Ang Lee Gives Advice to Young Filmmakers; Asks Chinese Film Industry to be Patient

By J. Javelosa

World-renowned American Taiwanese-born director Ang Lee addressed a group of people at a recently held themed forum, where he advised young filmmakers to take the time to hone their skills.

The director was in Shanghai on Monday for the annual Shanghai International Film Festival and discussed some of the “things still to be done before the Chinese box office revenue surpasses the United States.”

Lee stressed the importance of young filmmakers taking the time to grow so they can come up with high-quality films in the future and draw inspiration from their real-life experiences.

He also discussed his struggles and experiences as a once aspiring filmmaker. “I’m a late bloomer; my career only started to come off when I was 36. But if you want to make something that is mature, touches people’s hearts and can stand on its own, you should make it with natural power. It takes time to mature, don’t try to seek quick success and quick money,” he said.

The Chinese film industry has been raking in so much money that it now actually has the potential to overtake the American film industry in two years. However, Lee, who has won several Academy Awards for his movies such as Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Life of Pi, reminded the attendees listening to his talk about two things that can negatively impact China’s rapidly growing film industry.

The first one, he said, is quickly making significant amounts of money by producing films with similar themes. “Audiences always hope for innovation and fresh ideas. It is really hard to attract people to the theaters as we have so much to see and to do with other things such as the internet. If they are tired of the same kind of films we make over and over again, we will eventually suffer the consequences,” he explained.

The second thing is blindly scrambling for big-name celebrities. If the current status of the industry continues, then the market, as he explained, will eventually come up with certain requirements for the stars they want to see in the films. He reminded his listeners that it is not about getting the most bankable celebrity. “A situation will arise that no matter how good or bad a film is, it will be passable as long as its stars deliver,” he said.

In relation to this, he explained that filmmakers should not spend so much money in an attempt to get the biggest stars. Because if this happens, “the production and set designs for a film may not be made well enough as a result of lacking funds.”

He informed the attendees that these were the two things that dampened the growth of Hong Kong and Taiwan’s film industry. Thus, he said that China should learn from their experiences and have the patience to let the Chinese film industry grow organically.

Because of China’s population, it is possible to surpass the United States film industry in terms of box office sales and figures, but what makes the American film industry extremely strong is their cultural strength and how their pop culture reaches the whole world, Lee explained.

“I don’t think that box office revenues surpassing the U.S. really means that China surpasses it at all.  America is powerful for its influence on global pop culture,” he said. He advised Chinese filmmakers to not only compete with America in numbers.

Doing so will overshadow Chinese characteristics in films, and Lee said that for a country with an extremely great culture and colorful history, it’s important to treat films as a cultural work. “Please have patience,” he added.

Lee’s next film is Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. Shot at 120 fps, it is the film with the highest frame rate to date. It is slated for release on Nov. 11, 2016.

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