Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.
Preston Barta // Editor
By all accounts, Kathryn Bigelow’s DETROIT is a massive film in terms of scale and scope. It boasts a powerful ensemble cast, shows a grueling story that covers an obscure moment in history, and jumps from one location to the next in its titular city.
The job of assembling all of these components was given to Academy Award-winning film editor William Goldenberg ― a veteran splicer who has cut the works of notable filmmakers such as Ben Affleck (ARGO) and Michael Mann (HEAT).
Goldenberg studied under the wing of legendary editor Michael Kahn (SAVING PRIVATE RYAN). Since the inception of his filmmaking career, Goldenberg has taken what he learned from Kahn and molded it into something of his own. The way Goldenberg establishes tone, incorporates history and gives still moments movement proves him to be a master of his craft.
Based on first-person accounts and found documents, DETROIT takes us back to summer 1967, where rioting and civil unrest started to tear at the seams of the city. Two days after Detroit erupted into chaos, a report of gunshots coming from the Algiers Motel prompted police and the National Guard to search and seize the location. The confrontation between the uniformed officers and motel guests escalated into a night of relentless violence, ending with three unarmed men gunned down and several others savagely beaten.
To capture the reality of the brutal situation, the film required many long hours of research. The sensitivity of the material and the filmmakers’ devotion to share a true event with the utmost respect drove them to search areas high and low.
Fortunately, they found a valuable source of credibility through hours of archival footage.
“We had the advantage of having three-to-four hours of newsreel footage that was found in the basement of the Michigan Film Archives,” Goldenberg said. “[Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal] discovered the reel before I came onto the film. They sent me the footage and I cataloged it, so we could use certain pieces as springboards, or to simply incorporate them into the body of scenes.”
Many of these clips can be found at the film’s opening, where DETROIT vividly paints rebellion as it spreads throughout the city. The grainy, documentary-like appearance and Bigelow’s signature handheld style blends seamlessly with their findings.
“Often stock footage can be a distancing experience for the viewer. It provides us with a sense of comfort, knowing we can watch the world’s adversity from the safety of our couches. So the idea in DETROIT was to include footage as a way to pull audiences into the story and not push them away.”
The Algiers Motel, the central set piece, is a major factor in laying the film’s evocative foundation. As well written as the dialogue is, so much is said in the way Goldenberg chooses to show every minutiae detail at that location. Whether it’s the fixed, hellish look on one of its cruel officer’s faces or the nonstop sense of dread that can be felt by those held against their will, the structure takes a hold of you and never lets go.
“We shot over several weeks there,” Goldenberg recalled. “There were so many different rooms and parts to that motel. So my attitude was to put the audience in the shoes of its characters; this way there would be a tremendous amount of empathy for the victims and their families during the aftermath.”
Although it was Goldenberg’s goal to accurately capture the feelings of the night, he didn’t want to overstep his bounds and manipulate audience’s emotions.
“You don’t want to be exploitative and use any editing tricks. I’m always conscious of the viewer when I edit. You never want to feel like you’re being manipulated. There are so many things you can do to do that to an audience, like messing with time and place to heighten reality. I want to be an honest filmmaker.”
At its most profound, DETROIT is an unblinking immersion into a historical tragedy. Don’t be surprised if Goldenberg and his team find themselves with a few golden statues come next year’s Oscars.
DETROIT is now playing in theaters nationwide.