“You become the film you’re making,” director Ang Lee told Mill Valley Film Fest’s Mark Fishkin and the audience that had just watched his latest work, “Life of Pi,” on closing night of the fest. Describing himself as “just as exhausted as Pi,” the castaway at the center of the pic, Lee went on to recount the challenges of the multinational production. Fox 2000’s Elizabeth Gabler noted, “Thousands of people around the world worked on this film.”

Picking up from that description, the helmer was presented with Variety’s inaugural Intl. Filmmaker of the Year award, presented by the paper’s exec editor, Steven Gaydos, who added, “This is clearly a work that is truly international in intent and scope by one of the world’s great filmmakers.”

Lee, referring to the film’s theme of faith through hardship, detailed the 3D film’s enormous logistical challenges, “including the big three that frighten all filmmakers: children, animals and water. But I prayed to the movie god and I think sometimes it worked.”

Also on hand for Monday’s festivities were Jim Gianopulos, Brad Bird, Henry Selick, Lynn Hale and vfx legend Dennis Muren.