Hope for Film: Lessons from Ang Lee’s Career


Ted and Vanessa Hope, Michael Barker and others discuss Ang Lee’s career, among other topics, at Ebertfest. (Photo by Thompson McClellan/courtesy Ebertfest)

[Editor’s note: If we could redesign the film industry into the best possible system for the artists, the audience and the business, what would it look like? Starting today, Fandor CEO Ted Hope leads that very conversation, partnering with Reinventors and gathering influencers together for a six-part interactive web series called Reinvent Hollywood. In a separate-but-related effort, Keyframe presents four videos of Hope at this past year’s Roger Ebert Film Festival, on urgent issues facing the independent film industry.]

This is the second of a four-part series of video highlights from “The State and Future of Independent Film,” a special panel held at last month’s Roger Ebert Film Festival. In this excerpt from the panel, Fandor CEO and film producer Ted Hope and Sony Pictures Classics Co-President Michael Barker reflect on the singular career of two-time Oscar winning director Ang Lee.

Hope and Barker both played major roles in helping Lee make his rule-breaking ascension in the ranks of independent and international filmmaking over the 1990s. Hope produced five of Lee’s features, including his first three films, Pushing Hands (1992), The Wedding Banquet (1993) and Eat Drink Man Woman (1994). This trilogy made history as the first U.S.-Taiwan international co-productions to enjoy unprecedented box office success in both countries, the latter two earning the first Oscar nominations for Taiwanese cinema.


‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’

As the decade progressed, Lee’s projects grew in size and ambition, culminating in his blockbuster sensation Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000), which Barker helped distribute through Sony Pictures Classics. As Hope mentions in conversation with Barker, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s success signified the end of an era for independent film as he had understood it. He also shares key lessons he learned in developing a strategic approach to niche filmmaking and indie distribution by working with Ang Lee, a filmmaker whose success in many ways defied convention.

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