Chasing Dreams v/s Happiness

This blog was originally posted on Giantbomb.com on 17 Feb 2016, and the situation since has evolved slightly. Still, my future blogs won’t make much sense without this one, so here it is – copy pasted and slightly edited:

Some Background Info

I’m a 23 year old Architecture graduate. For the past 4 – 5 years, I’ve developed an intense passion for films and film making. This passion is somewhat shared with other interests of mine – video games, music, art, and other, more vague things like nature, beauty and the magic that is felt when I’m involved in any of my interests.

Having graduated in June 2015, last week I finally got the chance to work on set in a TV show, as an unpaid intern (thanks to a friend’s uncle, who is a director on the show) I live in India, so the main location for the film industry is Mumbai. I packed my bags and left my comfortable life in Goa, (a relaxed, beautiful state famous for its beaches) and arrived at the big city scene of Mumbai on 6 Feb 2016.

The Experience

Whenever I describe my experience, it actually sounds good, fun and exciting.But what I describe is different from what I feel, so I guess you’ll just have to take my word for that.

Some of the difficulties are obviously temporary – I’m homesick, in a new place by myself, in a new job, no good friends etc. With time, these things will settle down. (This blog was written on 17 Feb so those things in fact HAVE settled down) Other things, like the work schedule and the struggle may be permanent. I’ve been working 12 hour shifts everyday for the past week. Including this Sunday (13 Feb). These guys don’t get regular holidays. Two of those shifts had been overnight – 6pm – 6am. I’m also in the expensive city of Mumbai where well earning professionals live as paying guests with 4-6 other flatmates. I’m currently living in one. They earn well and are approaching 30s, I don’t even earn. How long will I be living like this? Do I want that? Is my love for film making bigger than my love for life? That’s the question I wanna explore.

The only thing is that this is a TV show for which they need to shoot a 45 minute episode every week. They shoot half a movie in 4 days, so maybe that’s why the crazy schedule exists. Also like all Indian TV shows, it’s absolute crap. (Although I have to say Indian films – the mainstream ones – are mostly crap as well. My passion has grown by watching everything except Indian cinema. So that may turn out to be a big problem for me in many ways) So maybe my feelings for working in a film could be different. Maybe the schedules would be different? Maybe I’d feel passionate about the work and enjoy working hard? I can only find that out by doing it sometime soon.

Questions in my mind, and figuring out my priorities

I never imagined that a life of pursuing your dream and a life of happiness could actually be mutually exclusive.I was always telling people to identify their passion and put all their energy into it for a happy life. But maybe… maybe your passion doesn’t have to translate into a career specifically? Maybe that’s just pigeonholing and limiting your creativity into the confines of a system defined by it’s industry? If I love films and filmmaking, does that really mean I have to look into filling conventional roles of being a director, DOP, editor etc? Why can’t I just love it and do it for myself? I know how to make films, and with the technology today, a person can make a complete indie film by himself whenever he feels like it and share it online.

Do I really have to compromise the other important parts of life for that?

As for the other parts of life, I’ll describe how I usually like living. I value small every day things – sitting and playing a video game in the dark as it rains outside, relaxing with a cup of tea, playing pool with my friends (we did this often back in Goa and I miss it like hell), a calm lunch on the beach, listening to music while riding down the beautiful roads in Goa, painting, watching football, playing FIFA with my friends, trekking or most often – sitting by myself in my room and just browsing the freaking internet! These are some of the things that create a buzz in my head and I feel aware of being alive and being happy. I literally think to myself “ah… I’m feeling so good”. This hasn’t been happening since I’ve come here and that’s worrying. Even when I come back to my room and go to the same websites, it doesn’t give me any happiness. Maybe it’s because the shifts drain my energy, or maybe the scene is just too different to enjoy something of that sort. I did not realize that I’d have to give up most of those things and as of now, it’s not making me happy.

I met a friend yesterday (an old friend who is now in Mumbai for MBA) who told me that “you can’t change Mumbai, you have to change according to it”. The city is so fast paced and everybody’s running around to do well in their work, and you have to do the same. If your work eats into your personal life, you have to let it. That’s why you are here. Instead, I should try to enjoy what my personal life has been replaced with – for example the time spent on set. I admit, working on set is fun sometimes. To be happy here, I need to join the running around and embrace it. Forget my beautiful relaxed times where I sit and look at the stars with a cup of tea in my hand, listening to some amazing music, with some great friends around. Here, I keep my head down, work my ass off, go home only to sleep, and repeat. Would life pass me by, or would I end up creating a great work of art that gives me maximum fulfillment? (Is happiness from adjusting to a life like this worth it? To be discussed in my next post)

On the other hand, I could (eventually) go back, do a 9-5 in a small architecture office, earn regularly, do everything I love in my free time, rent a nice place and live with a friend of mine (thanks to places being affordable there, I could have my own place), learn cooking and cook often, play FIFA and pool, think about life, meditate, use the money I earn and time I’ve got to trek in the Himalayas, and later, around the world, explore, experience everything life has to offer because I have the time and money. Something that I might not have as I struggle to build a film career.

Which life would be more fulfilling? That of employed, big budget, recognized art, or art and life in my free time for myself?

Why Films

What is my love for films? I’ll try to keep this short. I love taking (and watching films with) beautiful shots. Cinematography matters a lot to me. I love it when that comes together with great soundtrack. I love stories of humanity and people, a character’s struggle, how epic and amazing the small things and big things in life can look when put against each other. I love the philosophy that can be explored with films. But most of all I really do love when everything comes together in a slice of a film – music and a great shot with heavy emotions.

One of my travelling videos that highlights the visual+music thing I like in films.

Some of my favorite films are The Intouchables, In Bruges, Memories of Murder, Nightcrawler, Into the Wild, The Last Samurai. I don’t watch films like a film student would, and I’ll probably never watch Citizen Kane a second time. I still have to watch films by masters like Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick. I’m sort of a bad film student. But what I’m in this is for the beauty. And working on set collaborating with 100s of people sucks that out for me. The logistics of it all is “the bad part” for me, but I also know that it is probably the most important part. Catering to audiences, marketing, finding producers, managing it all… I’m not looking forward to it. I just wanna get to the magic.

 I have made a lot of short films and music videos, but this video is the one that conveys my love for this medium the best. If you don’t wanna watch the whole thing, skip to 10:42. The tragedy… the beauty, the music. Oh how do you do it Assassin’s Creed! This is why I wanna make films. This is how I wanna make them.

I do a lot of things – paint, make music, photography etc just in pursuit of that magic and beauty. I’m bursting with inspiration at most times (not lately) and stuff like The Witcher and the beauty and mystery hidden within it just kills me. I’m seeking beauty and magic in this life. Indescribable magic. Film as a medium seems to hit all the right notes by involving all of those things, and therefore satisfies the most when done right. But if the experience of working on a major film sucks all the magic out, then it becomes self destroying, and I have to think about what I really want.

So What Now?

One week has taught me this. (and now it has been a month. The intricacies have slightly changed and I’m more comfortable, but the major conclusion remains the same) The only way to answer all my questions is to work, and work some more. I have nothing to lose. I do feel guilty about my parents supporting me as I try to find my feet, but if I don’t give this a try, I’ll probably regret it. I’ll work with this TV show for a month at max – I can’t take this crappy schedule and the show itself for much longer. (It’s been a month, and I plan to force through another month as I sort out my next move)

The plan is to move into working on actual films (indie, shorts, feature whatever I get) and continuously asses my experience. These couple of years are to be years of experimentation, and really valuable life experience. I’ll see how it feels to work in a bunch of different films, and draw conclusions. If it suddenly feels beautiful, I’ll carry on through the tough times for the sake of magic. If I suffer, and feel it’s not the kind of life I want, I’ll go back to Goa and get a job in a firm (which won’t be an issue) and craft the kind of life I know makes me happy. A regular, less “great”, beautiful life. But before I do that, I’ll make the film that’s inside me. A film that consists of everything that I love and want to express about magic and beauty, with whatever resources I have (dslr camera etc). It’ll be like my last film before I leave this life. And just maybe, that film will do well in festivals and I’ll decide to stick with film making, who knows! It’s a bit like tricking myself. And if it doesn’t do all that well, I’ll make films the way I want in my own free time, as I explore life and beauty. As I said, I don’t have to make films in a conventional career way and have that suck out all the fun and magic out of it, do I?

Tl;dr

Is it possible that sometimes, pursuing a dream is not the same as living a happy life? If they’re different, is it worth it to, as they say all the time, “follow your dreams”?

Hell, now that I think about it, what is my dream?