Yet Untitled 003 - On Collaboration
Some thoughts on important relationships and what they mean
My big win of 2021🏆?
Being the collaborator I aspired to be.
Here are two texts I received at the end of a very long-drawn and difficult project last year:
Projects continued to incubate, films stayed in development, there were false starts, stuff got shelved… but I did get these messages and they left me with a deep sense of fulfilment. This may sound weird, but I often use Baz Luhrmann’s Sunscreen Song as a point of reference to life (do drop me a line if you do too…so I feel less weird). In it, he says:
“Remember compliments you received, forget the insults”.
Following Baz’s advice makes me a happier person. Hearing that I made someone’s life a little better makes me even happier. Sometimes I cannot fathom why people are reluctant to share good feedback. Sharing positive feedback is also - I feel - an aspect of good collaboration. It goes a long way and pays the good stuff forward, sending a current of affirmation into the future.
I actively think about cultivating a healthy, collaborative atmosphere as a way to do better work. Akshay, a close friend and fellow filmmaker once told me (quoting one of the dozen or so filmmaking masterclass-type books he and I used to devour every month) -
“The camera is as sensitive to what’s happening behind it as it is to what’s happening in front of it”.
I believe it. I believe better films are made when the people making them are happy.
Thinking about Collaboration got me thinking about Gaming🕹🎮…
Read on, even if gaming isn’t your thing. Gaming surprised me, and it might surprise you.
Gaming came to into our lives during the pandemic, and I don’t regret it one bit. We’ve found games with fantastic storylines and I love how good game designers succeed in making gameplay an emotional experience. Take a look at Assembe With Care - where you step into the shoes of someone who repairs precious objects for people, in turn salvaging some important aspect of their lives. It’s deliciously analogue and nostalgic in a way that transported me into another time, and into all may near-forgotten feelings associated with childhood. You can play it on your phone.
Early in Season 2, Ted Lasso said something about video games that stayed with me:
“You know, (video games are) just something in my life that I really enjoy, but then I pretend that preventing myself from having ‘em is somehow making my life better. But in reality, all I’m doing is depriving myself of something that makes me happy instead of attempting to adjust my relationship to it.”
I’m so grateful for having heard this. It allowed me to leave the door open a just a little. No regrets. And that advice about adjusting our relationship to things to get more value from them is invaluable. Thanks Ted!
The kids and I have been tripping on a PS4 game called Unravel 2. Collaboration is the very essence of this game. Even if you’re playing as a single player, you need to take control of not one but two of the cute Yarny characters and collaborate. There is no progress unless you co-operate. My daddy-feelings glow warm when I play this with A and A - I feel that the kids are learning some vital lesson about teamwork, and it makes me feel more than a tad better about screen time.
And oh, the soundtrack! There is very high level of composition work being done for games. Man, some of these scores are nothing short of cinematic, elevating the said game far beyond two dimensions. Check out the work of Austin Wintory, who scored The Pathless, yet another fantastic pandemic discovery. For me, the highlight of The Pathless is your character’s close collaboration with her totemic Eagle friend who serves as a guide, and a ride! I love how you have to occasionally comfort your eagle when it gets scared. If you don’t, it flies away leaving you vulnerable and alone. This relationship is the heart of the game, what makes it special.
My recent engagement with gaming really made me think about about what it means to write for games. Thinking about it, I find that it involves flexing an entirely different set of writerly muscles - but I’m certain that it is an exploration that would be revelatory about writing itself. Ideas have been brewing in my head for some time now. In 2019, I had visited the LA offices of Annapurna Interactive - the visionary studio behind Florence - the first game that made me very keen to explore the medium. It’s a conversation that I’m sure I’ll pick up again soon.
Even if you’re mildly curious, I recommend downloading Florence from Apple Arcade or the Google Play Store and playing it right now. It’s like stepping into a foreign film and taking control of the narrative, walking through a story about first love with the main character, deciphering her life with her as she figures it out for herself. Try it. You’ll see what I mean.
Let’s Marcus Aurelius🤴🏼on Collaboration…
In Meditations, M.A. reflects on his important relationships and shares what he values about them. Here’s me paying tribute, Marcus Aurelius style, to my current collaborations and what I appreciate about them.
From Michael, I learn that good friends must challenge one another.
From Datta, I learn that honesty is the currency of a lasting relationship.
From Neha, I learn that believing in your collaborator can lead them to do even better than what they believe about themselves.
From Sandeep P, I learn that one can also lead effectively from the back.
From Paul and Jeremy, I learn that creating a loving and nurturing environment in a collaboration is a sign of strength and maturity.
Because of Devanshu, whose never loses his constant smile even in the face of absolute disaster, I have repeatedly renewed my faith in optimism.
From Kartikeya, I learn that the work is not and should never be the only aspect of a collaboration.
From Sandeep S, I learn that being reliable brings great confidence into any collaboration and sets it up for success.
From Sita and Nick (and also from Bala) I learn that belief in what you’re doing is not only imperative but infectious. It’s the magnet that brings the right collaborators forward and the cement that holds everything together long enough for the plan to be realised.
I have many more very precious collaborations in process. I am grateful for them all.
Do you have a precious takeaway from one of your important collaborations? Tell me. I’d love to hear.
Our Collaboration 🤝
I can’t thank you enough for being here, even if it’s just to dip in and sample this newsletter. I’m learning what it means to have an audience, and this feels like a healthy way to grow one. Social media sometimes feels teleporting oneself naked onto a stage in front of a packed auditorium. This is very different. I am very happy to be talking to a very small group of listeners that is growing slowly and sustainably, seeking the most fertile ground, inch by inch. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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Ciao Ciao till next week