OSCARS: Nominated Film Editors Break Down Key Scenes
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Thomas J. McLean is an AwardsLine contributor
The film editing race is both diverse and expected. All five nominated films are also up for best picture, and the individual editors range from three-time Oscar winner Michael Kahn to several first-time nominees and one nominee, William Goldenberg, nominated for work on two separate films. We talked with the nominated editors and asked them to run through a key scene from their films—one that was crucial to making the picture work, either from a tone perspective or a more technical one. The results were as diverse as the nominated films themselves.
Goldenberg says Argo’s incongruous quality was epitomized in an often bizarre sequence that cuts from the elaborate table-read of the fake screenplay at the Beverly Hills Hotel to the houseguests trying to entertain themselves in their long isolation to Iranian forces frightening hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Iran with a mock execution.
“When I read the script, I thought this was a scene where if we can make this work tonally, the movie will work”, says Goldenberg. “Because it’s all these different tones colliding together, and if all these expositions can work as a scene, then I think what we’re trying to do with the movie will be successful”.
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Starting with actual news footage from the era, Goldenberg built the sequence slowly as each segment was shot. “The first cut of it was really strong, and Ben (Affleck) really liked it. But then we had too much of the mock assassination and maybe too much newsreel footage. Then we had too much of the houseguests. And it’s a process of over weeks and weeks and weeks of honing and finetuning and shaping and trying to make sure that the story points we wanted to highlight were being highlighted and that it was clear that this is a mock execution”.
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Unlike most films, their luxury was time in the schedule for reflection. “(Affleck) has an editing room at his house, and we don’t live that far from each other so I was able to go up there on Sundays when it was a little calmer. We were able to sit calmly and look through the footage, and it was more about what direction the movie was going and how it would inform the next week’s work”, says Goldenberg, who says he finished editing the film in June. “I think it was helpful for him. I think it was helpful for me obviously to get reactions. You’re always nervous as an editor about how a director’s going to react to your cut footage initially”.