Ollin VFX Delivers Mank Shots During Lockdown

March 22, 2021
postPerspective

Mexico City-based Ollin VFX specializes in creating computer-generated imagery for television and film. Run by co-founder/president Alejandro Diego, the company works with clients worldwide to provide concept design, previz and postviz, 2D compositing, 3D/CG effects and animation.

Work is spread out between Ollin’s headquarters in Mexico City and artists in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, India and Hollywood. Their visual effects work can be seen in films like JumanjiGodzillaDeadpool and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

When COVID-19 necessitated a lockdown that required their artists work from home, they were faced with how to meet fast-approaching deadlines for two major projects: an Amazon-original zombie TV series called Operation 8888 and David Fincher’s Mank, a movie about screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz’s development of the 1941 classic Citizen Kane.

Mank was shot black and white in 6K resolution — much higher quality than the usual 2K or 4K — which made the creation of visual effects creatively challenging due to the variations in shades of gray.

“Immediately, all of our artists started working from home and connecting via VPN to their workstation at the office,” explains Diego. When the lockdown happened in March, the studio needed to figure out a reliable and fast way for everyone to easily access and work on files ranging in size from a few MB to several GB from multiple remote locations.

Ollin had just started using DEI’s ExpeDat, accelerated file transport software, a few months before COVID-19 hit. When the shutdown happened, Diego accepted an offer from DEI to increase capacity to their existing ExpeDat license, from four to eight and at no additional cost, to help accommodate their increased demand for ingest and other file transfer activities. Having this kind of workflow setup helped Ollin as they created and delivered VFX for Mank. We reached out to Diego to find out more about his studio’s workflow.

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Why Recreating Hearst Castle Should Earn ‘Mank’ the Oscar for Production Design

Don Burt could win the Oscar for his recreation of the opulent Hearst settings for David Fincher’s monochromatic deconstruction of classic moviemaking.

Bill Desowitz
April 23, 2021
IndieWire

David Fincher’s “Mank” leads all Oscar craft nominations with six. And yet its greatest chance of a win rests with Don Burt’s meticulous production design of the iconic Hearst Castle and San Simeon compound. However, since he was working in black-and-white with set decorator Jan Pascale — his co-nominee — it was more advantageous to capture the spirit of William Randolph Hearst’s opulent retreat than trying to replicate it. For one thing, the colors would get lost, and, for another, they’d still be struggling to recreate all of the detail.

“Hearst Castle felt like something Hearst [Charles Dance] built as his Xanadu [from ‘Citizen Kane’], and now it’s maintained more like a theme park,” said Burt, who actually didn’t visit the landmark since they couldn’t shoot there. But he referenced plenty of images and studied its architecture and interior design along with the beautiful landscaping of San Simeon. “Hearst saw this as his own little castle in the world and his accumulation of art from Europe was representational of this extravagance and indulgence that he had.”

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“The Last Thing I Saw” Podcast: David Fincher and Donald Graham Burt

Nicolas Rapold
April 2, 2021
The Last Thing I Saw

Writer-editor Nicolas Rapold talks with guests about the movies they’ve been watching. It’s as simple as that. From home viewing to the latest from festivals. Named one of the 10 Best Film Podcasts by Sight & Sound magazine.

For this special episode I talk with director David Fincher and production designer Don Burt about Mank, a black-and-white evocation of Hollywood through the jaded eyes of one Herman J. Mankiewicz, as he writes the screenplay for Citizen Kane. If you’ve seen any Fincher films since Zodiac, you’ve also seen Burt’s beautiful work, which won him an Academy Award for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. We talk about the conception of Mank‘s particular spaces; the techniques behind designing for a black-and-white film; the eagle-eyed capabilities of digital cameras; and whether Mank is intended to be a political film. Mank has received 10 Academy Award nominations, including best picture, director, and production design.

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Subscribe to The Last Thing I Saw for more of the podcast plus recommendations, articles, and more.

MANK Craft Panel. With Erik Messerschmidt, Donald Graham Burt & Trish Summerville

Jessica Radloff
April 7, 2021
American Cinematheque

Mank Craft Panel with cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt, production designer Donald Graham Burt and costume designer Trish Summerville, moderated by Jessica Radloff. Presented by the American Cinematheque on Saturday, April 3, 2021.

The Empty Man Is the Next Great Cult Horror Film

Vulture Recommends

Tres Dean
April 6, 2021
Vulture

Between the global pandemic, studio mergers, and the overwhelming onslaught of content flooding streaming services, it has never been easier for a movie to slip through the cracks. Years from now, we will no doubt look back on an entire generation of great films that were lost to the ever-shifting chaos of the industry over these past few years. What does feel safe to say is that when we are discussing the great works lost to this strange time, 2020’s The Empty Man will be in the conversation.

If you’re interested in the details of its tumultuous production, director David Prior has been remarkably candid about the process in recent interviews: 1, 2, 3. Long story short: The film, a very loose adaptation of Cullen Bunn and Vanesa R. Del Rey’s comic series of the same name, was marred by reshoots, recuts, the FoxDisney merger, a constantly shifting release date, and losing its original producer in the middle of production. After sitting on a shelf for years, it was tossed into theaters in the middle of the pandemic, grossed a paltry $4 million worldwide, and was quickly forgotten. It is currently only available to rent via Amazon, and as of the writing of this story, there are no plans for a DVD/Blu-ray release.

To be fair, even if theaters were open for business as usual, one could be forgiven for chalking The Empty Man up as skippable after its first trailer, which, in one of the more damning marketing moves in recent memory, dropped about a week before the film hit theaters. The film’s borderline nonexistent marketing paints the James Badge Dale vehicle as a sort of Slender Man–adjacent creepypasta horror, the sort of bland Blumhouse rip-off designed to come and go with as little noise as possible. Its initial critical reception was middling at best, though it even went underseen in that respect — its current 50 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes is based on 14 official reviews. It’s the sort of perfect storm that renders a film nonexistent in the cultural consciousness.

And that’s a shame, because The Empty Man very much warrants a place there.

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‘Mank’ producer Eric Roth on his 1st time as a Best Picture nominee and his BIG upcoming 2021 films

Eric Roth with co-producer Douglas Urbanski and cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt on the set of Mank (Gisele Schmidt-Oldman / Netflix)

Riley Chow
April 6, 2021
Gold Derby

“It’s going to be a short entrance and probably exit, not that I didn’t enjoy it,” laughs Eric Roth in his exclusive interview with Gold Derby about his foray into film producing with “Mank” for Netflix. Roth is such an industry veteran that he won the Writers Guild of America’s lifetime achievement award back in 2012. With screenplay credits going back five decades, including his Oscar-winning screenplay for 1994’s “Forrest Gump” and 2018’s “A Star is Born” earning him his fifth Best Adapted Screenplay nomination, “Mank” represents 76-year-old Roth’s debut as a film producer. He now has his first Oscar in the Best Picture category for his first time in contention.

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In Conversation: Behind the Crafts of Mank

Wendy Mitchell
March 3, 2021
Netflix Awards FYC

A conversation with Cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt, ASC, Production Designer Donald Graham Burt, Set Decorator Jan Pascale, Costume Designer Trish Summerville, and Makeup Department Head Gigi Williams on behalf of Mank. Moderated by Wendy Mitchell.

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The New Yorker Radio Hour: David Fincher on ‘Mank’ and How the Movies Learned to Talk

David Remnick
April 2, 2021
The New Yorker / WNYC Studios

The director talks about his latest feature—written by his late father, Jack Fincher—and the eternal struggle between screenwriters and directors.

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Jan Pascale’s set decoration on ‘Mank’ captures ’30s Hollywood glamour

Joshua Axelrod
April 3, 2021
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Jan Pascale seems to find her greatest success when working in black and white.

The Beechview native has been a set decorator for major Hollywood projects since the 1980s, but didn’t pick up her first Oscar nomination until 2005’s “Good Night, and Good Luck,” a black-and-white film directed by George Clooney. She wound up losing out to “Memoirs of a Geisha” at the 2006 Academy Awards.

Fifteen years later, she has another shot at Oscar glory later this month with her best production design nomination for “Mank,” David Fincher’s black-and-white Netflix drama chronicling Herman J. Mankiewicz’s efforts to write the screenplay for “Citizen Kane.”

“It’s really exciting and humbling,” Pascale told the Post-Gazette. “It’s unique that both of my nominations were for black-and-white films done completely differently.”

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‘Mank’ Costume Designer Trish Summerville On Turning Color Into Black & White

Gregory Ellwood
April 2, 2021
The Playlist

Costume designer Trish Summerville has collaborated with David Fincher on films such as Gone Girl” and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and with other filmmakers on large fantasy films including The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and The Dark Tower.” None of that prepared her for tackling Fincher’s passion project, however. Mank” not only found her designing clothing from Hollywood’s golden era, but translating those costumes specifically for a black and white digital canvas.

“We had to make a really big decision on how we would go about translating the degrees and tones that we needed on screen, but not to be too jarring and distracting to the actors while on set. Because a lot of the women’s clothes that actresses wore were in corals and short truce, lime green, bright purple, a lot of bright t-shirts,” Summerville recalls. “So for us, that would have been too distracting to have all those colors to the naked eye on set but would have translated lovely in black and white. It was just kind of figuring out what colors we could use that adjusted that a bit and tones we would go in, and just keep the pallet a little bit more stabilized in different scenes, especially scenes where we have larger background numbers. We just kind of wanted to keep the color palette very contained.”

Currently in production on Francis Lawrence’s “Slumberland,” Summerville revisited her work on the Netflix release which included a lot of time showcasing the character and real-life historical figure Marion Davis, portrayed by another first-time Oscar nominee, Amanda Seyfried.

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