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Reflection on 2012, and Onto 2013…

When I began James Lee Films in the middle of 2012, I actually did not have an established business plan for the company; all I knew was that I had found my passion and was yearning to pursue it freely. I was naive, and excitingly so, about owning a creative business – and balancing the creativity and the business of it. I was shy (and still am a bit), but the nature of this business pulled me out of my shell and challenged me to build genuine relationships with people who otherwise would be complete strangers to me. The responsibility of owning a business also pushed me to think deeper on my responsibilities in other aspects of my life (family/home, school, church, etc.). Now, as I come close to finishing up the last edit of our 2012 couples, I look back to where I started and realize I have come a very long way. After so many lessons and joys, so many tears and much laughter, I’m excited to share with you all that we are booking many new awesome couples for 2013 and receiving inquiries for 2014 as well. Where I stand now is truly an exciting place, and before I begin running with 2013 and beyond, today I wanted to share with you the precious lessons I had learned in 2012…

1) It takes Passion – When I sat down during the reception of the first wedding I shot (Kirim and David’s), I remember feeling every muscle in my body aching and my stomach growling angrily at its human that was rejecting its signals because of hours and hours of in-taking adrenaline. I realize I could have thought at that moment: ‘This sucks.’ But instead, I remember thinking: ‘This is awesome.’ The opportunity to be at a key moment of someone’s life and being entrusted with the task of capturing that day to keep forever – and be given only one shot at it – somehow was exhilarating to me. It gave me a stress that did not break me, but made me. It was because I had a genuine and bursting passion for wedding filmmaking that I was able to push myself further and further.

2) It takes Wisdom – In a short period of time, I began to realize while I established James Lee Films as an outlet to my creativity, James Lee Films was becoming a beast that could potentially take over my life. Thus one of the most important lessons I learned this first year was that I needed to find balance in my work – and it’s a lesson I need to remind myself almost daily. At first I was asking questions such as: “What do I say when I first meet with couples?” or “How should I start my feature film?” or “What’s the most cost-effective way to do XYZ?” – but later I begin asking: “What does it mean to spend time with my wife this evening rather than update my blog?” It took wisdom to begin asking these questions and seeking balance in my life.

3) It takes Humility – One of the key statements I heard from all top wedding cinematography professionals is to always be open to learning, as the industry is constantly changing. The top this year may not be so the next if they were to become complacent and refuse change. To always seek education meant to remain humble and willing to learn. In 2012, I have had some incredible education opportunities, including stillmotion’s KNOW, which came to UniquePhoto in Fairfield, NJ. It was perhaps one of the greatest $250 I’ve spent, as my mind was blown in so many ways and I left from there to go on and make fresh films with deeper stories. I also indulged in creativeLIVE, and went on to purchase the intensive seminars on wedding filmmaking by Rob Adams. Again, worth every penny. I purpose to always remain humble and seek to learn from others, because it is only then, I believe, I can continue to make innovative and lasting films.

4) It takes Faith – Even after all of these things, there are so many intricate details that I can in no way manage or control. When equipment fails and/or is damaged on the day; when figuring out taxes gets overwhelming; when edits pile up and at first I can’t see the end… in all of this I learned to accept that I cannot control everything, and especially in those areas I can’t, I take a deep breath and let God. I’m not saying I’m perfect, but scripture reminds me to be honest and transparent with my couples, to do business law-abidingly and respectfully, and to uphold a good name. And God works in great ways in bringing me peace through the frequent storms.

I feel so blessed and humbled that every day I can wake up and create films. Thank you couples and clients of 2012 for trusting in me to capture your day, and for allowing me to witness the joy it brought in your life. I hope to share even more joy with all of you in 2013 and beyond.

Photographer: Scott Tsai. (

Mavil & Cirilo: Renewal of Vows

Mavil & Cirilo’s Renewal of Vows
Highlights Film
Joe Moralez – “Love Will Be Enough”
Licensed by TheMusicBed
1988 Footage by Reflecta Video

Director/DP/Editor – James Lee
Cinematographer – Julie Selnekovic-Lee

When I first met with Cirilo, simply out of curiosity I asked what compelled them to celebrate their 25th Anniversary in this manner. He replied, “Being together with someone for 25 years is a milestone. We want to celebrate it with the people we love and renew the vows we made 25 years ago.” Many of you know I am a recently married man, and for awhile I’ve been imagining what our lives would be like five, ten, twenty years from now. When I heard Cirilo’s words and saw Mavil and Cirilo renew their vows at Our Lady of Peace Church in Edison, NJ before many, let’s just say I found a new role model couple. After so many years they still looked at each other with loving eyes and spoke dearly. The reception was held at Spain Inn in Piscataway, NJ. Mavil and Cirilo’s daughter Camille played “At Last” as their first dance song, and their best man and first son Carlo made a toast to “25 more years.” This wedding was shot with a crew of two, me and my wife/talented cinematographer/partner-in-crime-for-life Julie. Special thanks to photographer JR Pena for being a joy to work with as always.

What also made the editing of this film special was that Mavil and Cirilo had a wedding video from their wedding in 1988 on a old VHS. Originally the VHS was broken, but with the help of a local video specialist I was able to fix it and get it transferred digitally. When I saw the recovered video, I realized that I just dug up a treasure. Reflecta Video from Cebu, Philippines (Yes, they’re still around!) did a wonderful job capturing the day, and seeing Mavil’s father crying and hearing them share their vows from 25 years ago were stark reminders of how priceless my job as a wedding cinematographer is.

What it would be like to show your own wedding film to your children/friends/family many years from now?

Saying “I Do” Unplugged

From Krista Photography (

Think of the last wedding you attended. Perhaps it was of a distant relative’s, a friend’s, or a close family member’s. If were to ask you the question, “How do you remember it?” would you:a) Reach for your camera/laptop, or b) Begin telling your story from your own memory?

Then ask yourself, how do YOU want your family and friends to remember YOUR wedding day? From their own memory or through a viewfinder?

Enter, the “unplugged” wedding. In an unplugged wedding, couples politely ask their guests to turn off all electronic devices, including point-and-shoot cameras, cellphones and tablets, throughout their wedding ceremony. Granted, an unplugged wedding is not for everyone. You may be thinking: Why should I tell my guests to turn off their cameras and phones in this day of Facebook and Twitter? However, from the perspective of a wedding videographer and a recently wedded man myself, I feel there is a necessity to strongly consider going unplugged for your wedding for several reasons:

1. If you’re the bride and groom, you’ll be happier with your wedding film if the professionals aren’t obstructed by the heads or bodies of guests trying to capture a shot of the bride walking down the aisle or the couple’s first dance on their device.

You might think that more photographers/videographers the better (the extreme of that is everyone taking photos on their phones), however, this is most definitely not the case. More photos is NOT better. Fellow photogs and videogs will agree that all it takes is one uncle with his newly-purchased DSLR to ruin say the moment of your first kiss. I will tell you too many flashes will interfere with your photographer and definitely disrupt our filming. Additionally, I’ve always asked my couples, and it seems the uncle Bob photographers keep the photos to themselves and not share them with the couple.

2. Guests will be much more present in the event because they won’t be seeing the day through the lens of a camera or be distracted uploading photos to Twitter, Instragram and other social media sites.

If you see this screenshot, the three photographers at the end of the aisle were the photographers for the day from Studio Berry. There is an uncle among them preparing for a shot. A bit more to the right, we see another guest busy looking into the LCD screen of his camera. Then, to the far right we see another guest, but this one is looking right at the bride as she walks down the aisle. Wouldn’t you want all of your guests to have the expression he has, and to be fully present and sharing the experience with you?

3. You’re less likely to end up with embarrassing photos and video if you leave all photography/videography to the pros. Think about it: even if they catch a few photos of you sporting that weird facial expression you hate or nine chins, the pros definitely won’t be posting it on Facebook for all of your friends (and random people you knew in kindergarten) to see without your permission. There’s no guarantee that your friends and relatives won’t post those unflattering shots!

Ultimately, an unplugged wedding allows photographers and videographers do what they came to the wedding to do (photograph and film your wedding) and encourages your guests to do what they came to the wedding to do (attend and celebrate the day with you).

So is an unplugged wedding right for you?

From Shang Chen Photography (


Michelle & Henry: Highlights

Michelle & Henry // Highlights (11.18.12) from James Lee Films on Vimeo.

Michelle & Henry
Wedding Highlights
Secrets in Stereo – “Happy”

Director/DP/Editor – James Lee
Cinematographers – Mike Huang and Julie Selnekovic-Lee

Henry and Michelle became husband and wife on November 18, 2012. Although I have now done a handful of weddings under the name of ‘James Lee Films’ this first year, Michelle and Henry were the first ones to sign a contract with us.  I still remember our meetings at Jersey City sipping bubble tea, and I especially remember how cool Michelle and Henry were. I knew that it was going to be smooth capturing their wedding day.

But it didn’t start as a smooth day for Henry, as him and his groomsmen had to battle through a slew of vicious door games Michelle’s bridesmaids had prepared. After a few wasabi-induced tears and missing hair strands, Henry finally got see Michelle, and ultimately shared vows with her at the beautiful Westmount Country Club.

This was also a special wedding for me in that it became a reunion of sorts. My wife Julie ran the day as main cinematographer along with my good friend and partner-in-crime Mike Huang of ZHCinematography, who flew in from Wisconsin to help shoot this wedding. When hearing Mike was coming, Scott Tsai offered to help out as our assistant for the day. Not only did the three of us work on weddings and video projects together before, Mike and Scott also shot Julie and my wedding video and photos. What a day.

It was a wonderful privilege working alongside photographers Wayne and Angela to capture Michelle and Henry’s story. Liked our discussions on how to deal with the rise of Uncle Joe photographers (planning a blog post on “unplugged” weddings).

Congratulations, Michelle and Henry! 😀

Karl & Hasook: Highlights

We were hit with superstorm Sandy here in the east coast, and were out of power for quite a while. I’m glad I was finally able to get back on my editing workstations. (which I now understand take up power, and a LOT of it…)

Karl & Hasook
Wedding Highlights
Mike Schmid “To Show You My Love”

Director/DP/Editor – James Lee
Shooters – Julie Selnekovic-Lee & Joshua Lee

Karl and Hasook got married October 20, 2012 at Hope Presbyterian Church in Teaneck, NJ. Though a shy couple, their love for one another was visible through in their small gestures and expressions, which I hoped I’ve captured and presented in this film. They began their day at Studio Berry in Fort Lee where they got ready and took some studio photos. I had a great learning experience with Studio Berry, as their style was very traditional Korean and not something I was exposed to before. Luckily, we contacted the photographers prior to the wedding day as is our standard procedure and we were able to communicate comfortably throughout the day.

Our crew for this wedding consisted of my talented wife Julie as our second shooter, and my Joshua Lee as our assistant and occasional shooter. Overall, we had a fun and blessed experience.

Congratulations again, Karl and Hasook!

Michael & Angela: “Love Never Ends”

For awhile I had planned not to post this highlights films publicly; at first because the New York Times forbid it until their story was published, and later because Michael Olexa, the groom, lost his battle to colon cancer on August 15, 2012. After I finished editing this piece on the 10th, I had uploaded it privately for Angela, Michael, and their families to watch. Now watching it over, I am touched again and again at the amazing love they had for each other, and I realized that the world needed to see, through Michael and Angela’s story, that love truly “never ends” (1 Corinthians 13:8, as read during their ceremony). Before watching, please read Michael and Angela’s love story as published in the New York Times.

Michael & Angela
Wedding Highlights
Natalie Grant “In Better Hands”

Director/DP/Editor – James Lee
Shooters – Youmin Woo ( & Joshua Lee

On the sultry afternoon of August 2nd, 2012, Angela Sclafani and Michael Olexa proclaimed their love for one another before 30 close family and friends at the beautiful Knob Hill Golf Club in Manalapan, NJ. What was particularly special about this wedding was that the venue and all services, including that of James Lee Films, were donated through the non-profit organization Wish Upon A Wedding, whose mission according to their FAQ page is to “[provide] weddings and vow renewals to couples facing terminal illness and serious life altering circumstances.” At the time of the wedding Michael had Stage 4 colon cancer, but that did not stop him from saying his vows while standing before the witnesses and kissing his lovely bride to seal the deal. It was a joy getting to know someone as kind and loving as Michael, and I know that he will live on in the memories of many.

Photography was provided by Janice Celeste of c2 Photo Video, audio and DJing by Entertainment Xtreme, and planning/coordinating by the wonderful Agnieshka Burke of Pumpkin Coach Events. Everyone was a delight to work with, and I am so glad that our crew had the opportunity to participate in this wedding. Thank you Youmin, for giving your time to shoot yet another awesome wedding with me, and thank you Josh, for helping us out. Youmin and I couldn’t have done it as smoothly as we did without you.


Janet & Jay: Wedding Highlights

Janet & Jay
Wedding Highlights

Sara Bareilles “The Light”
Ending performed by – Jay Kim & Shandon Campbell

Director/DP/Editor – James Lee
Shooters – Youmin Woo ( & Julie Selnekovic-Lee

Janet Yang and Jayoung Kim became Mr. and Mrs. on June 30th, 2012, at Bethany Korean United Methodist Church in Wayne, NJ. The hot and sticky weather was somehow fitting for the goofy yet utterly romantic couple. Props to photographer and friend JR Pena; I’m always glad when I get a chance to work alongside photographers especially who share the vision of capturing the day in the most genuine way possible.
Our crew consisted of Youmin Woo ( who returned as our second shooter, and my new wife Julie as another shooter. We were so blessed to be a part of Janet and Jay’s Wedding.

Congratulations again, Janet and Jay!

Aftermath of Janet and Jay’s Wedding

I personally am leaving for my Honeymoon this week, but the following week a Highlights Film Edit will be up on Vimeo soon. Stay tuned…

Kirim & David: Wedding Highlights

Kirim & David
Wedding Highlights

Jon McLaughlin “We All Need Saving”

Director/DP/Editor – James Lee
2nd Shooter – Youmin Woo (

The first of anything is considered very special – and being the first wedding shot under the brand “James Lee Films,” Kirim and David’s Wedding will always have a special place in my heart. Kirim and David became husband and wife on May 19, 2012 with a beautiful ceremony at Arcola Korean United Methodist Church. This wedding day went so smoothly, and I believe it was because the love and joy between “Papi” and “Boogie-Woogie” was utterly contagious. This wedding was a reminder to me of how much I love being a wedding cinematographer – responsible for capturing the day that marks the beginning of two people’s life journey in becoming one.

This wedding film would not have been possible without the help of my good friend JR Pena for assisting with equipment, as well as Julie and Yoon Guan for helping with last-minute equipment needs. Also, another large thanks to Billy Kim at Tae Photography, and Youmin Woo for being our 2nd shooter.

Congratulations again, Kirim and David!

05.05.12 Kirim & David’s Engagement Shoot

I just got back from a full day with Kirim and David, starting with an interview session at Kirim’s apartment and ending with a session at the New Jersey Botanical Gardens in Ringwood State Park, NJ.

Boy, I’m tired, but otherwise it was another awesome day that reminded me of how much I enjoy doing what I do. 🙂

If I can describe Kirim and David in one word, it would be“chillin'”– that’s because they turned out to be one of the coolest couples I’ve ever worked with. I’ve become accustomed to a bit of formality within a vendor-client relationship, but with these guys it was just different. The entire time I was with them, I was pretty relaxed. The second word would probably be “sexy”, and that’s because I just heard that word so much today – mostly when they were describing each other. And obviously as you can tell, they are one good-looking couple. Again, chillin’.

For the interview, I had the chance to test out my new Tascam DR-05, a mini audio recorder similar to the Zoom H1. Its downsides are that it does not have XLR inputs and accepts only MicroSD cards, however, for its price, I was decently surprised to find that the audio quality I got from it was indistinguishable with the level of quality found in the Zoom H4n or the Tascam DR-100. All in all, I got good footage and good audio to work with.

Now, I always get a bit nervous when working with a photographer I don’t know for a wedding, because fighting for the good angles naturally destines videographers and photographers to butt heads – especially if they are strangers. But I ended up having a great time with – and therefore wanted to give props to – the photographer Billy Kim of Tae Photography. We had great conversations while moving between locations about dollies, sliders, timelapsing, audio options, helicopters for cameras, etc.; and during shots we were able to rotate and communicate to avoid being in each other’s shots. The shoot was as smooth as butter. I must say I’m actually looking forward to working with Billy Kim again for Kirim and David’s wedding in two weeks!

Stay tuned for more info on the editing process of the interview/engagement shoot!

Congratulations again, to Kirim and David on their engagement and upcoming wedding!

– James

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