In Conversation with Mindhunter’s Cotter Smith

Davina Baynes
September 14, 2018
Absolute Music Chat

Cotter Smith was born in Washington DC, the son of a federal judge. He is an actor with a stage and screen presence spanning over 40 years. Most recently he can be seen on our screens as Unit Chief Shepard in David Fincher’s Mindhunter and as the Deputy Attorney General in The Americans but his on-screen career stretches back to Hill Street Blues (1982) and Blood Feud (1983) when he played Robert F. Kennedy. I was recently very privileged to talk with Cotter about his life and career in both acting and teaching, working with David Fincher and Steven Spielberg and much, much more.

[…]

DB: When you actually got the call from David Fincher: how did that come about?

CS: It was a call from my agent, initially, saying, ‘There’s interest. Would you be willing to read for David Fincher, for this series?’ And I said, ‘Absolutely. I’m a big fan.’ They said, ‘Well, first of all, let me tell you, it’s a guaranteed ten episodes already ordered for Netflix, but it would be a required eight months, in Pittsburgh.’ So I called my wife and said, ‘So here’s the deal, there’s this possibility, it’s not an offer but they’re interested in me, to come in and audition and we would be eight months in Pittsburgh.’ And she said, ‘Cotter, go get it, and get me out of here!’ (Laughs)

DB: She was packing her bags!

CS: She was so keen to leave New York. (Both laugh) So I auditioned. Then the wonderful casting agent, Julie Schubert, who was so helpful to me – she is really lovely, a casting agent who really loves actors and believes in the whole process – we had prepared, I think it was, these three or four scenes (I never met David) it was all on tape, that third one went off to him. She said, ‘You know, he takes a very long time to cast, so just relax. Everything he does he takes a very, very long time: from casting to shooting.’ So I said, ‘Okay,’ and a week later my agent called and said, ‘You got the job.’ I said, ‘What?’, ‘Yeah, you got the job!’ That was the first time it was ‘real’. I didn’t honestly believe I was going to get the job: I knew many, many, many people would want this job and, as an actor, you do these auditions and you don’t actually put much on them because it’s too heartbreaking if you don’t get them. I was so thrilled, and stunned. It’s exactly the kind of work that I want to do, with a kind of director that I want to work with: I love serious drama; he’s a master, master filmmaker. Just knowing he had cast me made me realize: ‘He knows what he’s doing, so this is going to be good.’ And it was. He’s so fun to work with. He’s challenging. He’s tough. He’s fast. He’s improvisational and you’ve really got to come with your A-game – which I like. He does endless takes: 30, 40, 50. My record was 64 takes on one scene. Endless shooting: we took eight months to shoot ten episodes. That’s a long time! Usually a director will be given eight days for an episode so that’ll be three months – he had eight months. But he’s David Fincher.

DB: And aiming as near to perfection as you can get?

CS: He’s a perfectionist. When you look at his work the proof is in the pudding.

DB: What about marks for the camerawork, are they really rigid?

CS: They’re necessarily rigid, at times, but it changes. On the spot, he will change things, change intention, change everything. It was fun.

DB: You don’t have to smoke as a character, do you?

CS: Thank God no! They sent out notices and said: ‘It’s the ‘70s, so who among you would be willing to smoke?’ And I just wrote back and said: ‘Absolutely no.’ And poor Holt McCallany said ‘yes’ and I think he regrets it to this day. This season he’s going to taper off. He really smokes.

Read the full interview

Read the other Absolute Music Chat conversations with the Cast of Mindhunter (more to come):

In Conversation with Mindhunter’s Jonathan Groff
An Interview with Mindhunter’s Holt McCallany
Jack Erdie: Actor (Mindhunter), writer & singer-songwriter
In Conversation With Alex Morf: Actor (MindhunterDaredevil)
In Conversation With Tobias Segal: Actor (MindhunterSneaky Pete)
Spotlight Interview. Chris Dettone: Actor (Mindhunter), Stuntman/Coordinator

Quentin Tarantino Casts Same Charles Manson Actor as David Fincher’s ‘Mindhunter’

Jeff Sneider
August 30, 2018
Collider

2018-08-31. Justified actor Damon Herriman

Two days ago, TheWrap broke the news that Quentin Tarantino had cast Australian actor Damon Herriman as Charles Manson in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but sources say he wasn’t the first auteur to have that idea, as Collider has exclusively learned that David Fincher already cast Herriman as Manson in the upcoming second season of Netflix’s Mindhunter.

A representative for Netflix declined to comment.

Sources say that while Herriman will appear as a 1969-era Manson in the Tarantino film, his appearance in Mindhunter will be in the ’80s, when Manson was already behind bars. That lines up with previous reports that the second season will feature the Atlanta Child Murders, which took place between 1979 and 1981. Other serial killers expected to appear include the Son of Sam and, of course, the BTK Killer, who popped up throughout the first season, though he was never mentioned by name.

Sources say that while Herriman’s casting in the Tarantino film was announced first, he was actually cast in Mindhunter much earlier, and in fact, already shot his scenes in July. Either way, the fact that he booked projects from Fincher and Tarantino back-to-back should speak highly of his take on Manson. I mean, when masters of casting like Fincher and Tarantino vouch for you, who else do you need to impress in this town?

Read the full article

2018-08-31. Damon Herriman

Color Grading Netflix’s Mindhunter

Eric Weidt, Dolby’s Thomas Graham, and Netflix’s Chris Clark.

A look at the show’s unique HDR look and workflow

David Alexander Willis (Twitter, Instagram)
June 2018
Post Magazine

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Each Mindhunter hour-long show (from the 10-episode run) was graded using FilmLight’s Baselight color grading tools by colorist Eric Weidt, who navigated between ultra-modern capture technology, the time and place of late 70s cinema and the very specific needs of David Fincher.

Adding an editorial and visual effects team at his facility in Hollywood, Mindhunter was the first time that the auteur established his own in-house DI. “It’s important to note, we had a lot more time to work on this show than most grades,” Weidt pointed out during a special HDR presentation by FilmLight, Dolbyand Red Digital Cinema at Hollywood’s Dolby Cinema Old Vine theatre.

“The 70’s and serial killers backdrop brought to mind David Fincher’s Zodiac, which is an absolutely brilliant movie; a masterpiece in terms of both content and color,” he says. “The 70s has a distinct color palette” he continues. Street photographers William Eggleston and Stephen Shore are personal sources of inspiration for initial color grading.

Post and edit began as production rolled in Pittsburgh. Dailies were usually available to Fincher by the following day. The production used FotoKem’s nextLAB dailies system and the PIX asset and data management and delivery platform.

Due to overlapping shoot and post production schedules, “David looked at things on his iPad for two-thirds of the season,” says Weidt, explaining that he had a complex rendering process that allowed him to manage new HDR footage as well as sending regular corrections from Fincher to view in SDR. The Baselight workflow file was separated into two timelines, one for any creative color adjustments, and another that had stabilizations and lens emulations applied. Weidt would daisy-chain them, run it through the Dolby Vision HDR professional tools, and create offline files to view on an iPad or monitor.

Weidt says that Fincher’s color design for Mindhunter was heavily influenced by the organic palette of several classic films, such as McCabe and Mrs. Miller, All the President’s Men and the more chromatic yet grittier look of The French Connection. They also wanted a low contrast, information-rich picture, and had first experimented with low contrast optical filtration on set but preferred in the end to “set up the digital chain in a way that Fincher was getting the type of image that he wanted.

Weidt’s starting point for dailies, as well as any color work on the master, began with a low-contrast log curve that maintained as much of the dynamic range provided by the Red Xenomorph camera as possible, and gave the SDR monitoring on set an approximation of Weidt’s HDR workflows.

The HDR look was developed in post production: “In HDR, we initially came across a lot of scenes where the light sources were taking too much prominence,” Weidt says. “David and his post supervisor Peter Mavromates really wanted an elegant balance. Mindhunter’s HDR is not trying to strike you or slap you in the face. Just like the sound mixing, or cutting, it is not trying to blow your mind, but rather convey the story content. The latter is really what’s going to punch you.”

Many of Fincher’s notes require simple dodging and burning, performed primarily through Weidt’s use of shapes, masking and tracking in Baselight. Using PIX, Fincher would circle subjects or areas of a frame, giving suggestive chromatic terms like ‘sallow’ or ‘ruddy,’ and ‘equidistant’ or ‘symmetrical’ in regard to reframing.

2018-06. Post - Color Grading Netflix_s Mindhunter 02
Areas of focus

2018-06. Post - Color Grading Netflix_s Mindhunter 03
After the grade

“David is famous for having a visual style where he is going to stabilize two-thirds of the shots in an episode, or in a movie, so that everything is absolutely perfect,” says Weidt. “What he wants is that the camera, the gaze into the image, is totally unconscious, and you’re really in there without distractions that most people take for granted.” After Fincher returned to Los Angeles, their standard workflow on a scene together would start with a master shot that incorporated the characters as well as background, timing color and light levels for other shots and angles in scenes to be timed from that reference.

Fincher’s eye for detail goes far beyond that, though, and Weidt noted several corrected items that would have escaped his attention, like plants outside a prison that were too vibrantly green, or highlights in reflections that needed to be turned down to match light sources. “There are certain colors that David needs to suppress, and that’s mostly pink,” he continues. “Pink appears in people’s skin tones, and if you get it wrong in the grading suite and ends up on a monitor outside of that environment, it’s going to appear like they have pink faces and it looks really bad. David wants to control that.”

Using Summilux-C primes from CW Sonderoptic, XML information was created for every focal length. This was a requirement on Mindhunter as simulations of grain, lens barreling and chromatic aberration in Baselight were tailored to the specific focal length throughout the show. Weidt even created anamorphic effects for the spherical lenses. “David wanted to refer to 70’s in what could be called ‘the anamorphic wide-screen era,’” he says.

He also added pseudo chromatic aberration “on every shot and every episode of Mindhunter,” which he developed himself, as the vast majority of plug-ins and filters will simply shift one of the primary color plates, stretching from center, resulting in bi-color aberrations. These created results that Fincher found lackluster, when for example given a cyan-red, he’d really only want the cyan. “I found the solution in Baselight, which essentially took 20 layers, using blending modes that are usually the purview of a compositing tool,” Weidt says.

“David directed four episodes of Mindhunter, but he’s the executive producer for the show, and he’s definitely the director of the DI,” he adds. “All of the color, he directed himself, with contributions from Erik Messerschmidt.”

This is an abridged version of the full in-depth article available in the June issue of Post Magazine

2018-06. Post - Color Grading Netflix_s Mindhunter 04

The Thrilling Parallels Between Detective Somerset and John Doe in ‘Se7en’

Emily Kubincanek
August 24, 2018
Film School Rejects

How can the good guy and bad guy be so similar?

At the core of any story is the relationship between protagonist and antagonist, especially in a story where the protagonist must understand his enemy in order to find him. The best battles between good and evil are convoluted with characteristics that could be categorized as either, or neither. When hero and villain are more alike than either would want to admit, that makes for a dynamite struggle between them. There are so many books out there that explain how to achieve that element in storytelling, but few movies ever do it as well as David Fincher’s serial killer masterpiece Se7en (1995).

Honestly, we’ve learned to expect nothing less than greatness with a Fincher + serial killer collaboration, and Se7en was his first. This almost neo-noir thriller follows the investigation of a serial killer using the seven deadly sins to justify brutal killings all over an unnamed city. Detective Somerset (Morgan Freeman) is an aging homicide detective on his way out of the department when he’s assigned the worst last case. He’s paired with his replacement, an idealistic and determined young detective named Mills (Brad Pitt). They’re forced to work through their differences to solve the case, which is more horrifying and unpredictable than either could imagine.

There are viable arguments for who is the true protagonist in this movie, Somerset or Mills. For the sake of reading the rest of this article, just humor me if you disagree that Somerset is the protagonist in this story. He begins and ends this movie, most of the struggles are his own, and he’s in 90 percent of the scenes. While Mills has a major relationship with the killer John Doe (Kevin Spacey) as well, what convinces me that he is not the protagonist is the connection and similarities between Somerset and Doe.

Read the full article

Cameron Britton on Channeling the “Intellectual Creepiness” of a Real-Life Serial Killer

Patrick Harbron / Netflix

The Netflix series’ breakout guest actor reveals what it took to pull off his haunting performance as the murderous Ed Kemper (hint: lots and lots of director David Fincher’s infamous takes).

Daniel Fienberg
August 17, 2018
The Hollywood Reporter

You can’t always pinpoint exactly the moment when a show makes its big qualitative leap, but with Netflix‘s Mindhunter, it’s easy. Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff), an FBI agent experiencing frustration at his colleagues’ antiquated approach to murder investigation, goes to prison to visit a notorious killer and comes face-to-face with Ed Kemper (Cameron Britton).

Towering in stature, soft-spoken, viewing the world inquisitively through thick glasses, Kemper is intellectually vicious, yet unfailingly polite. By the end of one 10-minute conversation, we understand completely why Holden has been pulled into Kemper’s gravity and how this giant has instantly transformed his worldview.

It’s a show-changing character and a career-changing performance for Britton, making his first major TV role and earning his first career Emmy nomination. The actor talked with The Hollywood Reporter about his approach to the real-life killer, director David Fincher‘s notoriously exacting standards and more.

Read the full interview

 

Meet Your Nominee: Cameron Britton on ‘Mindhunter’s’ Lone Emmy Nomination & Future of The Show

The Hollywood Reporter (YouTube)
August 7, 2018

2018 ‘Mindhunter‘ star and the show’s only Emmy nominee, Cameron Britton, joins THR for Meet Your Nominee!

 

Cameron Britton (‘Mindhunter’): It was difficult to get into the mind of a killer

Gold Derby (YouTube)
August 6, 2018

Cameron Britton (‘Mindhunter’) chats with Gold Derby editor Daniel Montgomery: It was difficult to get into the mind of a killer, and to get out of it.

Complete Interview Transcript

 

How Ice Cream and The Beatles Helped Cameron Britton Destroy a Killer

TV Guide (YouTube)
August 15, 2018

Mindhunter’s Cameron Britton tells us how he was able to get into the mind of serial killer Ed Kemper, the toll it took on him, and how he ultimately got him out of his system.

 

Emmy-Nominee Cameron Britton On Becoming Ed Kemper In ‘Mindhunter’

Mindhunter‘s Cameron Britton talks to Awards Daily about how he became serial killer Ed Kemper, how the role impacted his life, and what his Emmy nomination means to him.

Clarence Moye
August 20, 2018
Awards Daily

Cameron Britton is having a very, very good year.

When Netflix’s Mindhunter premiered last fall, critics and audiences alike approached the dramatic series with respect and awe, thanks to the influence of the great director David Fincher. But everyone, literally everyone, was talking about Cameron Britton. His take on infamous serial killer Edmund Kemper captivated audiences. If you were talking about Mindhunter, then you were talking about Cameron Britton’s brilliant performance.

Here, Cameron talks to Awards Daily about how he wrestled with Edmund Kemper. He dove so deeply into Kemper that it took time to exorcise the role from his system. He also talks about what the role meant for his career and how he prepped for it by running lines with his close friends. It’s a fascinating conversation with an actor clearly on the rise in Hollywood.

Listen to the full interview

David Fincher in Conversation with Mark Romanek

Illustrations by Tony Millionaire

“The screenwriter has given you the greatest gift, which is he’s given you something that inspires somebody to make the right mistake.”

Things David Fincher enjoys about filmmaking:

Reading a good script
Casting
Rehearsal
Pre-production meetings

Things he hates about filmmaking:

Every single additional thing about it

Mark Romanek
October 1, 2010
The Believer

David Fincher’s film career began at the age of nineteen as an assistant cameraman at Industrial Light & Magic. In 1983, he relocated to Los Angeles to direct TV commercials and music videos. His commercial clients include Adidas, AT&T, Coca-Cola, Budweiser, Pepsi, and Nike. David has directed music videos for various artists including Madonna, The Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, and A Perfect Circle. In 1987 he cofounded Propaganda Films with Dominic Sena, Greg Gold, and Nigel Dick, and has since become a motion-picture director with Panic Room, Fight Club, The Game, Se7en, Zodiac, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button among his credits. His next film, The Social Network, is slated to be released this month.

Mark Romanek was born in Chicago. Romanek has directed numerous award-winning music videos for many artists including Fiona Apple, Beck, David Bowie, Johnny Cash, Coldplay, R.E.M., and Sonic Youth. Romanek wrote and directed the feature film One Hour Photo starring Robin Williams. The film had its world premiere at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, and received the Prix du Public, Prix Premiere, and the Prix du Jury at the 2002 Deauville American Film Festival. His new film, Never Let Me Go, will be released this month.

Fincher and Romanek first met in 1990, when Romanek was signed to Satellite Films. Satellite was a “boutique” division of Propaganda Films, where Fincher was a director, and a music-video legend. The two directors spoke by phone for The Believer in early August 2010.

Read the full conversation

2010-10-01. The Believer - An Interview with David Fincher 01a

Thanks to Joe Frady

Names of All New Serial Killers Coming to Mindhunter Season 2!

Sarah Carey
August 2, 2018
ThatHashtagShow.com

Season 1 brought us many familiar serial killer faces with the likes of Monte Ralph Rissell, Jerry Brudos (The Shoe Fetish Slayer), Richard Speck, Darrell Gene Devier, Edmund Kemper (the Co-Ed Killer), as well the murders of the Dennis Rader (the BTK Killer) subtly over-arch the season.

Mindhunter season 2 is setting itself up to be a doozy. Not only will we see interviews with more serial killers and the BTK Killer storyline continue to develop, but the show will also be taking on the Atlanta Child Murders; a string of 28 mostly child murders, that shook Atlanta from 1979-1981. These murders also spawned the “It’s 10 o’clock, do you know where your child is?” commercials.

Currently, the Mindhunters casting team is searching for actors to play the victims family members, Venus Taylor, Annie Rogers, D.A. Slaton, Mayor Maynard Jackson, Commissioner Lee Brown, and Deputy Police Chief Morris Redding.

Casting is also looking for Wayne Williams, a serial killer convicted of killing 2 men, but prosecutors believe he was responsible for murdered children because when Williams went to prison the child murders stopped.

Rumors and theories have been flying around the interwebs speculating which serial killers the show could possibly bring into season 2 for interviews or more. Well, we here at That Hashtag Show have that EXCLUSIVE information just for you!

Read the full article with the list