Meet the Makers: Saladin White

BY Kio Shijiki, May 15, 2018

Meet the Makers is an ongoing interview series highlighting current Columbia University School of the Arts Film Program students and faculty.


Saladin White is a directing student currently in pre-production for a narrative short film, scheduled to shoot this summer and his non-thesis film to shoot in December.


Where are you from and what's your background in film?


I was born and raised in the great city of Philadelphia. At six, I got into acting and studied at this amazing performing arts training program “The New Freedom Theatre.” The program was designed to foster young black talent. That was one of the best experiences of my life. In those years, I learned so much about my culture and myself. After that, I guess I got the bug because I fell in love with art and went on to study acting in Pittsburgh. 



What made you want to pursue filmmaking in grad school?


It’s weird because studying film was never a goal of mine. I just wanted to act and maybe write. Even now the concept of getting a degree in art doesn’t really make sense to me. Nevertheless, I’m here. 


I first became interested in directing through theater. In undergrad I was accepted into an Advanced Directing class, where we had to direct two one act plays. We had to build a concept around a one-act play. This made me think more visually than ever before and I started toying with the idea of doing film. 


A few years back, I toured the country as an actor in a children’s play. Creatively I was dying. Doing the same show over and over was boring me to death so I decided to write a short. It was okay. I had a friend who was thinking about applying to grad school so I figured I'd look into it as well. I kept writing, directed a short, and somehow, I ended up here. Simply, the beauty in grad school is trial and error. From the start, that’s what excited me about going back to school. I was excited to dive into another art form and try something different. 



Where's the pleasure in directing?


The greatest pleasure of directing for me is collaboration. What excites me most is coming together with a group of people to tell a powerful story. No matter how hard I try I cannot do this on my own. I love that about directing, it keeps me balanced.



What was your biggest challenge at Columbia?


The first year at Columbia was really intense. I don’t really even remember what happened or how I got things done. I guess in that, the challenge for me was finding a way to stay creative even when I’m mad busy. In the second year, either things calmed down; I started to find my footing as a filmmaker. 


Every artist wants to make the best thing ever created. Which you know, is an insane amount of pressure to put on yourself. I naturally love taking risks, but I hate failing. This year I've started to embrace my failures more, to learn from them. 



What are you currently working on?


I just finished a thirty-minute comedic pilot and a satirical feature script. I’ve also been in pre-production for my second year film, which I am shooting at the top of June and my non-thesis film that I am shooting in December. 



What kind of a filmmaker do you want to be in future / what stories do you want to tell?

I have no clue what kind of filmmaker I’ll be. At one point I was into heavy dramas and now I’m digging the many realms of comedy. I feel like in everything I am searching for an answer or asking questions. 


Simply, I just want to make folks feel something. I don’t really care what that feeling is nor do I want to manipulate it. As long as my art makes you feel…then we good.