David Fincher set Mank in a world spanning 1930s and 1940s Hollywood. To tell the story of the events and relationships that led to the creation of the great Citizen Kane, Mank looks and feels as if it were made during that same period – a rare feat of technical and crafts wizardry. To re-establish this world, VFX can only get one so far (more on that another time), so Fincher and his production designer Donald Graham Burt needed to recall classic Hollywood structures as well as find a way to recreate the period experience of William Randolph Hearst’s castle located in San Simeon.
And you have to do all of that on an approximate $25 million budget.
“It’s a challenge, and that’s probably the thing that, if anything kept me up at night, then that probably did,” Burt laughed. “In the same token, if you really look at the movie and break it down, it is pretty simple. I’m sort of a minimalist at heart. If you just take it and say let’s keep it simple but let’s build complexity within that simplicity, then it serves you so well in terms of dealing with a tight budget.”