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.