James K. Lambert ('05 M.F.A.) biography
Many independent filmmakers dream of traveling to Park City, Utah, to see their work screened at the Sundance Film Festival. Some films that receive awards at Sundance — both documentaries and feature films — are later nominated for Academy Awards.
As a student in UNT's program in documentary film, James K. Lambert was lucky enough to be hired as an intern with Deep Ellum Pictures in Dallas — and to work on a film that received a Special Jury Award at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival.
While an intern, Lambert began screening footage for the documentary TV Junkie. The film follows a television reporter for Inside Edition who is addicted to crack. After Lambert — one of the first two graduates of UNT's program — received his M.F.A. degree in 2005, he was hired by Deep Ellum as an assistant editor.
"It proved to be a great opportunity, even before we won an award at Sundance," he says.
A native of Minneapolis, Lambert moved to Denton in 2002 just after he earned his bachelor's degree in American studies and film studies from the University of Minnesota at Twin Cities.
"I've been interested in film forever, but there's something about documentary that attracted me to it," he says. "You can certainly capture reality more in documentaries than you can in a fiction film, and people can look back at a documentary and have a sense of what happened in history."
From That Moment On, his second-year film in the M.F.A. program, features President John F. Kennedy's assassination site, Dealey Plaza, in downtown Dallas. To track the history of the plaza before and after the 1963 assassination, Lambert interviewed visitors to the plaza, including conspiracy theorists; staff members of the adjacent Sixth Floor Museum; the president and chair of Belo Corp., whose great-grandfather was George Bannerman Dealey; and UNT Chancellor Lee Jackson, a former Dallas County judge.
"I tried to highlight things that are not commonly known, like who Dealey was," Lambert says.
From That Moment On was named the Best Documentary by a Student at Dallas' Deep Ellum Film Festival in November 2005.
After graduating from UNT, Lambert moved back to Minneapolis to work as a freelance editor and college instructor. Last year, he edited First Avenue ‘Hayday,' a documentary of concert footage shot at the Minneapolis nightclub First Avenue between 1985 and 1992. He says he would like to have a full-time career producing his own films.
"One of my big challenges is trying to find money to do films," Lambert says. "I have recently found some teaching work to supplement my income as a freelancer, but I have not found the kind of backing I need to make a decent film."
He says another challenge for him is editing hours of footage down into a workable film.
"The term learned at UNT was ‘killing off babies' — removing scenes that you love because they don't work in the overall film. No one's ever going to see those babies," he says.