On a day around this time of year many years ago, I was at an event for my high school. Picture lots of green grass, 300 teenagers and sunshine. I was chatting with friends, when I saw that my teacher’s Australian Shepherd, Kylie, escaped and got off her leash. I knew this dog’s manic energy, so I made no attempt to help catch her, instead I watched. She whipped through the clusters of teens. What appeared to be pent up energy and aimless sprinting began to reveal a pattern of concentric circles. It’d been a minute since I’d seen Chris Noonan’s classic “Babe,” but “Could Kylie be trying to herd us?” I thought to myself. “Could this suburban dog be attempting to work? To try the career encoded into the DNA of her breed? Is this a thing?” Well, I’ve been thinking about Kylie and her circles a lot recently. Amidst all of this change and uncertainty, I’ve had time to think about her working instincts and examine mine as well. 


At Spot Creative, I’m a Production Manager on set. I make sure filming goes smoothly, manage logistics, and boost morale. A detailed shoot schedule starting at 7:00 AM with just the right amount of wiggle room? Part of my balanced breakfast. A piece of equipment malfunctioned? My snack of choice. Our location contact is late? Bon Appetit! My Contingency planning has become a bit of a hobby for me and organizing information for others to consume is a great joy of my life. I communicate with a lot of people in a lot of different departments. I get to touch every moving part of the day. Production Management and my fastidiousness go together like dill and pickles, mango and salsa, garlic and mayonnaise. Without a production to manage, you could say that I’m a bit of a Sheepdog without sheep, running in circles.


So where is the sheepdog spending her quarantine? I am by the sea in Gloucester, Massachusetts with my family of four. I have a father, a mother, a brother, and a dog. How have they embraced my scrupulous nature? It’s been a story of accommodation on all sides. Can I treat my household like a set? No. Do I find myself doing that anyways? Yes. Do I get stuck in the precise nature that makes me a good production manager? Yes. 


But, as I’ve learned, my father does not need to stick to a schedule. He’s retired. He can wait to use the one yoga mat in the house. My mother’s cooking does not need to be overseen, because it’s food and no one has allergies. It’ll be fine. My brother does not clean the cast iron skillet ever, but he’s the only one that uses it. My family can sense my tension when I feel something small may be going awry, and they just laugh. “Oh Isabel” is my mother’s new go-to consolatory phrase. 


My attempts to schedule my day and those of my family members are met with changing whims and activities. Initially, I struggled. I need to eat by 8:00 PM! And who‘s going to walk the dog? But with laughter, I ask  “why the discomfort Izzy?” Why? It’s not my family causing this agita, it’s my psyche indulging in it! I’m learning I need to manage my own expectations, my own outlook. I’m beginning to understand how I exist in relation to others. The fog lifts as I let go, more and more over time. The agita evaporates; the tension slackens.


Have I ever thought about my role as Production Manager in relation to others? Yes, in the sense that if I was good at my job people would want to work with me again, but I never thought beyond that. As I mentioned earlier, I work with every department, but I am ashamed to say that I often viewed them as working for me. Yes, I’m a team player and I have a positive attitude, but working with someone is very different than working for them. 


I can do better to acknowledge my limits as a Production Manager. The line between helpful guidance and micromanaging is not nearly as fine as I thought. I can trust more. I can let more non-important things go. My helpful chimes do not count as teamwork. Overseeing the packing of the equipment van does not count as collaborative work. Triple checking the work of different departments can be reduced to double. I am not responsible for the bad mood of the director of photography, though I can attempt to brighten it.


My revelations may only relate to Kylie, the Australian Sheepdog, tangentially, but her instincts allow her to see work where there isn’t any. To Kylie, we’re all just a herd in need of help. However my crew members are not a bunch of lost sheep; I do not need to run circles around them. Seeing Kylie’s relentlessness has allowed me to examine my own. Managing myself has become paramount to managing others. It may not be an easy path ahead, but I’m confident it will be a fruitful one. 


Izzy Connolly, Production Manager