Golden LA announces the signing of award-winning director James Lees, whose careful and ever-contemporary film work melds the authenticity of British cinema with American-style scale and whimsy. In his branded films, Lees is nimble and sensitive while crafting immersive visual worlds around a narrative, whether it’s a theatrical vfx-driven pirate raid for Cadbury or a powerfully intimate and cinematic portrayal of Conor McGregor’s come-up story for “Dedicated” for Beats by Dre, which won Gold at Ciclope and was nominated at Cannes Lions.
“We’re thrilled at Golden LA to be working with James. As both a filmmaker and human being, James brings a sense of inventiveness, curiosity and nuance that allows his work to resonate in unique and lasting ways,” said Matthew Marquis, Managing Director at Golden LA.
Lees, whose music videos with artists like Justin Bieber and commercial work with global brands like Nike have garnered over 5 billion views, comes to Golden as a pivotal and intentional next step in his career.
“After meeting Matt and Geoff at Golden and all their amazing reps, I knew I had found the right partners to achieve my goals,” said Lees. “I’ve been at this for nearly twenty years, and I have a clear perspective of the kind of work I want to be making now. Golden shares my forward-looking and nimble perspective, and they offer their directors belonging in a community of first-rate creatives.”
Raised near the city of Leicester, England, Lees started his path to filmmaking through acting in the Leicester Youth Theatre. Those early years spent studying acting, mise-en-scène, and storytelling laid the groundwork for his directing career, teaching him how to craft engaging, believable performances and stories — a hallmark of Lees’ work to this day.
“I’m deeply inspired by the authentic realism and relatability of the great British and European cinema that I grew up with. In my work I always try to represent the everyman and craft performances that are grounded and naturalistic, whilst taking huge influence from the expansive storytelling of American cinema,” said Lees.
“The Apology Line,” Lees’ breakout work, gave Lees the opportunity to present his deeply genuine and human voice as a filmmaker. Based around a project conceived by NYC artist Allan Bridge, “The Apology Line” documents the many stunning confessions Lees received over an anonymous line he set up in the UK. The work earned Lees immediate acclaim, including a nomination at the European Film Academy Awards, selection at Sundance, a special mention award at AFI Fest, and a win at the Hot Docs International Documentary Festival.
“The Apology Line” was followed by three more award-winning shorts that led to representation and the first of those 5 billion views. Those early shorts conveyed Lees’ exacting instinct for how to tell a story visually, a quality he further honed while making music videos for some of the biggest artists in the world, like OneRepublic, Benjamin Booker, Justin Bieber, Lil Dicky, and Bloc Party, and then later, through his commercial work for global brands like Nike, Cadbury, BBC, Converse and over 12 spots for Beats by Dre.
“One of the most exciting aspects of filmmaking is that no two projects are ever the same. I always identify the unique challenges of each specific film and then create a bespoke methodology to tackle it,” said Lees, who is diving full-force into making more of his distinct commercial work and is in the process of casting for a fresh feature as he joins Golden.
“In commercials, I see my job as being the third batten carrier in the 4x400m relay. We are all running for the same team and are only as good as the other runners,” said Lees. “That’s why I am so excited about getting this new partnership with Golden off the ground - everything is set up to go out, make killer work, and triumph together.”
Watch James Lees’ work here.