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William Goldenberg Cracks the Code for The Imitation Game

Acclaimed Hollywood editor William ‘Billy’ Goldenberg, ACE celebrates yet another Academy Award® nomination this year for cutting the espionage thriller The Imitation Game, which opened the 2014 BFI London Film Festival and has received an impressive eight BAFTA® and eight Academy Award nominations. Based on the true story of legendary British cryptanalyst Alan Turing, the movie is set during the darkest days of World War II and depicts the race against time for Turing and his team of code breakers to crack Nazi Germany's naval Enigma code to help the Allies win WWII. The part-biopic also explores the politics surrounding homosexuality in 1950s Britain and Turing’s persecution following the end of the war.

Goldenberg is no stranger to crafting an intense thriller, having previously won the 2013 Oscar® for Best Film Editing for Argo - competing against himself in the same category with his nomination for Zero Dark Thirty. With a handful of other Academy Award nominations to his name that includes Seabiscuit (2003) and The Insider (1999), Goldenberg also recently co-edited another highly celebrated WWII epic, Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken, with fellow Academy Award-nominated editor, Tim Squyres.

Cutting the cryptic storyline for The Imitation Game brought its fair share of challenges, including battling the transatlantic barrier between the editing team and the director. To overcome them, Goldenberg embraced Avid Everywhere™, utilizing the industry's most trusted editing tools for professional video production from the Avid Artist Suite, running on the Avid MediaCentral Platform.

Intercepting footage and decoding the editing enigma

In what could be described as quite an unusual turn of events in film editing, Goldenberg didn't actually meet any of the producers, crew, or even the director, Morten Tyldum, face to face until after production had wrapped. His coupling with Tyldum happened by chance at a BAFTA Awards after-party. It was wasn’t until a couple of months after their brief encounter, when The Imitation Game script arrived on his doorstep, that Goldenberg set up a call to discuss the project.

Media Composer’s versatility allows me to give a visual representation to the producers and director of what the finished movie will be like.

WILLIAM GOLDENBERG, EDITOR

Budget constraints meant that Billy and his team remained in Los Angeles, while the production crew were shooting in London, Oxfordshire and other locations around England. “We were working at our base in Santa Monica and would receive the rushes by courier from Company 3,” he explains. “They were sent electronically between their locations in London and Los Angeles within a 24-hour timeframe, so if the footage was shot on Monday, we would get it late in the day on Tuesday.” This pattern of delivery and output meant that there was almost a round-the-clock production pipeline in place.

Goldenberg worked alongside assistant Andrew Eisen and post-production assistant Peter Dudgeon cutting on Avid Media Composer® | Software at EPS-Cineworks in Santa Monica. “It was a really successful workflow considering that we were working with footage shot just hours before, 5000 miles away, in London. Sometimes on a project we receive more footage than we can physically process in three days, let alone one. But on The Imitation Game, we worked at the same rate that the footage was being captured, which meant we were on top of the production at all times, ” he adds.

I’ve been using Media Composer for so long now it’s pretty much become an extension of my brain! It’s an amazing tool and I have no reason to ever use anything else.

WILLIAM GOLDENBERG, EDITOR

Despite the geographical logistics, Morten and Goldenberg collaborated closely throughout the production. “Media Composer allows me to present scenes as I’m going along that look like finished scenes,” explains Goldenberg. “We were cutting in HD and were able to apply stereo sound effects, stereo music and all kinds of visual effects in Media Composer, so it looked fairly close to a finished film. Media Composer’s versatility allows me to give a visual representation to the producers and director of what the finished movie will be like.”

He continues: “Since I wasn’t on location to read the room when reviewing cuts, and unless it was something urgent, I’d send Morten over footage on Fridays for a slightly more relaxed viewing experience. Instead of trawling through cut footage after a long day filming, this allowed him to look at things with a fresh pair of eyes and a clearer head. We were able to feed off each other and at times there was some debate, but ultimately we were on the same page and fighting for the same vision, which created an even stronger working relationship.”

Avid Media Composer cracks the code of efficient editing

Now a Media Composer veteran, Goldenberg first used the industry-standard editing solution in 1999, on Michael Mann’s The Insider He admits: “I told Michael I could use the Avid… so then I had to learn it! Without hesitation I can say it changed my life. I’ve been using Media Composer for so long now it’s pretty much become an extension of my brain! It’s sometimes hard to believe I did it any other way. And it keeps getting better – with more tracks, better image quality, more tools - and the new features are always intuitive. I can do everything I need to without looking at the buttons. It’s instinctual, and that really frees me up when I work. It’s an amazing tool and I have no reason to ever use anything else.”

According to Goldenberg, Media Composer facilitates creativity by allowing editors to make mistakes: “When you’re working digitally you can make a hundred copies and try a hundred different things. You can fail endlessly and not destroy the film. It’s the willingness to make those mistakes that bring out some really good ideas, and that alone speaks volumes about how valuable Media Composer is.”

When you’re working digitally you can make a hundred copies and try a hundred different things. It’s the willingness to make mistakes that bring out some really good ideas, and that alone speaks volumes about how valuable Media Composer is.

WILLIAM GOLDENBERG, EDITOR

After getting a foot on the ladder assisting Michael Kahn, the well-known editor of Steven Spielberg’s films, for a number of years early on in his career, his first credit was on the 1993 survival epic Alive. Since then, Goldenberg has gone on to become one of Hollywood’s most esteemed names in editing, building strong working bonds with directors Kathryn Bigelow, Ben Affleck and Michael Bay.

Goldenberg already has the next two years planned out. He’s currently cutting Concussion, a film starring Will Smith about the life-long problems that football players suffer as a result of repeated concussions. He’ll then join up for the third time with director Ben Affleck on Live by Night, a story set in the Prohibition Era and centred around a group of individuals and their dealings in the world of organized crime. Whatever challenges these new projects bring, he can rely on Avid Media Composer to help crack them. 

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