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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Calendar > Arts and Culture

Narrowsburg native wins two Emmys at once

By Allison Ruef - staff writer

By: Contributed Photo
Zac Stuart-Pontier (left) receives his Emmy for Outstanding Picture Editing for Nonfiction Programming. With him are fellow editors (from left to right) Shelby Siegel, Caitlyn Greene, and Richard Hankin.
HOLLYWOOD — It's going to be hard to top Zac Stuart-Pontier's 32nd birthday on September 12.
Being presented with not one but two Emmy awards for his editing and producing work on the HBO Documentary miniseries “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst” will be a tough act to follow.
“I'm still sort of in shock,” he said during an early-morning phone call. “I walk into my hotel room, and I don't expect them to be there. It's kind of surreal.”
Stuart-Pontier was presented with awards for Outstanding Picture Editing for Nonfiction Programming (editor) as well as Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series (co-producer) at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards, which are held prior to the show that the rest of the world will see on Sunday, September 20.

This ceremony honors the behind-the-scenes crafts and technical people essential to television production.
“You hear this all the time, but it really was flattering just to be nominated and to be included with so many other great documentaries,” said Pontier. “All of the nominees were my favorites this year.”
A Narrowsburg native, Pontier is the son of Sullivan Renaissance Executive Director Glenn Pontier and The River Reporter Publisher Laurie Stuart.
His main role in the making of “The Jinx,” which drew huge critical acclaim last winter when it was aired on HBO, was not only as the chief editor, but also to supervise a team of editors.
“Editing is, generally, a solitary profession, so it was really nice to be part of a team.”
It was a member of his team, Shelby Siegel, who stumbled across the key moment of the whole series while sifting through and watching outtakes for what Pontier calls “a great line,” or a single line of dialogue that really speaks to the viewer. Siegel heard Durst mumbling to himself while on a bathroom break after being presented with a damning piece of evidence by filmmaker Andrew Jarecki, his microphone still live and recording.
The recording was barely audible, said Pontier, since Jarecki's mic was also still live and the background noises of the set could have easily drowned out Durst's erstwhile confession. Pontier and his crew searched the hard drives for the audio files, and upon finding that segment, edited out all but Durst's recordings.
In isolation, the truth came out, producing the most famous lines of the series: “There it is. You're caught. ... You're right, of course. ... What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”
It was a moment, said Pontier, that he won't soon forget.
“We kind of freaked out. It truly was the first time that he [Durst] had acknowledged on any level what he had done.”
While the crew celebrated their find, knowing that they had the end of the series in place, they were still working heavily on the middle of the show when the audio was discovered.
“After we got over the initial shock and awe, it was a bit nervewracking,” explained Pontier.
Besides the obvious storyline of a complicated and convoluted man who committed murder, a huge theme of the miniseries, said Pontier, is how money and power affects the justice system.
“It's a theme that plays over and over in this series. In his case, it's painfully obvious why he was free for so long. He was treated differently because his family was wealthy and influential. He was able to hire amazingly powerful lawyers. The story itself is powerful and Durst as a character is powerful, but at the heart of it, the real story is that the justice system is broken.”
So what's next for Pontier?
“Right now I'm working on a documentary about a trans[gender] person in Milwaukee that a friend from film school has been working on for over eight years. It's an incredibly complicated story of a man who is a Baptist minister, who became a woman, but in the middle of her transition, decides to go back to male. Not because she wants to, but because of the pressure of family and the world around her and the lack of support she faces,” said Pontier.
He's also working on a new venture, a true-crime podcast about Providence, Rhode Island.
Why Providence?
“Providence had a really interesting microcosm of politics, mafia and crime that existed under the six-term Mayor Buddy Cianci,” explains Pontier. “It's an interesting metaphor that speaks to how crime works in general. What does it mean to the city? How did corruption take hold? The good guys aren't always good, and the bad guys aren't always bad.”
Why a podcast?
“I love storytelling, and exploring a different medium - sound only - is a different experience,” he said. “People aren't as self-conscious, and that tends to make them more open and honest. It's easier to relax when it's just a little microphone and not a big, imposing camera. Plus, audio is more of a challenge. People need to use their imagination more - you can't rely on pictures to tell the story.”
What advice does he have for artists, craftspeople and aspiring filmmakers in Sullivan County?
“Embrace the positive things about this area - I get so much inspiration from this place. Growing up in the Upper Delaware was a huge part of why I feel I was able to find success - it was so nurturing and supportive. I was taught by my family and community that anything is possible, and I just took that one step further.
“Now more than ever, it doesn't matter where you live - you have access to the tools every day. If you love it, do it.”

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