When the late actor, writer and editor James Lyons was a young kid growing up on New York’s Long Island, a new cinema opened in the neighborhood, walking distance from his family home. As his mother Gladys Lyons recalled on Tuesday night at a memorial service for her son, Jim was passionate about books, but one day he learned about a contest that would award a year-long movie pass to the first person in line on the opening day of the new neighborhood cinema. Jim won the prize and stretched the gift into a two-year ticket, clearly developing a passion for the movies.
Early on during Tuesday night’s memorial service for Jim Lyons, who died in April at age 46, one of the speakers mentioned that a simple list of the attendees would probably say more than anyone’s on-stage remarks. The service, held at the IFC Center and featuring music, poetry, films clips, photos and memories, drew many accomplished filmmakers, producers, writers and friends who have worked with and admired Jim and his work over the years.
“Cinema is there to capture things that you can’t articulate,” Lyons said on screen last night in an extended clip segment that mixed scenes from films he had edited with footage from an Editors Guild lecture featuring Lyons speaking about filmmaking and editing. “He was like a guide,” noted director and actor Tom Gilroy a close friend who worked with Lyons on screen in “Postcards From America” and later when the editor worked on Gilroy’s “Spring Forward.”
Another of the many people who fought back tears while speaking of their late friend and creative colleague, Esther Robinson (who worked with him on “A Walk Into The Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory“), noted poignantly, “Collectively we tell the great sexy story that is our beloved Jim.” A thread of Warhol seemed woven into the evening, another friend noting that Jim Lyons read The Warhol Diaries while suffering from an early illness and later was inspired to write an unshot script, “A Short Film About Andy Warhol.” Friend and film critic Amy Taubin praised the screenplay as, “a perfect object,” expressing her personal anger that Lyons still had so much more he wanted to accomplish.
Lyons’ longtime filmmaking partner Todd Haynes, with whom Lyons began work as a co-star and editor of Poison, was stuck on a plane in Toronto an unable to make a scheduled appearance at the service.
Near the end of the evening, friend John Cameron Mitchell read the script for the Warhol short and later, sang Lou Reed‘s “Satellite of Love” after Jim’s mother spoke eloquently and emotionally about her son. Telling the aforementioned story of Jim’s prized movie pass, she noted that years later “Far From Heaven” played at the same theater where her son discovered movies. His Mom proudly sent her son a photo with the title of “Far From Heaven” on the theater’s marquee, an image that capped a powerful on-screen scrapbook of photos that ended Tuesday’s tribute to a beloved, passionate, inspirational member of the independent film community.
Friends and colleagues contributed to indieWIRE’s online memorial for Jim Lyons that was published shortly after he died in April, readers are invited to visit the page for more information and to add their thoughts or memories.
A memorial fund has been established for an editing award in Jim Lyons’ name. To make a donation:
James K. Lyons Memorial Fund
47 Davis Road
Port Washington, NY 11050