Leander Sales is a New York Film Academy educator and a renowned editor. He’s worked with legendary director Spike Lee as an Assistant Editor on “Do the Right Thing,” “Malcolm X” and “Crooklyn.” He’s directed two feature films: “The Life I Meant to Live” and “Don’t Let Your Meat Loaf.” We sat down with Sales to ask him about his career, his time at NYFA, and what his students probably don’t know about him.
What’s your education or professional background?
I attended a year of college at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in the School of Drama. I then decided to travel so I went to NYC and worked as a security guard at Macy’s for a year and a half to save money. With that money, I moved to Florence, Italy for two years which was a very educational period in my life. Professionally, most of my work was with Spike Lee on nine of his feature films, music videos, and commercials.
What brought you to NYFA?
The international student body is what attracted me to the school. I have a great appreciation for different cultures.
What are some of your career or personal milestones that the NYFA community should know about?
I am the Chair of the Motion Picture Editors Guild African American Steering Committee and our mission is to mentor fledgling filmmakers.
Also, when I traced my DNA to Cameroon, Africa, it was a very important milestone for me.
What are you working on right now?
Editing a movie: “The Counter – 1960”
What was the most satisfying project you’ve created or worked on in your career so far?
“Do the Right Thing” as apprentice editor, “Malcolm X” as assistant editor and “Get on the Bus” as picture editor. “The Life I Meant to Live” as director/editor.
What is your favorite course to teach?
The course may vary, but I like teaching hungry students. Hunger cannot be taught.
Is there a program or department at NYFA with which you’re closely involved?
I’m closely involved with the documentary department and the acting department.
What is one piece of advice that you would give incoming or current graduate students?
The piece of advice I give to my students is to network.
What is your favorite aspect of teaching?
I love it when students recognize how valid their own life experiences are when creating their projects.
What is most challenging about teaching for you?
What is the most helpful advice you’ve received?
Sometimes I can easily fix something but I have to let the student fix what’s not working, then at the end of the process, they can have a better sense of achievement.
Growing up, what did you want to be?
I always wanted to be a world traveler. I’ve seen a lot of Europe and I’ve been to Africa six times. Filmmaking is another way of traveling.
Who has influenced you the most in life?
My uncle Ron Dortch has had a huge impact on my life.
What creators have influenced you the most?
The people I’ve made movies with and watched solve problems. That list is very long.
Where are you from originally?
What do you do to take a break from work and teaching?
Travel with my kids, play basketball with my kids, hike, play the guitar badly along with Eddie Hazel and Jimi Hendrix and cook with my kids.
What is an interesting fact about yourself that your students and fellow Faculty might not know about you?
They may not know that I often watch tv with the sound off.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Sales for his work with the school. If you’d like to learn more about Sales and his professional career click here.