An Afternoon With Ang Lee

Ang LeeA few months ago, the husband invited me to join him at a talk being given by film legend Ang Lee. Sponsored by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, this event invited members of our local film industry to watch ‘Life of Pi‘ (even more awesome the second time around) and hear from the director himself.

Lee’s story has always inspired Carl. His rise to the top wasn’t without its struggles and I especially love how his wife stood by him and financially supported their family to make sure he never gave up on his movie making dreams. That’s as real as it gets in Hollywood.

Here are a few quotes (and paraphrases) from this afternoon that stuck with me:

“Know your craft to either adapt, negotiate, or make a difference.”

“Not every story has to have a Disney ending.” (He mentioned how so many American film execs wanted the tiger to turn back at the end of ‘Life of Pi’)

“I’m a drifter. I see the subtext right away. When I’m an outsider, I have to diligently adapt… I grew up in Taiwan, what do I have in common with gay cowboys in Wyoming? But I read the story and I cried.” (In answer to how he is able to make films about lives so different from his own like Brokeback Mountain.)

“Being an outsider means that I’m careful to be accurate about the environment.”

“I love to work with people and get inspired by them. I don’t want to be an outsider that imposes my way of thinking.”

“At the end of the day, a movie is inspiration. It’s not a statement.”

“I can never make a movie as good as the way people imagine. You have to invite audiences to project themselves and their fantasies into the film.”

“Being an outsider puts you in a scary place. You tend to do your best when you’re scared.”

“I think hardly anybody has a cultural root anymore. Most people are made up of different elements in life. I’d like to think a more civilized way of living is to accept these differences in us.”

“In the beginning, I didn’t really know how to talk about the movies I made. Then you begin to talk about it thousands of times and you begin to believe what you’re saying. When I talk about it, it’s over for me… I look for the next mystery.”

“I look to be inspired by the book but put it aside. The book is the blueprint, it’s the beginning of the journey and not the end. I refuse to be a translator to the book. Sometimes I get along with the writer and sometimes I don’t. I just say, ‘It’s your book and it’s my movie. See you at the premier.'”

“My wife will kick me out of the house. She will not tolerate me not making films. As long as I have the stamina to make movies, I will.”

“I feel like I’m a slave, not a master of filmmaking. When a movie wants to be made I get possessed. For young filmmakers, unless you feel that way, you shouldn’t make movies.”

“If I understand it, I probably won’t make it. We filmmakers have the privilege to play with magic.”