David Fincher’s Mank follows Herman Mankiewicz during the time he was writing the classic film Citizen Kane. Mank, as he was known, wrote or co-wrote about 40 films, often uncredited, including the first draft of The Wizard of Oz. Together with Orson Welles, he won an Oscar for the screenplay of Citizen Kane, but it’s long been disputed whether or not he, rather than Welles, actually did the bulk of the work on the screenplay.
The script for Mank was penned decades ago by David Fincher’s father, Jack, and was brought to the screen thanks to Netflix this past year. Fincher deftly blends two parallel storylines: Mankiewicz’s writing of Kane during his convalescence from an accident and his earlier Hollywood experiences with the studios, as told through flashbacks.
Fincher and director of photography Erik Messerschmidt, ASC, (Mindhunter) used many techniques to pay homage to the look of Citizen Kane and other classic films of the era, including shooting in true black-and-white with Red Monstro 8K Monochrome cameras and Leica Summilux lenses. Fincher also tapped other frequent collaborators, including Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for the score and Oscar-winning editor Kirk Baxter, ACE, who won for the Fincher film’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Social Network.
I recently caught up with Baxter, who runs Exile Edit, to discuss Mank — starring Gary Oldman in the main role — the fourth film he’s edited for David Fincher.