He also did steadicam and b-camera operating on Kevin Costner's Academy Award-winning epic Dances with Wolves, contributing to director of photography Dean Semler's Oscar win for Best Cinematography. He has also worked on Kevin Costner's Open Range, making his debut as a director of photography.
In 1986, James began his career by directing the low-budget cult horror movie Street Trash. He has gone on to direct several episodes of the TV series Southland.
He is also known for his work on Shameless.