Where does the time go?

Lately I find myself asking: where has the day gone?

It's not a trivial question. I'm currently in between projects (fancy way of saying: unemployed). Therefore, it stands to reason that during the day, when the kids are at school, I am free of interruptions and therefore should be incredibly productive. And yet, it's been a few months, and I'm barely further along in my personal goals than when I started.


So what gives? Are mischievous house spirits stealing all my free time? Is there an undiscovered black hole that disrupts the spacetime continuum every time I sit at my computer? I decided to pick a day and see what happens.

It started off well enough: I got an email from the Visual Effects Society (VES) inviting me to apply to an awards judge panel. (I've done one before, and it's pretty fun. You go to a screening complex, work your way through a backlog of submissions, and decide which ones merit being passed on to the final panel of judges. Along the way, you meet new industry colleagues and get to see projects that would otherwise never see the light of day -- or at least the glow of commercial screentime.) And since I'm not busy, I figure, why not? It's a chance to give back to the VFX community.

I find my login and go to fill out the application form. Seems straightforward: basic personal info, professional website, and IMDB profile to establish that I have the necessary credentials to judge other people's work. I go to my website and suddenly realize: it's still pointing to my old demo reel from 2015. Oh no.

That's fine, I say. Earlier this year, I spent a chunk of my vacation making an updated demo reel. Maybe I even have the latest website files. I go upstairs, turn on my laptop, look on my external data drive... nada. Nothing. The drive isn't even recognized. I plug it into another USB port, I reboot my laptop, restart my explorer... still nothing. 

Now I'm getting irritated. I take the drive and bring it downstairs to my workstation. Nope. Unrecognized drive.

This is problematic. I've been using that drive to do most of my data backups. I recall accidentally knocking it off the edge of the desk. Looks like it legitimately got damaged. But hey, maybe I don't have to do this by myself. Geek Squad is known for good IT services. I look up BestBuy's rates... holy guacamole. $599 for a Tier 2 recovery service. It's cheaper to buy a new hard drive every year and manually duplicate all your data. (And we wonder why humanity is depleting resources at an unsustainable rate?) 

Surely I owe it to myself to at least exhaust some simpler options. I go online and google how to recover data from an unrecognized drive. Dozens upon dozens of companies pop up, all claiming that their software is 99.8% effective at recovering your lost data, and hey, if you don't believe us, just try the trial version and see for yourself! But I've been through that gauntlet before. Trial versions install the software, take you part of the way, and then leave you hanging with nothing useful to show, or with only a couple GB of recovered data -- which isn't going to help me. Worse yet, they might mangle the drive in the process, and then I really WILL be up the proverbial creek with no paddle. I'm certain that somewhere out there, in the sea of recommended products, there are genuinely good solutions, but reading reliable reviews to find them is going to take forever! 

Hang on a second. This is clearly an issue for another day. All I need to do in this moment is to update the embed link on my website's front page. I go to my OTHER data hard drive -- what, did you think I only keep one backup? -- and, fortunately, find all of my website code is still there and readily accessible. I pull up an HTML editor, swap the line of code I need, log into my website FTP manager, upload the new file, and check. New website is now live, with my latest and greatest demo reel.


I return to the application form. Miraculously, it has not yet timed out. Next up, it wants the link to my IMDB profile (that's the movie database that keeps track of professional credits, and not just for the actors, although that's probably 99% of what anybody ever uses it for). I copy and paste the link -- thank goodness I have it handy -- and go to check how up to date it is.

Looking at my history, it makes it seem like I haven't done anything over the last several years. And who, pray tell, has time to update their IMDB profile when you're actively working? I decide to add two of my most recent cinematic trailers that I did at Blur Studio. I find the trailers on Youtube quickly enough: Blur trailers are wildly popular. I enter the project name and my role, and submit the request to the database.

Uh-ohs. The second project can't be found online. But that's the one I supervised; I definitely want it visible on my profile. IMDB suggests I can try adding a new title, so I click on the link. How hard can it be? Apparently... very hard. I have to fill out a lengthy questionnaire to ensure that I'm not just randomly making up movie credits for myself. When and in what country was it released? USA, I suppose, 2022. Can you prove that it's real? Sure, here's the Youtube link. Who was the director and the producer? Now it's getting dicey. Blur Studio made the trailer, but we were a subcontractor for Bethesda, which made the game. So which one do I put? And how do I prove my claims to ownership? Even though quality cinematic trailers often take just as much effort as feature movies (and I worked in both -- I compared!), they go entirely uncredited. All of those raving fanboys leaving comments like "OMG this is the best THING EVA you should make this a full length movie it is SO GOOD" have no idea -- and no way of knowing -- who was actually responsible for the final product, or how many of said artists are currently unemployed because of the strikes. (And while we the hard-working artists are encouraged to enjoy community support, we're contractually not allowed to claim credit on public forums, or even imply that the big-name game studio that posted the trailer wasn't actually the one that hand-crafted it.)

Writer's strike meme

Okay, so this is clearly turning out to be a huge bother. Searching the database one more time, I bite the bullet and simply pretend that I worked on the game itself (which is already listed), not the game trailer (which is... not). Who knows, it might fly under the same category. Just to be safe, I link my former producer as a reference in case they need to confirm my responsibilities. For now, let's pretend that it works -- and if it doesn't, I'll cross that bridge later. Now I can finally go back to the application form, answer a few final questions, and press "Submit".

So there you have it. The story of how answering ONE EMAIL snowballed into a multi-hour stressfest that left me utterly exhausted and frustrated. I still have to check my IMDB profile in a few days to see if the credits went through, AND I still have a busted SSD hard drive with data I need to recover.

But those are challenges for another day.