Where are you currently employed?
I work for Mass Appeal, a media and content company encompassing publishing and film, television and digital production.
Among the projects I am currently editing are a new, untitled as yet Netflix series about the globalization of hip-hop; The Youth (working title), a feature documentary, funded by the Tribeca Film Festival, about home-grown terrorism in Minneapolis; the US trailer for Kung Fu Yoga, the new Jackie Chan film; the trailer for an Amazon series called Tokyo Vampire Hotel; and a dramatic Japanese web series called Hodo Buzz.
Describe Your Job.
My job is to dance with footage and strike a pose or two in the routine; I find the best moment, rhythm, angle in the footage. Then I put my selects together and come up with a beat, a scene, a show or a film. Nothing forceful, always fluid.
How did you first become interested in this line of work?
I came to the US from my native Japan to go to the film school at the City College of New York. After my graduation and a short stint as a producer at the New York office of Fuji Television, one of Japan’s major networks, I began my career in post-production. A handful of films made me realize my interest in editing. Among them are Wong Kar-Wai’s Days of Being Wild, Godard’s Contempt, Scorsese’s Raging Bull, Kurosawa’s Rashomon, Resnais’ Hiroshima Mon Amour, Coppola’s The Conversation and others.
Who gave you your first break?
I am still waiting to get my first break. I think that editors, or artists in general, should always wait for their “first break” so they can stay hungry. Once you feel you’ve made it, you’ll stop moving forward.
What was your first union job?
In 2006, my first union job was editing The First 48, an A&E reality show about homicide detectives.
Which of your credits or projects have made you the most proud and why?
I am most proud of Newman, a recent documentary feature about a legendary American backwoods inventor, Joseph Newman. For this project, I took over another editor’s cut, came out with a completely different film and salvaged it from the obscurity it was facing. I made it all happen in just three months. After enjoying warm receptions at major festivals, the film recently premiered on Direct TV.
What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?
The biggest challenges are collaborations with passive-aggressive bureaucrat types who are narrow-minded, lacking vision or too afraid to think outside the box. And I overcome these difficulties by finding my own moment of Zen.
What was the most fun you’ve had at work?
The most fun is having collaborations with talented people who have vision and not afraid to take chances. I call them “feel thinkers.”
Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?
In the next five years, I hope to apprentice for Thelma Schoonmaker (LOL). But, seriously, if I get to edit five years from now like she does, or in my 70s like she does now, I will say I am doing my job well.
What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?
Politics. What else nowadays?
Favorite movie(s)? Why?
Wong Kar-Wai’s Days of Being Wild — Patrick Tam’s editing style is so unique and distinctive, it made me realize that editing is the thing for me.
Favorite TV program(s)? Why?
Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski’s 10-episode drama Dekalog, produced for Telewizja Polska — apart from its minimalistic and bold editing style, the series is a television milestone on every level.
Do you have an industry mentor?
I consider Mitsuo Watanabe, a well-known producer in Japan, to be my mentor. Working by his side as a producer, I learned diligence, work ethic and how to think outside the box.
What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?
Stay humble, diplomatic and open-minded. Don’t ever let uncreative and pretentious characters cloud your vision.
Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?
I rarely do but, with the help of the Guild, I scored some commercial work. The Guild helped me sort out the contract with the client.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?
In my humble opinion, unions have become more important than ever under the current, corporate-driven administration. We all should keep an eye on the developments for workers’ rights and stay involved in the Guild’s activities as much as we can in our busy schedules.
Compiled by Edward Landler
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