Summit ’13: Gibney “furiously” re-cutting Armstrong doc

Oscar-winner Alex Gibney (pictured, right, with the BBC's Nick Fraser) told Realscreen Summit delegates he is working "furiously" to re-work his doc on Lance Armstrong, following the cyclist's recent interview with Oprah Winfrey.
January 30, 2013

Oscar-winner Alex Gibney (pictured, right) told delegates at the Realscreen Summit he is working “furiously” to re-cut and re-work his long-in-the-making doc on Lance Armstrong, following the cyclist’s recent interview with talk show host Oprah Winfrey.

Talking in conversation with BBC ‘Storyville’ editor Nick Fraser (pictured above, left) at Tuesday’s (January 29) keynote chat, Gibney discussed his portfolio of investigative feature documentaries, from the Academy Award-winning Taxi to the Dark Side to more recent efforts, including TIFF title Mea Maxima Culpa and this year’s Sundance selection We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks.

He also spoke about his as-yet-untitled doc on Armstrong, which he has been working on since 2009. When asked how Armstrong’s recent interview with Winfrey affected his film, Gibney joked: “Was he interviewed by Oprah?”

He went on to say that after the International Cycling Union stripped the seven-time Tour de France winner of his titles, it was “probably a lucky thing that we didn’t wrap up too quickly” and finish the film at that point.

“Now we’re furiously, not only re-cutting, but also interviewing other people,” the filmmaker said. “I think it’ll be interesting – we have stuff in there which nobody else has.”

Gibney explained that the long approach he has taken to working on the film is a “classic case in point” of his prolific strategy of working on a number of large number of different films at the same time.

“Investigative films, they can’t always operate to a particular schedule,” he said. “Sometimes films have to be produced in tandem.” He explained that his indie, Jigsaw Productions, tends to have “a few dedicated people working dedicatedly on each film. And I move back and forth between them.”

He also paid praise to the “genius editors who plow thought hundreds of hours of material to find these bits” that make up the core of the film.

Elsewhere, the session saw Fraser asking Gibney why he had worked so rarely with PBS in his career, to which the filmmaker replied that funding was often a stalling issue. “I’d always go in for interesting meetings with PBS,” Gibney said, “and they’d said ‘this is interesting, we’re behind you 100%… tell us how you’re going to raise the money.’”

The duo also discussed torture, or ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ used in the War on Terror, with specific reference to Dark Side and Kathryn Bigalow’s recent Oscar-nominated Bin Laden film Zero Dark Thirty.

Gibney clarified that there was a lot in Bigalow’s film that he was a big fan of, but also renewed his criticism of the film’s suggestion that torture produced actionable intelligence that led to the location of Osama bin Laden.

“I think she [Bigalow] and [screenwriter/producer] Mark Boal posited… a version of the torture narrative that is embraced by a small group of people in the CIA who believe that torture worked,” Gibney said. By contrast, his characterization of the use of torture by the American military was that “it was as if they released a virus that slowly mutated… into a desperate lunacy.”


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Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.