Stranger Than Fiction: William Goldenberg talks about Argo

Flickering MYTH by Trevor Hogg

Trevor Hogg chats with film editor William Goldenberg about working with Ben Affleck and the challenges of assembling Argo...

“Ben [Affleck] was a much more sophisticated director on Argo [2012] than he was on Gone Baby Gone [2007],” observes William Goldenberg who assembled the directorial debut as well as the third effort from the Hollywood actor who is becoming more comfortable sitting in the director’s chair. “I don’t think Ben felt that he had a true understanding how to tell the story with a camera like he does now. It is interesting to watch him direct himself. I asked him about it. It comes from a certain amount of experience before he ever got behind the camera and directed. Ben has done a lot of movies as an actor and was a real student of film and directing before he ever directed.” The Academy Award nominated film editor explains, “What he does is after every three or four takes go behind the monitor and watch playback of his own performance. When he’s doing that it’s as if he’s looking at a stranger. He’s incredibly objective about himself and incredibly accurate as far as I can tell.” Goldenberg states, “Ben loves movies and has seen everything on how these things are done and that’s what the great directors do; they see what other people are doing.”

The two collaborators reunited to tell the story about six American embassy workers in Iran who find refuge in the Canadian ambassador’s residency while the rest of their workers are held hostage by Iranian dissidents. “It was 1979,” recalls William Goldenberg. “I was 20 so I was aware of what was going on at the time. I certainly know a lot about it now than I did then. I was like everybody else following it on Nightline every night and getting my information that way.” Additional research was required when piecing together the protest which turns into a hostile takeover. “You see the first guy who goes over the wall; there is some newsreel footage of that. There isn’t a tremendous amount of footage of the embassy compound but I did want to get the feel of it. I watched a lot of newsreel footage eventually leading up to it to get the sense of what the crowd was like, how angry they were, and how organized it was.” There was a lot of back and forth discussion between Ben Affleck and Goldenberg about the protest which sparked an international incident. “Early on I talked to him about not having music in the embassy takeover and having it all be real sounds, and hard edge cuts sonically and pictorially; that created a sense of urgency and panic.” Archival footage was to be used in the sequence. “The original intention of the script was that we would be cutting from the real newsreel shot of a guy scaling the wall. Then it was described in the script you come from the newsreel footage and come around 180 degrees to the other side through our real 35mm footage where you’d be seeing a part of it you had never seen before.” The plan had to be changed. “When we did that in the opening it pulled us out of it and we felt instead of being in it you were an observer. We went with the stuff they had shot which made it much more visceral and real.” read more...

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