When faced with two choices, do you automatically think “either/or” or do you think “both”?
- Money or leisure?
- Family or success?
- Art or business?
I had the amazing privilege of attending a talk with director Ang Lee, screenwriter David Magee and TV critic Mike Hale at The Times Center. In addition to all of the juicy insights into Life of Pi, which Lee directed and Magee scripted, I was particularly struck by how much Lee talked about business considerations when he was filming. Even more interesting, Lee didn’t seem bothered by having to juggle the business with creative concerns. Many artists that I know think of marketability, revenue considerations, and other business issues as proof of selling out, of focusing less on the creative vision. That a creative icon such as Ang Lee would readily embrace both the business and art challenge reminds me that it’s not an either/ or proposition. You can be true to a creative vision and still be mindful of business concerns.
As a creative, I know that I work best when I am not pressured by immediate financial concerns, and Lee did talk about art and business issues moving in parallel, not being handled together per se. But it’s refreshing to see someone at the top of their creative game embrace the business realities that come with making art for a living. Shots were determined knowing that the camera technology was expensive and therefore limited in use. Location was selected with budget in mind. Yet, a beautiful work emerged, and Lee credited the many challenges with forcing him to stretch.
If you’re waiting for a perfect support system in place (more money, more time) to finally create your work of art, it’s not going to happen. Resource constraints are part of the process even for Ang Lee. These constraints might even make you more creative and more effective. It’s not about either pursuing business or pursuing art; you can do both in parallel. It’s not about either commercial success or creative success; you can achieve both (or neither!). Whether in business or art or life, if you feel like you’re presented with a choice, don’t assume it’s an either/ or possibility; ask yourself how you might have both!
Bonus tip: I got my VIP seats for this sold-out talk from networking connections made almost ten years ago. Networking is about building relationships over time, and the payoff can continue well into the future!