with all these new things like visual effects and
stunts and second-unit and all these things I haven’t done before so it was
kind of it was difficult at times and again I get depressed and then I have to
get through it and everything but you know if I make another 100 million
dollar movie maybe it’ll be like with Annabelle creation where it’s like okay
now I know how this process works and I know what to look out for and and and
all these things but yeah do you see me yeah I’m sorry do you think that that’s
something that creators should be aware of that no matter how proud they feel of
some whether it’s a tiny indie film or a
studio film that they will get depressed because so much time and energy has gone
into it and oh every time I mean that’s happened to my brother as well who makes
video games like he spent seven years making a video game and then it’s done I
mean it’s that thing of I don’t know if it’s if we think that more is gonna
change like you work hard for like two years like on Shazam or whatever or a
movie and like you come out of it and like you almost think that the world is
gonna be different now where you were gonna be different and then it’s sort of
like oh it’s back to the same kind of and it’s sort of a break-in routine
especially when you have like on a movie like this you have a routine you have a
purpose you know what you’re doing and like every day you come in you see the
same people you know you eat lunch together and you talk and you get to
know each other and then one day it’s over and it’s like it’s kind of like
getting fired or almost someone dying or something it’s just like oh we’re sort
of back to this and it’s like yeah thinks were you don’t change as much as
you expect almost cuz you’re building to this big thing and then comes out and
even if yeah it makes money and it’s it’s great and people love it but it’s
still that feeling of like alright well what now or like you’re kind of back to
square one in some ways which is which is weird but it’s yeah it’s a part of
life I guess I guess you just have to get to know yourself better and sort of
like yourself even more because even though you do this big thing you’re
still the same person and if you’re not comfortable with who you are you know no
big movie or big projects it’s kind of really gonna change that that’s just
sort of things around it or you could just start a new project that’s the
thing I mean right now it’s like oh I have to get started on something new and you

About the author


  1. Very relatable… I was just thinking about this: feeling stuck, not sure there's really a viable pathway toward a compelling story, and then this popped up.

    I'm only 1%-2% there? Prepared for a long psychological battle in order to persevere.

  2. Not I understand why I don't feel like I'm Not Even Human did much. Because even if it's good to certain extend. It's not the most amazing thing in the universe. And not 100% of all humans constantly think about it. That makes me sad.

  3. Great discussion as usual Sure can Relate but in my case it's actually because the projects haven't come out well it's quite a mind over matter thing to power through

  4. He talked about it on his YouTube channel, and it makes sense. There's that period where you just feel low because you don't feel happy about the finished product, but even after it's complete you still feel down. It's just the natural creative process of making anything from scratch, and he talks about how it eventually goes away over time. I love David F. Sandberg for still posting on his channel even after making big studio films.

  5. Definitely true. Especially as a director and writer, you pour your everything into a project, so when it's done, there is a hollowness and emptiness. It's worse if your film isn't well received, but even if it is, there's a sadness that comes with finishing a project. You realize that nobody cares about your film as much as you do (at least that's my experience). Actors move onto other films long before you're done. Your crew moves on. If you have an editor once the edit is done they move on…if you don't…you're alone with your film far longer than anyone else. I even experience the feeling making wedding videos for clients. I feel like "I know this couple" and sometimes get a quick "thanks for the video" email and that's it. It's the curse of being a passionate artist. But we press on, because the thought of never creating another film is far worse.

  6. I love Sandberg. He talks about everything I have ever wanted to hear about cinema. Not about the glossiness covering Hollywood but the true emotional experiences.

  7. This hits home so hard.. After a year of working intensely on your project, you think as soon as you upload it there will be parties & award ceremonies poppin bottles of wine in your honor. Nope.. Stay humble & just keep working. It's a bitter pill to swallow because you put SOOO much into your project. You took care of it like it was your own new born baby. Soon as you show your precious baby to the world it's like.. Okay, now what..? "crickets" You're almost lost for a few days & have to collect yourself because the reveal that you imagined for yourself didn't manifest. Don't set yourself up for this fall. It's even worse when folks don't find your baby attractive.. "Ouch"

  8. Yess I love it, these questions are so important to be asked and answered for all film makers world wide, there are so many great things about film. There are some tough stuff that is talked about, but things like this, are so important and fundamental and I don’t see much of. Thank you for sharing!!

  9. It might be worth note that something like this seems to be the common thread of experience among a LOT of jobs and positions that involve "an ambitious project". Working as a contractor, I was around a LOT of "Old guys" on job sites. The ambition of building a house isn't so different from the ambition of building a movie. The labor gets contracted to people who know what they're doing in those positions, and a larger team is formed for this thing out of all the smaller teams.
    Maybe in a house not every team is exactly on the site at once, but similarly not every team involved in the movie is on-site for shooting either… not every day. Both start with the fundamentals and scheduling work that must be done in certain stages before the next steps can be taken. In housing, you don't build the roof before you have walls and you generally don't start walls without a foundation… SO everyone and everything has to be stepped and paced to be "Just In Time".
    Both take a lot of work to put together, and those same people are meeting over longer terms of days in and days out than a handful of guys who get together to build a doghouse, or set up a porch… Over time, you form relationships with the others among the "greater" team.
    AND in nearly every house I've helped build, it looks worse before it gets better… with no guarantee it's going to get any better. Even if the clients or the prospects and public won't notice the mistakes, the fudging, the very slightly askew bricks in the chimney, or that corner that's just a shade off the rest of the color because we ran out of a very specific and expensive paint… WE notice. The guys and gals who laid the bricks can see them, stacking up and sticking out like scars of our misdeeds.

    AND then the house is done. The project is completed, and the clients love it. The bosses are pleased, and you finish tabulating mileage, per-diems, receipts for special equipment, and at some point as explicitly laid out in the contract, everyone gets paid and goes home…

    It's like something's over. That psuedo-familial relationship network has collapsed and separated, and there's no guarantees you'll see each other again. Some houses for historical stylings and still matching codes can take up to a year to get off the ground… but all at once, it's the last day.

    It's easy to see how someone can get depressed about the steady growing pile of faults, dysfunction, missed measurements and fudging, as the project comes into full swing but isn't much more than half-done, and it feels like a growing slow-motion trainwreck.
    It's easy to see the dismemberment of the team in a sense like losing track of a few dozen friends… pfft… just gone.

    AND of course the imminent collapse onto the couch, bills paid, and a splash of cash infused into a half-crippled bank account, and you're unemployed. Being self-employed without a project site to go to is… essentially… unemployed again. There's only a moment to rest and appreciate one project completed, and then it's right back to the hustle, running out to look for bids on new work… to find the motivation to get out to start a new project with a new crew.

    AND that cycle repeats… I hear of these "old guys" doing everything they can to stay busy. It seems a little screwy to think of a guy who stays busy as dealing with depression, but without the work to do, he feels a lack of identity. Without the work to distract him, he starts thinking about it, and it's easy to slip into that depression and start to lose motivation to do much of anything…

    …but of course, moping around the house or apartment waiting for the phone to ring isn't going to get anything anywhere either. ;o)

  10. These videos have been coming out at a time where I needed them, I directed a short for class last month and I’ve been feeling all these things. I’m glad to know that it’s valid and that I’m not the only one feeling this way

  11. WOW!!! Really needed to hear this right now. Just shot a couple scenes for my new short a few minutes ago and I felt the same way "this is crap, i quit, it doesn't look like I wanted it to". But hearing this is a reminder to continue pushing through and complete the film!! Thanks David and Film Courage for posting this. 👍👍🙆‍♂️🙏

  12. Post Project Depression. It's a real thing. About to wrap on a 3 month long web series we've been shooting and I can already feel the depression kicking in. Had a bad spell yesterday, and it's funny to see this video get uploaded the very next day. Thank you for this, makes you feel so much less alone in the world.

  13. I'm listening to David and I realize the reason I've never felt that depression is I've never made a movie that's 100% finished. I made a short once, that we finished completely about 1,5 year ago, but it had been lying for almost 10 years, so even tho it was actually everything it was supposed to be, it was more of a relic from the time we shot it, than a current project. All my movies have been left almost-done and now that's making me really sad. If I remember I'll come back to this post and comment about my feelings of actually finishing a movie when it happens..

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