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Entries in Ang Lee (1)


In which your thoughts are PROVOKED

From jeffjlin.com, a different reading of director Ang Lee's career than you might usually see:

From age 30 to 36, he’s living in an apartment in White Plains, NY trying to get something — anything — going, while his wife Jane supports the family of four (they also had two young children) on her modest salary as a microbiologist. He spends every day at home, working on scripts, raising the kids, doing the cooking. That’s a six-year span — six years! — filled with dashed hopes and disappointments. “There was nothing,” he told The New York Times. “I sent in script after script. Most were turned down. Then there would be interest, I’d rewrite, hurry up, turn it in and wait weeks and weeks, just waiting. That was the toughest time for Jane and me. She didn’t know what a film career was like and neither did I.”


Put yourself in his shoes. Imagine starting something now, this year, that you felt you were pretty good at, having won some student awards, devoting yourself to it full time…and then getting rejected over and over until 2019. That’s the middle of the term of the next President of the United States. Can you imagine working that long, not knowing if anything would come of it? Facing the inevitable “So how’s that film thing going?” question for the fifth consecutive Thanksgiving dinner; explaining for the umpteeth time this time it’s different to parents that had hoped that film study meant you wanted to be a professor of film at a university.


Of course, looking at the Ang Lee story now, who wouldn’t want to trade places: what’s six, seven, ten, even more years if you knew it would result in massive worldwide commercial and critical success? It’s common to hear “follow your bliss” or “do what you love and success follows.” Sounds great, right? Except here’s one small detail: You never get to know if it’s ever going to happen. You don’t get to choose if and in what form the success manifests; you don’t get to choose when it arrives.

Read the whole thing here!

I think about stuff like this a lot. How, once there's great success, the narrative of a person's life seems to gain this sense of inevitability. You know intellectually that Ang Lee, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, et al. worked and suffered and doubted and then worked some more, but it's difficult to imagine that they would or even could have given up.

But they could have! Of course they could have. But those aren't really the stories you hear. Those who have a dream but also debt and commitments and god forbid a family... when exactly does mortgaging your happiness today for maybe possibly a better tomorrow stop being admirable and start being selfish... if not outright destructive? One year? Two? Six? Ten? Twenty?

I think it's interesting because it's a question I sometimes struggle with. Every day is a juncture that could go either way. I could decide tomorrow that I'm not going to get up at 6:30am anymore to write. And I could invest all this time and energy into things I know will pay me and help me to build a better life. And ultimately whatever I decide to do will be my story. No one would feel the loss of whatever stories I might have published but didn't. 

Ang Lee could have been your friendly neighbor who worked in IT and made kickass home movies of his kids. That's a thousand times more likely than what did happen.

Anyway, great article.