I lost years’ worth of work due to a hard drive crash

I originally posted this blog post on giantbomb.com on 14/06/2017

Yes I know, I should’ve had backups. And I have no one to blame but myself. There isn’t any hope left of recovering any of the work, so this is kind of a eulogy (and a way to get myself to accept reality) before I start everything again from scratch.

A few days back I took my external hard disk drive to my sister’s place to watch a movie. Stupidly enough I plugged that in to the TV directly instead of transferring it onto a pen drive as I always do. In fact, when I had the thought of transferring it onto a pen drive, a voice in my mind said, for some reason – “nah, this time we’ll try and play it directly.” And so I did. Not just that, I also plugged it into her new sound bar to play it off that when the TV didn’t recognize it.

Of course, then I tried it on a laptop and it wouldn’t recognize the drive. The “usb plugged in sound” would play and it would show up in the Device Manager, but not in My Computer. Later at home, Disk Management saw the drive but labelled it “Unknown, not initialized”. I tried it on multiple laptops with different cables but it wouldn’t show. Partition and data recovery softwares wouldn’t detect it either. There were no spinning sounds.

There was years worth of random data on it, but the important stuff I lost was my freelance work – artwork (digital paintings), photography and an indie game I had just started working on. Fortunately I hadn’t built too many levels on it yet, and with a bit of time and patience I’ll be able to rebuild that. But what I miss most is the script. It is a story driven game, so the script was full of random bits of dialogues, characters’ personalities and research on psychology. If there was one file I could recover, it would be the script. I remember the plot, but there’s no way all the details are still in my head. And there were so many tiny things, so many bursts of inspirations that I had scribbled down! There’s no way to recollect those.

The worst bit is that only two weeks back, I left my job to focus completely on my art side business and on making this game. This doesn’t change everything, but it just messed up my smooth transition from job to self employment. Unnecessary stress and hard work.

I had given the disk to a professional to check, who said that the data can’t be recovered because the platters are damaged/ scratched, probably because of a sudden disconnection (or a power surge, my guess) I just came back from meeting him, getting my now useless HDD back with me. I guess professional services could still save the data, but I can’t afford their upwards of 500-1000$ fee.

While the disk was with that guy, I spent two full days doing absolutely nothing. Playing video games, skipping meals, watching videos and generally being depressed while waiting for news from him. That feels like shit. These were the days that I was to spend immersed in my indie game work, while doing art on the side.

So this is the point where I accept reality, and start creating again from scratch. Now that I’ve written all this down, it’s time to forget the past and work for the future. Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise – that the script was getting bloated and was full of crappy stuff, and now I have a chance to forget that and create something brilliant! Or maybe not. Regardless, I don’t have a choice. It’s time to get back to work. And to backup that work.

Anyone have any similar hard disk heart break stories?

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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?

What’s Hunting Magic? An Intro

I should’ve started this blog months ago. There’s so much background I could’ve filled in, and now that my life’s taken crazy twists and turns in recent weeks, it would all have been a very rewarding read!

Well, better late than never. Time to get started.

What’s this “magic” I hunt?

There’s an indescribable feeling that, for the past 10+ years, often fills me up inside and threatens to burst. You could call it extreme happiness. I call it magic.

Magic is what you feel when you sit down with a cup of tea, listening to your favorite music (or something new and amazing) and everything seems to align at that moment. Life seems completely perfect, and you wouldn’t ask for anything more.

Magic is when you’re travelling in a bus or a train, and you happen to wake up in the morning before any of the other passengers, just in time to catch the sun cresting over the landscape. The land outside is still shrouded in that beauty of the dark night, but with every passing moment the color of the sky begins to change. It’s foggy and cold as hell, you snuggle up tightly in your blanket, before realizing the beauty is too good to pass. Having been in this situation, I couldn’t resist the urge of whipping out my camera, opening the window wide open and sticking out my head and torso out of the window into the freezing, fresh morning air. I put on some music and clicked away, enjoying that special moment all to myself. After a while though, people began to wake up (partly due to me opening the window) and joined me in enjoying the view.

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And then a friend clicked a picture of me

Magic is when you’re suddenly highly aware of being alive, and you begin to marvel at it all. This, for me, is most often triggered and supported by art – music, film, video games, paintings etc.

I guess magic is beauty. And beauty is subjective and as they say, lies in the eyes of the beholder. But there are still some common things that manage to evoke an emotional response from most of us – Nature, music, art, interactions with loved ones… moments that make us feel happy to be alive.

But apart from that, moments of magic and beauty are often triggered by the mysterious and beautiful. Think of the universe. Of existence. Listen to some great atmospheric music (I prefer Coldplay or film soundtracks, some might like Pink Floyd, whatever you like), turn the lights down, watch some great (computer generated perhaps) footage of the universe, the kind you might see in the TV show Cosmos, and let your head float. Some people would call this experience “trippy”, call it whatever you like, but that’s the kind of feeling I’m talking about.

Often this feeling is triggered by video games. Walking around in the woods in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, as the sky turns dark and it begins to rain used to be a great feeling. Nowadays I often spend a lazy afternoon playing GTA V, driving a nice car down the open highway, again, playing some great music. Watching as the day turns to night, the lights turn on around the city, buildings light up the horizon, and people in the game come out to have a good time. And I just keep on riding past it all, playing great music, a passing observer , and it makes me wonder where the line that distinguishes the real and virtual worlds has disappeared off to, and whether it really even exists. I mean, isn’t our life and existence a kind of a virtual simulation as well? What makes a video game less real than our own life?

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A scene from Into the Wild. He probably knows what I’m talking about.

There is so so so much to talk about this feeling, and there is so much I haven’t touched upon. But I just needed to start, and here it is, a bit of an introduction to this blog. Through my life I aim to catch and understand this elusive, fleeting feeling of overwhelming beauty. Maybe I can keep  a record of that through this blog, and bring you along on this journey!

I’ll talk about how it all started in the next blog, and fill in all the details about who I am, and what my current situation is. Thanks for reading!