Why making a short film led me to start microdosing.

Steve Whiteley
6 min readNov 22, 2022


A rare moment of enjoying myself on set.

This Summer I made a short film that nearly broke me. It’s the second one I’ve written and directed and it just so happened to coincide with me getting Covid.

Having spent the previous two and a half years avoiding it, I had begin to feel I was invincible. But when it hit, I quickly realised that this thing was no joke. Now in normal circumstances you rest up till you feel better, but you see I had a short film to make and I was damned if I was going to cancel the production. Ok so I had vertigo and could only sit up for thirty minutes at a time before needing to nap, but come rain, shine or covid this thing was happening.

For those that aren’t in ‘the biz’, short films can be an expensive endeavour. Which is why it’s imperative to get funding. And I tried oh believe me how I tried, but surprisingly no one was keen to fund an idea about a mindfulness teacher with ADHD and anger issues. So like my last short film, I had no option but to self fund it and spend my precious savings on this God forsaken idea that I’d been working on for the previous year — three months to work out what the idea was, six months writing/procrastinating and three months to take it from pre to post production.

One week to go before we started filming and I had most of the cast and crew in place, the location, kit etc. But I was still ravaged by the ‘vid and had to make a call, to shoot or not to shoot. Ultimately I decided to roll the dice and hope/pray that I would feel better in time and lo and behold three days before production the fucker departed.

So day one of production comes around but due to major anxiety overload, I hadn’t slept for the previous three days. But thank God for berocca, lucozade and cocaine (jokes, I was all out of lucozade) (double jokes — I can’t do coke because it turns me into a mute). The first morning of the shoot was chaos, kit piled up, sweat dripping everywhere (we were filming in the height of the UK Summer heatwave, with no A/C) and the discovery of a random man sleeping on set.

Eventually we turnover camera and for the first thirty minutes I completely forget what I’m supposed to do. It’s been three years since I’ve directed anything and I’m in panic mode. Soon though I settle into it and everything starts to go well. But then covid strikes again. A message from one of the lead actors due to film the following day, has been struck down by the prick (not mine I might add — covid that is). So now I have to find a replacement while I’m on set and in-between takes I frantically email an actor who was on my shortlist. Thankfully she is available and agrees to step in last minute and puts in a brilliantly funny performance.

It’s a three day shoot and each night I lie awake, catastrophizing what will go wrong tomorrow. What kind of person does this to themselves? On the final day we use our apartment as unit base and at 8am the crew turn up to our front door. By this point I’m so frazzled that I got the call time wrong and answer bleary eyed in my dressing gown. My fiancé was not impressed as people piled in while she was getting ready for work. That day we used a tracking vehicle to shoot our lead actor driving on a moped. I’m exhausted, but can see the finishing line.

We’re guerrilla filmmaking, it’s a small skeleton crew working within the parameters available to us, exciting and terrifying in equal measure. Eventually it hits 5pm and despite our cinematographer suggesting we get more shots of our lead driving the moped from another angle, I physically cannot continue. I’ve reached my limit and defiantly tell him we’re done, so with that we wrap. The crew whoop and cheer, I attempt to join in but don’t have the energy and barely muster a smile. As we make our way back to unit base I start worrying that we should have got that final shot, do you notice a pattern here?

Fast forward two months and the edit, grade and sound mix/design are finished. And now this idea that started off in my head, will go out into the world via short film festivals and an online premiere. My last short film led to a pilot script commission from a major UK broadcaster and a first look development deal with a comedy TV Production company, (is that the sound of a trumpet being blown I hear you ask?) so who knows what this one will lead to, or indeed if anything. One thing that I’ve learned over time in this weird wonderful creative world, is that you cannot expect or indeed predict anything. You make whatever it is that is in your heart and mind and put it out there for the world to receive. After that your job is done and it’s onto the next one.

But once a creative project that has been all encompassing comes to end the low soon hits you. Despite it being anxiety inducing, suddenly this thing that you’ve been working on for so long is no longer and now you have time to think and reflect, which can be a dangerous thing. It’s like your kids leaving for university, but like, way more traumatic! And so after a while I diagnosed myself with depression, one sigh too many is not a good sign. Having exhausted all the natural remedies, meditation, regular exercise and cold showers, I mulled over whether it was finally time to try antidepressants.

Not long after, I went for lunch with a friend who is also a writer/director and had recently started taking them. He exclaimed that it had transformed his life for the better and even had a positive impact on his creativity. Like me, he was worried about being reliant on medication but if anything he wish he’d gone on them earlier. So I scheduled an appointment with the Doctor and after explaining my symptoms, a general heaviness and world weary malaise, I was prescribed 50 mg of Sertraline to take once a day.

I then spent the next month procrastinating whether or not to take it, blame it on the A-A-A-A-A-ADHD; if nothing else I’m a man of consistency. During that time I went on a week long meditation retreat, which always helps, but soon after returning, I still couldn’t shake the metaphorical and actual dark cloud (I live in London, it rains a lot) over my head. Don’t get me wrong it’s not like I’m Mr doom and gloom. For the most part I’m a fun and sociable guy to be around, but I also know that I’ve become scarily good at putting on a mask when necessary.

And so I finally necked the sertraline and it definitely helped. It’s crazy how a small pill can have such a powerful effect on our biochemistry and mental state. However, after a few weeks on it I once again delved into natural alternatives and that’s when I began researching the benefits of psybicilin. Numerous studies have shown the positive affects microdosing purports to have on ADHD and depression. And guys, it’s magic mushrooms, my favourite of all the illicit drugs! Plus, if you can’t already tell, I like to make life difficult for myself.

So I spoke to a man who knows a shaman, who specialises in the funghi — he’s a real fun guy — sorry not sorry. He said that whilst SSRI’s plaster the psychological wound, psybicilin can actually change the neurotransmitters in a positive way. This action results in changes in perception and altered consciousness, leading to increased optimism and better quality of life*. I was sold. And with the advice of the funghi shaman therapist (actual LinkedIn job title), I began tapering off the sertraline. Two weeks later, I swapped them over and now I write to you seven days into microdosing. Yes, this rocket has launched baby!

Perhaps me writing two articles on here for the first time in six months is coincidence, but I don’t think it is. I feel light and creative again . And so I am now ready to go into pre-production on my next short film, wish me luck.

*Always DYOR kids.



Steve Whiteley

Welcome to my mind, it’s a bumpy ride. IG @offkeysteve Website: https://www.stevewhiteley.co