Inspired by Oscar-winning La La Land to Paperman, Film Editor Wei Li Offers Unique Skillset

Inspired by Oscar-winning La La Land to Paperman, Film Editor Wei Li Offers Unique Skillset

Inspired by Oscar-winning La La Land to Paperman, Film Editor Wei Li Offers Unique Skillset

 "I have worked with Wei Li on a couple of projects. He is my editor who always does an amazing job. He is someone you can really trust. His first rough cut is usually in great shape. Overall, what makes Wei Li good is his passion for storytelling and editing professionalism. His hardworking attitude earns all the trust.—Wenqin Ni, director of Circle and Collision Escape, both earning Best Editing short film awards”

For Film Editor Wei "Will" Li, who has a passion for storytelling through his broad skillset, the 6-time Oscar-winning romantic musical La La Land inspired him to focus on Hollywood. La La Land earned editor Tom Cross a Best Editing Oscar, after he had won the Best Editor Oscar for Whiplash. Will, who has Best Editing awards for two short films himself, says of this exuberant movie, “La La Land is a story about a dream, about everyone’s dream. LA is a dream place for every filmmaker, and the film inspired me to settle in Los Angeles. And it was then, I began to network with many film professionals in an exciting creative environment.”

Of Tom Cross’ “Best Editor” work, Will adds, “Apart from his outstanding work in La La Land, I also closely studied Cross’ editing in Whiplash, a Post-Classical editing style that emphasized strong and clear visual images, with a lot of close-ups which amplified the emotions of the characters and aroused the emotions of the audience. I was also impressed by the animated film, Paperman, which won an Oscar for the Best Animated Short. It tells a fantastic love story in which animation technology—merging computer-generated and hand-drawn animation techniques—is extremely gorgeous, making this different film particularly precious.”


Importantly, in-demand Will has worked on over 40 film projects as both director and editor. Two notable and recent films include Gamin and Here Cut Salon. Overall, Will is an ongoing student of the craft of editing by legendary artists like Walter Murch. Although, Will quips, “The funny thing is if you do a great job at editing, the audience won’t really know. So, earning best editing awards really made me proud and reinforced to me that I am a good editor and has given me the confidence to get the next personal award. The key to editing is to build the emotion and tell the story. And, my dream is to hopefully receive the Oscar award, myself, one day.”

In fact, Will, who has an MFA (Film Production in Editing Emphasis) from Chapman University, continues to study film editor Murch’s iconic book, “In the Blink of An Eye,” in which the legend suggests that one of the most important elements in editing is creating powerful emotion. Will continues on, “What impressed me is that he said the edit cut is just like the action of human blinking. So, the correct cut is when the audience blinks. That is also a way to check whether your film editing is good or not, which is to look at the eyes of the audience and observe when they blink. And that is exactly the moment I need to cut. Murch is my guide to lead me towards the right direction in my editing career.”

Indeed, along with creating powerful emotion at the right moment, another one of Will Li’s strengths was grounded in his previous earlier work in the field of Human Resources, where “for three years I trained to be a multitasker with exceptional organizational and communication skills.”

Will used all his creative and communication skills on that film Gamin which earned the Silver Award for Best Crime Short at the Los Angeles International Film Festival. He explains, “I joined Gamin at the very beginning so I had a chance to see the script beforehand, so the film was in the director's head already. He had many ideas for that. So, what I did mostly was to build the emotion and fix some problems with the footage, which overall was very good.”

Moreover, Will talks about what else he has to offer producers and directors, adding, “In a film, beyond the creative part, the most important should be co-operating with and communicating between different departments. Another of my strengths is to keep a good workflow going, to make every step under control and work smoothly: how do we transcode the footage; how do we turn over the picture to the sound and color department. These are all crucial technical aspects. On Gamin, I took control from pre-production to post-production. And, also I used my technical skills to make every step flow easier.”

Additionally, Youth Crossing the Breeze (originally titled, Until the Autumn Wind Start) is a feature movie where he also focused on the workflow. He offers, “For a better workflow and making sure we have few troubles in the post, as editor I prefer to participate in the very beginning of the pre-production process. I spent lots of time communicating with the script supervisor and DIT talking and optimizing the workflow to have all the notes and media footage safe and clear. As a result, the director really liked the cut and we didn't change a lot.”

In fact, another film where Will used his wide repertory of skills was with the multiple award-winning feature documentary, 26 Seconds, which was directed and produced by Kelly Galindo. Will worked as a Production Manager and Editor on this eye-opening film, which has earned numerous wins from Hollywood Shorts Fest, New York Indie Shorts, Indie Shorts Awards (Cannes), to Docs Without Borders Film Festival, and it was an official selection at That Film Festival at Cannes 2020.


“As an editor, he excelled beyond his duties and took on the additional responsibilities of a post-production manager. I have the utmost respect and admiration for Wei’s dedication and loyalty. I have worked with many top professionals in my career, and I can easily say that Wei is one of the most hardworking, committed, and talented editors that I’ve had the privilege to work with. I am extremely grateful for his involvement in the ‘26 Seconds’ documentary.—Award-winning producer, Kelly Galindo"

However, in spite of the praise he has been receiving, Will Li believes he has a lot more to learn, suggesting, “Editing is like dancing. You can explain the rules but to really learn how to dance you have to dance. The only way to learn is to practice. I’d like to catch every chance to practice and work with more great filmmakers.”

Consequently, Will Li is now working on a number of feature and short projects as well as helping to develop trailers for feature films and series produced by big production companies such as Disney+, Warner Brothers, and also for Apple TV+ shows such as Pinocchio, and Ted Lasso. Additionally, some of the new short film projects he’s involved with as editor include Amina, Ballad of Lakeshore, Rose Boy, and Good Night Earthlings.

Keep an eye out for Will Li’s work, and don’t blink, because you may miss it.

Drop in on Wei “Will” Li’s film website, his LinkedIn, and IMDb

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Ashley Jude Collie

Entertainment Expert

Ashley is an award-winning journalist/author/blogger who has written for Playboy, Toronto Star, Movie Entertainment, Sports Illustrated, Maclean's and others. He's interviewed various "leaders" in their fields, including: Oscar winners (Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Lawrence, Alicia Vikander, Jane Fonda, Mira Sorvino, Geena Davis, Anthony Hopkins); Grammy winners (Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Ice Cube, Pete Townshend); MVPs in sports (Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Wayne Gretzky, Kobe Bryant); and, business leaders (Amazon's Jeff Bezos). He has an upcoming novel, REJEX, coming out on Pulp Hero Press. And he has written several episodic TV shows, appeared on CNN, and blogged for Mademan, Medium, GritDaily and HuffPost.

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