James P. M. Lee is a New York-based video editor with more than 10 years of experience in the commercial film world. After graduating from the School of Visual Arts film program, James worked as a filmographer and editor for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. He has worked on campaigns for Adidas, Mercedes-Benz, IBM, ESPN, Samsung, and countless more.
Whether at the ArtClass offices or in his home in Bushwick, James can be found hiding behind giant monitors with his 23-pound red-haired golden-doodle, Luna, on his lap. Here, he reveals his three favourite ever edits.
All that Jazz (1979)
Long before Requiem for a Dream or even Goodfellas, the drug-addled manic flurry-cut sequence was born. This was one of the first films I remember seeing that made me consider the editor. I don't think the editing was showy but it was easy to recognize there was something more than just wide shot, medium, reverse, close-up, reverse close-up going on. The edit felt like it was breathing along with the main character, Joe Gideon. It moves with the dancers, picks up for the chain-smoking and drug benders, and slows back down when you have to go back to work the next morning.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
The main goal of most individual edits you make is to not have them be noticed. This film is a master class of you not seeing the deliberate and painstaking effort that must have gone into each and every one of them. It guides you into the story, meticulously showing you what Agent Starling is noticing that others aren't. The edit builds a rapport with the audience and is unnoticed in the most skillful and calculated way. Then, after the film has earned your trust, it tricks you. We see the FBI getting ready for their raid while Buffalo Bill's doorbell is ringing. The edit intentionally betrays the trust they worked the whole film building. You gasp when he answers the door and you see Agent Starling, standing by herself in the doorway of a killer. The edit tells you you are somewhere you are not, setting you up to be disoriented and alone with Clarice in that dark basement.
There Will Be Blood (2007)
This is my favourite film but not one that you might think of right away when discussing editing. A synonym for editing is cutting. That's what editors do, right? Chop up some film into a movie, right? There Will Be Blood shows the importance of knowing when not to cut. Long takes, slow dissolves hold on the reaction while the character offscreen is talking. Often fancy editing technique is employed to hide the inadequacies of a film. A good editor can save or salvage what was shot when needed but the best editors can get out of the way of a well-made film.
James P. M. Lee is a New York-based video editor repped by ArtClass