In summer 2021, when producer Joanna Laurie was planning production of “The Son,” an upcoming drama from Oscar-winning writer and director Florian Zeller, she knew stress levels would be exponentially high for cast and crew. They had to contend with strict COVID-19 safety protocols and the movie’s difficult subject matter: teenage depression and suicide.
So the London-based producer did something unconventional: She arranged to hire a company that would provide confidential virtual therapy sessions to anyone on set who needed it during shoots in New York, London and France. The program was so popular, she plans to replicate it on other productions.
“We just had to make completely sure that in the process of making a movie about mental health, that we really took total care of the cast and crew who are going to be dealing with this, which is a very sensitive subject,” said Laurie, a producer at See-Saw Films. “I think it’s something that we’ll see a lot more of.”
Regardless of the subject matter, film and TV sets can be stressful and dangerous places to work. The pandemic added a raft of anxieties as cast and crews returned to work to face rigorous safety protocols such as testing, masking and social distancing. The streaming boom put more pressure on film workers as production of new shows spiked and crew worked longer hours to keep up with demand, fueling burnout and rising labor tensions.
As a result, more producers are considering offering therapy services, both on set and virtually, to help film workers cope with on-the-job stress.
Among the beneficiaries is Solas Mind, the British firm hired by See-Saw Films for the Sony released feature “The Son.” The company has developed a digital platform to allow crew members to schedule therapy sessions, and it has worked with studios such as Apple TV and NBC Universal. With a team of 30 counselors and psychotherapists, Solas Mind is looking to expand in the U.S. and Canada to meet demand from producers for its services.
“That sense of isolation where people are away from families, locked down in hotel rooms, all the nice stuff about the industry, the social side, had gone,” said the company’s founder, Sarah McCaffrey. “There was a massive demand for people just to be able to speak to somebody at the end of the working day.”
While it is typical to hear of producers catering to every whim of A-list stars, crews often get little support.
And despite rising costs, some producers recognize the benefit of offering therapy services as an additional perk to attract crew members.
“Productions are longer, I think budgets are tighter, so schedules are tighter, which has all those knock-on effects of people being exhausted, leading ineffectively,” said McCaffrey, a psychotherapist and former actor.
The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which represents technical workers on film and TV sets, favors the push to add more therapists to productions.
“Making even more mental health resources and support available to crews and anyone who needs it is a good thing,” said Jonas Loeb, spokesman for IATSE. He noted that the union has worked with the Motion Picture & Television Fund and other groups to offer mental health resources to crew members.
The use of therapists on film sets is relatively uncommon, but there have been a few high profile examples.
Georgia-based therapist Kim Whyte was tapped to assist the 2020 production of Amazon’s acclaimed limited series “The Underground Railroad” to help the cast and crew cope with the difficult subject matter on set.
“Studios and producers are really becoming more mindful about the pressures and the stressors that are going on in our society in general, and they are wanting to help their people involved with their project,” Whyte said, adding that common issues clients raise include stresses of gig work, financial insecurities and separation anxiety.
Film and TV production is stressful. Some sets are turning to therapy
January 9, 2023
With the impact of the pandemic and the boom in streaming, film sets in the U.K. and the U.S. are seeing more focus from mental health advocates.
'Gen V' / Amazon MGM Studios
Stay informed with the latest updates on press releases, media coverage, and exciting event announcements.