Below the Line: A Cut Above – Audio Engineer Ai-Ling Lee

This Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting the oft unsung yet always vital contributions of those working below the line. Join NYWIFT blog contributors Kathryn O’Kane and Mellini Kantayya as they celebrate a few of the many women in history and making history—“Below the Line: A Cut Above.”

By Kathryn O’Kane

Originally from Singapore, Ai-Ling Lee is the first Asian woman to be nominated for an Academy Award for sound editing. In 2016 she was nominated for sound editing and sound mixing for the modern musical La La Land.

La La Land (2016)


With over 70 feature films to her credit and four Oscar nominations to date, her resume includes a diverse array of films from big action blockbusters like X:Men Days of Future Past and Deadpool, to musicals like Rock of Ages.  

“Sound can heighten and help bring the audience into the world,” says Lee. “It can also build the audience’s emotional connection to the actors.”

Lee started her career in television in Singapore, but longed to work in Hollywood.  She wrote unsolicited letters to department heads until she started getting responses.  “I packed my bags and came here, and it took a while,” she says, “but I was fortunate enough to meet people willing to hire me.”

Her advice for other women in search of a big break: “Ask for what you want because sometimes people may not be aware of what you are capable of.”

She was nominated for an Oscar for sound editing and mixing for First Man, helping to create Neil Armstrong’s immersive journey to the moon.

(Featured image photo credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)



busyk Kathryn O'Kane is a producer/director with over fifteen years of diverse experience in television, advertising and web media. She is honored to serve on the NYWIFT Board of Directors, which supports the careers of women in the Entertainment Industry. Kathryn has crafted narratives as diverse as “Mission Juno,” which documents NASA’s probe to Jupiter, "Master Class," the award-winning10-part flagship series for the Oprah Winfrey Network OWN, and "San Quentin Film School," a six-part documentary series for Discovery Channel following nine prisoners during the first ever film production class in prison. Having started her career supporting democratic initiatives in Latin America, Kathryn has always maintained a love for international travel and politics, and she looks forward to bridging cultural differences through art and story telling. Learn more at www.busyk.com.

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