Summer Showcase: Four Phone Calls of Anxiety [Runner-up]

Sophie's submission for the Summer Showcase is a film that explores four females experiences with anxiety disorders. The judge described the film as "thoughtful and sensitive", and put Sophie forward as Commended in the showcase. 


Four Phonecalls of Anxiety (2023) is a short documentary (6’) about the filmmaker having phone calls with four women in their twenties. Their experience of anxiety (disorders) is invisible, trapped in their mind and body. Only nature understands them fully with its characters, colours, intensities, and rhythms. What is behind their intense circle of anxiety? 


Within Four Phonecalls of Anxiety (2023), I tried to capture the unconscious embodied experiences of anxiety in young women, captured in Scottish nature. I hope that this short film can have a platform to open a conversation about anxiety, as many (young) people struggle with it. 

I am an extrovert and can be quite energetic. Therefore, many people don't know that I struggled with anxiety from a young age, as from the outside it’s invisible. Mostly if I see very bubbly or outgoing people; I am sure there must be another side as well.

This short documentary was made for my elective course about Film Medicine (led by inspiring documentary filmmaker Amy Hardie) at the Edinburgh College of Art (MA Film Directing). The purpose was to make a creative documentary item on health humanities. In this artistic yet accessible, lightly therapeutic documentary, I wanted to show the experience of having anxiety in females in an audiovisual way. 

The film was finished at the beginning of 2023 after many people responded struggling with anxiety, on my call for participants. After the research of the project, I chose four young women. The young women with anxiety disorders whom I interviewed by phone were proud of their participation and I felt so connected to them as well. The interviews touched me as well and I recognized a lot of myself in their answers. The little film felt almost like a healing, mindful journey. With a great crew, including Nelisa Alcalde as cinematographer, Thomas Muis as a composer, and Amy Hardie, Will Hewit and Emily Beaney as coaches, we got to realize this - you make a film together. 

I hope other young people recognize the journey for themselves and can use the film to calm down and feel less lonely in the anxiety experience. As a filmmaker, I aim to make unheard voices heard by young people, so I feel proudly connected to VOICE UK MAGAZINE. 

Judge's comment

"Sophie has created a compelling yet gently soothing portrait of anxiety, pairing shots of nature - the sun's light changing on the trees, the crack of stones in a brook - with audio from four phone calls in which women describe experiences of anxiousness. The film is modest in scope, thoughtful and sensitive; documentarian but not coldly so, inviting viewers to empathise and alleviate their own anxiety by experiencing the stories of others."
a8eba36c28fab38dfb97ec18aa10404d1eda5754.pngJack Solloway

About the author

How long have you been practising this artform, and what first attracted you to it?

At the beginning of my twenties, I figured out that documentaries could be something for me while I was studying social work and psychology. I quit my studies and applied to the University of the Arts for Audiovisual Media. In documentary filmmaking (narrative, creative, cinematic film) so many things come together for me: psychology, music, interviewing, social, editing, writing, sound voice-over, speaking, research, curiosity, work, world-wise knowledge, travelling, inspiration, spirituality, freedom and art. Sometimes, on a train, on the streets, in the shower, or just lying on my bed, I get the best ideas. It feels like a lifestyle, I live for the art, and I live for storytelling. 

I am very thankful that I grew up in a very creative family. My mom wrote a lot with me and my sister, my dad designed it with us. As a young kid, I said: “It looks like I see everything through a camera.” Later we linked that to my passion for the art of looking and storytelling with writing, curiosity for other human beings and my restless mind as inspiration. But you need somebody to support you in that. 

How did you get started? Was there anything that you found particularly helpful?

I started with an internship on a youth platform while I was studying social work. They called me the 'writer' of the team, which gave me a lot of confidence. I was very doubtful about myself. It helped me that my mom always pushed on following my heart and my grandfather taught me to believe in myself. Also, people in the work field who saw my potential helped me to push through in a hard industry.

Since then, I have always had people, I call them mentors, in the work field who inspire, support, help and teach me how to dance in an incredibly tough yet magical world when it comes to storytelling in film. The study switches and some jobs I didn't like at all brought me even closer to my goal because they showed me what I didn't want to do and what I wanted. It also really helped to see inspiration. I remember I saw the film All We Ever Wanted by Sarah Domogala, and I was so touched by it and was like: one day, I hope to make something like that. Later I read more vulnerable pieces written by her. That inspired me: she showed me the other side of filmmaking and living. Now I see it also as something positive that I am very sensitive and restless because that makes me tell certain stories.

What advice would you give to someone looking to pick up the same artform?

First of all, determine what topic you want to do and what you are interested in, to get the key information through research and draw conclusions through continuous testing and experiments. And follow your heart and intuition! It is very scary, but worth the risk. 

Is there an achievement that you are particularly proud of?

Well, I am proud I dared to push through despite many rejections. When I was a teenager, I wanted to become a musical actress, but I didn't get accepted to the study of music theatre. In the years after, I was lost in what I wanted: I loved writing, film, theatre, music, singing, social work, psychology, and travelling. My list was endless and the fear of missing out was haunting me. I kept on going and studied a year of social work, and switched to Psychology till I found documentary filmmaking. I am so glad I chose where my heart is. 

In the last seven years since I focused on film, I had many rejections as well. Every rejection is painful, but it also made me so proud of where I am now. I know the other side of passion and so many times I speak with other filmmakers who struggle with it as well. Now I will graduate from my Master’s in Film Directing at the Edinburgh College of Art.

I am thankful for telling stories about complicated topics, and I hope I can open conversations with them. I love to present and speak and even teach one day other young people who are also dreaming of storytelling or feel they have to make their voices heard. It won’t be an easy road, but I am on my way! 

In 2019, Dutch documentary filmmaker Sophie van Bree (1995) graduated from the HKU - University of the Arts Utrecht. She interned in TV program development and went to Uganda to make an assigned short documentary. Fascinated by (her own) restlessness, she made five short documentary items about young artists at a work experience place linked to Dutch Public Broadcast NTR. She worked as a director/editor and researcher. In 2022, Sophie was accepted to the Edinburgh College of Art and received four scholarships to start a one-year master's in Film Directing. Now, she is based in Edinburgh.



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