Be a Film Editor

Be a Film Editor

Samuel D. Pollard’s work speaks for itself (‘Jungle Fever,’ ‘Chisolm ’72,’ ‘Juice,’ ‘Clockers,’ etc.), yet the gifted editor shares even more insider knowledge

by Gil Robertson IV, August 7, 2013

Be a Film Editor

Samuel D. Pollard knows just where to cut

Although it is the director who often gets the credit for the final “look” of a film or TV show, for people in the know, equal credit always goes to the editor for putting all the pieces together. Samuel D. Pollard is a near legend in this field. Oscar nominated for his work on the Spike Lee documentary 4 Little Girls, Pollard’s wide variety of projects also includes Venus and Serena, I’ll Make Me a World and When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, among other films. Widely respected throughout the industry, Pollard is also a professor at Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. He recently spoke with EBONY.com to talk about his amazing career.     

EBONY: How do you contribute to the overall process of making a film?

Samuel D. Pollard: My job as an editor is to screen the footage (with or without the director), make selects, and then assembly the material into first a rough assembly, then a rough cut. And then, with input from the director, the fine cut. Most editors have much more creative responsibility when it comes to structuring a documentary film, where there is no script, than a narrative film.

EBONY: Why did you pick editing as a career?

SDP: It was happenstance. I was in college majoring in marketing and not being very excited by the classes, [and] ended up in a film and television workshop in the evenings where I was taught all the basics of filmmaking. I gravitated to editing because one could do the work without constantly being watched, so I felt at home. I had always loved movies. Now I was learning how they were made.

EBONY: What distinctive quality do you bring to your craft?

SDP: The most distinctive quality I bring to the work is understanding that learning my craft took (and still takes) focus and diligence.

EBONY: Are there any obstacles that you’ve had to overcome to achieve success in your career?

SDP: The major obstacle I had to confront was the belief in myself that I could be a good editor and to never let any debacle—and I have had many—make me lose confidence that I could be a good filmmaker.

EBONY: Please share some advice for others who look to following in your path.

SDP: My advice is that if you decide to become an editor or a filmmaker, you need to be passionate about it and love it.

EBONY: What’s next for Samuel Pollard?

SDP: I am presently producing and directing a documentary on the late playwright August Wilson.

Gil Robertson IV is a noted A&E and Black lifestyle journalist, author and producer. President and co-founder of the African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA), he resides in Los Angeles and Atlanta. Follow the AAFCA on Twitter @theaafca.

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