Ang Lee: Discipline of a Film-Maker

To many the process of making a film is a mystery and to those, of course, who pay attention to films and are aficionados of cinema and willing to contribute either as a screenwriter, cinematographer, composer, and film-maker or in any other field respectively comprehends the mystery of film-making. A screenwriter’s vision is presented in words on paper and such vision is to be shared with a film-maker. Then from a film-maker the same vision is going to be discussed with a cinematographer and then finally the vision in question is shared with the composer. One of the key elements of film-making is collaboration. A film-maker, in my opinion, must understand the notion of the process; he or she first must be passionate not only about the story that is going to be turned into a motion picture, but passionate about the challenges of making a film.

Director Ang Lee, who is one of today’s greatest contemporary film-makers, understands the process of making a film. I say this only to set Mr. Ang Lee’s passion as an example; my goal is to bring the spotlight on the process of making films by passionate and dedicated film-makers. I find it at times quite astonishing and many, I am sure are flabbergasted that with the presence of contemporary technology, some film-makers does not adore the idea of being passionate artists. Mr. Lee’s credit includes titles such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000); Brokeback Mountain (2005), which earned Mr. Lee an Oscar statue for Best Achievement in Directing. Mr. Lee’s journey as a passionate auteur was recently divulged in an article, Adrift With a Tiger and the Film God by The New York Times, in which, he shares with us what it takes to be a film-maker. So, through the eyes of Mr. Lee, we should see what all innovative film-makers go through. There is a sense of discipline on the set of an innovative film-maker; Mr. Lee shares what kind of mindset a film-maker should have in order to complete the journey of making a film. The budget, in my opinion, must not be mentioned as an excuse that, “my film has a small budget and therefore its plot is weak.” If Christopher Nolan would set the budget of Memento (2000) as an excuse and wouldn’t focus on the structure of the plot, Memento, today, not only in my book, but in everyone’s book would never be mentioned. Mr. Lee’s new film Life of Pi, which is based on the award-winning, authentic novel by Yann Martel, tells the story of a boy and a Bengal tiger segregated on a boat for 227 days in the sea.

I’m like Pi,” Mr. Lee explained. “I feel adrift over the Pacific. I haven’t locked the picture yet. There are lots of confusions, constant surprises. There are times you feel defeated. You feel like your faith is being tested. When you’re on the ocean, it’s spiritual. I look at God and ask, ‘Why?’ But it’s a happy why.”

As a film-maker, if you, I believe go out and do the good work, the goodness of the work itself is perilous and at times far more incalculable. Even to the best film-makers this process becomes an arduous task and at times to them, I am sure it becomes absurd. But, film-makers like Mr. Lee venerate such paradoxical process, for to them it’s more than just making a film. Film-making like screenwriting, and I am saying this, for as a screenwriter there is a sense of spirituality in writing and telling a story. Mr. Lee’s actor, Irrfan, who plays the older Pi, describes that film-making for Mr. Lee is almost a spiritual process. It is a quest, a journey, an exploration.  He added, “Ang puts himself in the line of fire.”

Some may wonder why the term “mystery” is often used when it comes to making a film. To the individuals outside the world of cinema is easy to state that to them film-making is obviously a mysterious process, but why such notion for such process? – I say it is because of the creativity, for the process of film-making is a creativity of a film-maker. Just as you and I describe the process, a film-maker is also in the process of describing to us its mysteries. Film-makers learn from the very paradoxical process of making a film. You have to be disciplined both physically and mentally in order to approach your work. Film-makers like Mr. Lee, Spielberg, Nolan, Shyamalan, Cameron, Peter Jackson, Ridley Scott, this list can go on, dare to take risks and I believe it is quite essential to take risks. Otherwise who would? – They believe that their intrinsic creativity as film-makers has the opportunity. Therefore, we see the result of a film-maker’s discipline.

Life of Pi opens on November 21st, 2012


Author I Rohan Mohmand I Founder & Editor in Chief I He’s a film enthusiast, screenwriter and a news reporter at He’s also the co-founder of, who writes a column on film at