According to Bachtiar Effendi, an actor and later film director who had worked with Lie several times, Lie had worked at a film distributor's office before joining Tan's, handling the distribution and sometimes editing of Hollywood imports. The Indonesian film historian Misbach Yusa Biran credits this as giving Lie a wider worldview and more modern sensibilities while directing. In 1929 Lie directed his first film, Njai Dasima, for Tan's Film. The two-part film, which followed a woman who was tricked into leaving her wealthy lover by a delman driver, was a critical success; it was Lie's first adaptation of a literary work, having been derived from the novel Tjerita Njai Dasima (Story of Njai Dasima), written by G. Francis in 1896.
This was followed by a sequel, Nancy Bikin Pembalesan (Nancy Takes Revenge) in 1930, which followed Dasima's adult daughter Nancy in a quest to avenge her mother's death; this work was also a success. According to Biran, around this time Lie developed an interest in ethnography and began inserting documentation of cultural habits. Later that year Lie directed Si Ronda for Tan's, an action film which told of a bandit named Ronda. Lie directed another novel adaptation, the two-part Melati van Agam (Jasmine of Agam), in 1931; the original work had been written by Parada Harahap under the pen name "Swan Pen" in 1923.