‘They are wanting to help their people’: therapy offered to film casts and crews dealing with difficult subject matter and stresses and strains of the job
- Covid-19 rules added to the stress of working long hours under pressure on a film set. Then there was the film’s subject matter: suicide. So therapy was offered
- On-set counselling is rare in the US and the move was so popular during the making of The Son, producer Joanna Laurie plans to offer virtual counselling again
In the summer of 2021, when producer Joanna Laurie was planning production of The Son, a 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: suicide.
“I think it’s something that we’ll see a lot more of.”
Among the beneficiaries is Solas Mind, the British firm hired by See-Saw Films. The company’s founder, Sarah McCaffrey, said: “There was a massive demand for people just to be able to speak to somebody at the end of the working day.”
The use of therapists on film sets is relatively uncommon, but there have been a few high-profile examples.
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.
Offering mental health services on film sets is more common in the UK.
Well-being facilitators are not therapists, but they can refer crew members to qualified psychotherapists, mediate disputes and coach newly promoted crew members or those supervising a team for the first time.
So far, there is little of anything comparable in the US for freelance crews, said McCaffrey, whose company also receives funding from the UK government as part of the new mental health initiative.
A psychotherapist and former actress, she launched her business in 2020 and today has staff working across more than 80 productions.
Many clients struggle to balance home life with very long days on productions for months at a time without breaks, she said.