Remembering Editor Jim Lyons


I was fortunate to have met Jim a few years ago, when he joined Manhattan Edit Workshop’s Six Week class as Artist in Residence.  Over the months that followed, I was treated to his truly unique perspective on creating art.  As we screened his films, from Poison to Velvet Goldmine to the Virgin Suicides, he shared the joys and struggles, the inspiration and the intricacies of his work.  His viewpoint and candor were always refreshing, and his commitment to process had a devilish enthusiasm.  Whether screening an ancient 16mm copy of Jean Jenet’s, Un Chant d'Amour or deconstructing Roland Barthes essay on Greta Garbo’s face, his methods were curious and his curiosity endless. I hope to share some of Jim’s insight through the lectures he gave at the Motion Picture Editors Guild. Though only a fraction of the man in person, Jim’s take on the craft of editing is full of vitality, humor and honesty. With the belief that anything you do can be elevated to an art form, Jim’s life was his art, both in the way he lived it and how fully he shared from it.  In cutting all the recordings we've made over the past couple years, I found in Jim Lyons' voice something extremely valuable for film students. 

Listen to him speak not only for the articulate insights he'd gained from the field, nor only for his impressive familiarity with film and cultural theorists.  The most enjoyable and touching part of these lectures is hearing the voice of someone so profoundly at peace with his intuitions. This is a hugely enviable position for all aspiring artists, so often wracked with indecision, occasionally paralyzed, eager for advice but wary of committing mimicry.  Lyons was so comfortable with words like "beauty," "art," "soul" and put them to such sincere and noble use--words which would embarrass those of purely technical training. Yet any bum-rushing aesthete should perhaps be reminded that Mr. Lyons was also gainfully employed, and ever mindful of the practical, the functional, in his craft.  Do not expect to be told from these lectures how to be that good, but do enjoy the evidence that It can be done.  Beyond solace, you should let this voice into your own creative process, paying attention to the patience and a calm behind all his thoughts, which approaches what I can only call creative kindness. Something so ineffable could hardly be billed in a course curriculum or even discussed explicitly without becoming abused, but I have always found it to be there at the foundation of everything I have ever learned. Hopefully you will, too.