At Work With… James K. Crouch, Film Editor
The ‘At Work With…’ Interview Series is our way of bringing you behind-the-scenes with the names and businesses included in our Texas Production Directory (TPD). We want to showcase the creatives that cover all levels of production experience, backgrounds, and geographies around the state.
This week’s spotlight is on James K. Crouch, Film Editor based in Austin, and a life-long Texan.
What’s the most memorable experience on a project or production that you’ve had and what made it so special?
I think the most memorable work I've done in my career has actually been on my most recent two projects: 12 Mighty Orphans and The Blazing World. In March, we were in the middle of editing 12 Mighty Orphans when the city of Austin shut down. It had already been one of the most challenging films in my career because of the complexity of the edit, and continuing the work under strict lockdown didn’t help. Having to work remotely with the director, Ty Roberts, really slowed down our progress since we couldn’t be in the same room anymore. Luckily, we were determined to make it work, and the film will be out soon.
The Blazing World was shot in July under strict COVID-19 protocols. The cast and crew quarantined together in Dripping Springs, TX to shoot the film while I edited at home. Once the director, Carlson Young, joined me, we were able to lock picture in only 8 weeks. It will have its world premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival (Jan. 31, 2021).
What are the skills required to succeed in your specific area of expertise?
Being comfortable with and well-versed in collaboration is crucial. You need the ability to adapt to your project and fellow collaborators, while still maintaining your own creativity. Every project is different — it's not always about flashy editing or doing what an individual contributor (including you) thinks is best. The focus should be on what serves the story best and how to bring the director's vision onto the screen.
Have you had an industry mentor or colleague that has made an impact on you or helped you along your career path? If so who, and how did they impact you?
I was lucky enough to have Andrew Shapter as my mentor. He was the first director to give me a shot in the industry, and he helped me quickly move up from assistant editor to editor. We worked on lots of different projects together and became very close friends. He tragically passed away last year from cancer during our final project together, Porvenir, Texas. Fortunately our Executive Producer, Hector Galan stepped in to help finish the edit with me. It premiered on PBS in October 2019, and I received a Lone Star EMMY for editing.
In your industry, collaboration is the key to success. How do you best foster collaboration with your colleagues from project to project?
The director-editor relationship is sacred. You’ve got to be loyal to your director over anyone else. Being rehired again and again is probably about 50% skill, 50% people skills. No one wants to work with a grump in a small room for 10 hours a day, so you’ve got to be personable and open to criticism.
What's the best part about working in Texas?
The best part of working in Texas is being close to my family. I was born and raised here, and I'm only a car ride away from everyone. I also love how everyone in the film community knows each other and is willing to help.
Interview has been edited for brevity.
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