May 21, 2020
A multi-screen meditation on puttering featuring Platinum Blonde (1931, Frank R. Capra) and Fight Club (1999, David Fincher). Made for The Video Essay Podcast.
Interview with David Fincher at the TAI University School of Arts (Madrid), hosted by Carlos Reviriego.
In English, with Spanish subtitles.
0:00:33 – What did the book ‘Gone Girl‘ is based on had that made you want to film a movie about it?
0:02:33 – Talk about your first years in the movie industry.
0:06:38 – You once said ‘No one hates Alien3 more than me’. Can you talk about it?
0:09:31 – David Lynch was here last year, and he said that the most important advice was to always fight for the final cut of your film. Do you think the same?
0:15:03 – Some critics think that ‘Fight Club‘ and movies on your filmography celebrate violence and anarchy. What do you have to say about it?
0:18:39 – Do you see yourself as a perfectionist?
0:22:17 – What’s more important, talent or hard work?
0:25:40 – What changes with digital cinema?
0:28:09 – How do you work with the Cinematographer and the Art Department?
0:34:31 – Can you talk about your work for TV and House of Cards?
0:36:37 – How do you feel about Amy’s character in Gone Girl?
0:37:53 – Do you get involved in the writing process?
0:39:08 – Why do you tend to use green and yellow colours in your cinema?
0:41:12 – Do you see a certain similarity between Brad Pitt’s character in ‘Twelve Monkeys‘ and ‘Seven‘?
0:43:02 – What do you look for in an actor?
0:48:38 – Is it more complicated to do fiction or documentary?
Encuentro con David Fincher en la Escuela Universitaria de Artes TAI (Madrid), conducido por Carlos Reviriego.
En inglés, con subtítulos en español.
0:00:33 – ¿Qué te atrajo de la obra literaria en la que se inspira ‘Gone Girl‘?
0:02:33 – Háblanos de tus comienzos
0:06:38 – Una vez dijiste que nadie odió Alien3 más que tu. ¿Puedes hablar sobre ello?
0:09:31 – David Lynch estuvo aquí el año pasado y dijo que lo más importante era tener el corte final de la película. ¿Opinas lo mismo?
0:15:03 – Algunos críticos opinan que ‘Fight Club‘ y otras de tus películas ensalzan la violencia y el caos. ¿Qué tienes que decir al respecto?
0:18:39 – ¿Te consideras un perfeccionista?
0:22:17 – ¿Qué es más importante, el talento o el trabajo duro?
0:25:40 – ¿Qué añade la conversión al digital del cine a tu obra?
0:28:09 – Tu estética tiene una firma o un sello personal. ¿Cómo trabajas con el Director de Fotografía?
0:34:31 – ¿Puedes hablar sobre tu participación en televisión y en House of Cards?
0:36:37 – ¿Qué piensas del personaje de Amy en Gone Girl?
0:37:53 – ¿Cómo te involucras en el proceso de escritura del guión?
0:39:08 – ¿Por qué tu cine tiene cierta tendencia a usar verdes y amarillos?
0:41:12 – ¿Crees que hay cierta similitud entre la forma de actuar del personaje de Brad Pitt en ‘Twelve Monkeys‘ y ‘Seven‘, que fueron rodadas en la misma época?
0:43:02 – ¿Qué buscas de un actor a la hora de trabajar con él?
0:48:38 – ¿Es más complicado rodar ficción o documental?
Magaly Briand / TAI (2014)
DP Jeff Cronenweth On The Social Network Ten Years Later and the Mysterium X Sensor.
Film stills by Merrick Morton
On October 1, The Social Network turns ten. The RED Mysterium X sensor (also turning ten) that rendered the film is now outmoded, but The Social Network thrives due to, not in spite of, the marks of its time. The limited latitude of the once cutting-edge camera sensor pushed David Fincher and DP Jeff Cronenweth—who also shot Fincher’s Fight Club, The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl—into the darker bends of The Social Network’s imitation Harvard dorms. The camera struggled with highlights, so they avoided hot windows and sunny exteriors. It also strained to digest warm tones, so they chose a cooler palette that was easier for the RED to chew on. The sensor’s limitations had implicit limitations with the story of Facebook’s origin, the first of screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s two tech mogul reprimands (Fincher’s Zuckerberg was follow by Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs)—individuals he believes pioneered our doom out of spite, envy, inceldom.
When The Social Network initially released, an anecdote about Fincher hiring a mime to distract Harvard campus security was often iterated in the press. Fincher and Cronenweth stitched three shots captured by three REDs on a roof across the street and did a “pan and scan” in post to get a move they couldn’t have otherwise. But they needed light on some of the dark arches, so Fincher hired a mime to push a battery cart full of lights behind them, the impetus being that “by the time [security] got him out of there we would have already accomplished our shot.” Fincher adopted digital in its nascent stages to limit the compromises caused by the erratic nature of the film set. What remained to be compromised on he’d have more ways of fixing in post on digital than on film.
Filmmaker: What have you been watching?
Cronenweth: Eh, I don’t know. Mostly movies. I tried to do the Ozark series, which I like, but it starts to get redundant: same bad guys doing the same things. The only problem I find is that the first week we watched maybe 50 movies, so now we can’t separate the good scenes and shots from the others because we’ve watched so many in a row. That can be a handicap. I’m 58. This is the longest I’ve had off since I graduated from college. So, there are a lot of things I’ve been putting off for twenty years that have been good to get done with.
Filmmaker: Have you rewatched The Social Network recently?
Cronenweth: No, I tend not to. You see them so many times when you’re making them, in the edit, the color correct and the screenings. I would like to, though. It’s such a cleverly written script and Fincher did such a great job at bringing Aaron’s dialogue across. Everytime I watch it, regardless of how tied into it I was, it always amuses me how quickly it feels like it went by. You never have a chance to get off the rollercoaster, which is one of [Fincher’s] mottos. But by the end you go “Really? That’s the whole movie?” It feels like it just started.
Filmmaker: You guys were the first feature film to use RED’s Mysterium X sensor.
Cronenweth: It was my first experience shooting something long form with a digital camera. I had shot music videos and commercials on an array of different formats and cameras. Obviously Fincher had done Zodiac and Benjamin Button digitally. I can’t remember what they shot that on?
Filmmaker: I think they were both shot on the Viper. [Benjamin was a combination of the Viper, Sony F23 and some 35mm on the Arriflex 435]
Follow Jeff Cronenweth, ASC Archives on Twitter
April 27, 2020
Art of the Shot
Welcome to the Art of the Shot podcast! Join writer and filmmaker Derek Stettler for conversations with the artists behind the camera on strikingly-shot films, series, music videos and commercials. Discover how they made their careers happen, hear about their creative process, and learn how they make the shots that make us say: wait, how did they do that?
For the third episode, Derek speaks with none other than Jeff Cronenweth, ASC!
Jeff is the two-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer behind many of David Fincher’s films, including The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and their first film together–and Jeff’s first feature film–Fight Club.
(And if you’re worried, no, they don’t talk about Fight Club… much.)
Jeff has also shot numerous commercials and music videos for some of the biggest artists, including Madonna, David Bowie, Shakira, Taylor Swift and Katy Perry.
And this month marked the release of Jeff’s first foray into television, with the pilot to the Amazon Prime original series, Tales from the Loop: a sci-fi anthology adapted from the paintings of Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag.
What you may not know is that Jeff Cronenweth is the son of legendary cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth, the eye behind the era-defining look of Blade Runner. Enjoy this in-depth conversation about everything from how Jeff forged his own path while following in his father’s footsteps, and his approach to lighting based on story, to working with David Fincher, his work on Tales from the Loop (including how he achieved a never-before-seen lighting effect), and his trick for making sure eye lights look more natural.
Note, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this conversation was recorded remotely, but all efforts were made to ensure quality audio.
The Art of the Shot podcast is brought to you by Evidence Cameras, an outstanding rental house in Echo Park specializing in high-end digital cinema camera packages, lenses, support, and accessories.
If you like what you hear, please subscribe to be notified of future episodes, and share this podcast with others to help grow the show!
Listen to the podcast and subscribe and follow Art of the Shot:
Tales from the Loop trailer audio copyright Amazon.com, Inc. Used with permission courtesy of Amazon Studios.
Follow Jeff Cronenweth, ASC Archives on Twitter
A playlist of 12 videos showcasing each page:
Designed by DNA Studio.
www.foxmovies.com/fightclub (No longer working)
Jordan and Jeff Cronenweth on the set of Francis Ford Coppola‘s Gardens of Stone
Jeff Cronenweth, ASC on David Fincher, Fight Club, growing up in Hollywood, music videos, Mark Romanek, One Hour Photo, Gone Girl, The Social Network and the new Amazon series Tales from the Loop.
Jeff Cronenweth comes from three generations in the film business and followed his father, cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth (Blade Runner) into a career as a director of photography. Growing up on film sets and working alongside his father enabled Jeff to take a hands-on role in the camera department. He started as a loader and camera assistant, getting into the union while attending USC. He met David Fincher while working on the Madonna music video “Oh Father” as a camera assistant. Fincher gave Jeff his first opportunity to DP for the film Fight Club. Jeff’s collaboration with Fincher later earned him two Oscar nominations- one for The Social Network and one for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. He also began working with director Mark Romanek on music videos, such as Eels “Novocaine for the Soul” and Nine Inch Nails’ “The Perfect Drug.” Jeff and Romanek also worked together on the feature film, One Hour Photo starring Robin Williams. The film presented many lighting challenges since the bulk of it takes place inside a store with flat white lights before the darker undertones of the movie are revealed.
Jeff also shot the pilot for Tales from the Loop with director Mark Romanek, streaming now on Amazon Prime.
Follow Jeff Cronenweth, ASC Archives on Twitter
Jeff Cronenweth in the set of The Social Network (Merrick Morton, 2010)
Fight Club cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth talks us through this iconic shot and many others in David Fincher‘s masterpiece. We also discuss how the relative naturalism of The Social Network was just as difficult to achieve, and whether something is lost with VFX even when it looks perfect.
Follow Jeff Cronenweth, ASC Archives on Twitter
Roger Durling’s wildly successful Santa Barbara International Film Festival is underway with tributes and with honors being handed out for the next week or so. Last night, Brad Pitt was honored with the Leonard Maltin Modern Master award.
After a lengthy interview with Maltin, which covered all of Pitt’s work with directors like both Ridley and Tony Scott, the Coen brothers, Tarantino, and beyond, Pitt’s frequent collaborator David Fincher made a rare appearance to hand Pitt his Modern Master award. They have made three films together, if you didn’t know (which of course would be insane to not know). Pitt is a muse of sorts for Fincher, starting with Se7en (1995), then Fight Club (1999), and finally Benjamin Button (2008). Pitt said when accepting his award that he hoped the two get to do five more collaborations together. Wouldn’t that be something?
Brad Pitt is having quite a season. It’s as though we’ve never seen a movie star. Movie stars of his stature are “as rare as albino pandas, and here’s one of them,” said Fincher. What that means is that it’s rare indeed for an actor to possess that thing — that movie star thing. Charisma that could power an entire planet. You can’t teach it. You can’t learn it. It’s there or it isn’t. And with Pitt, it was there from his first appearance onscreen.
Here are the videos of the event (playlist):
January 22, 2020
Brad Pitt Looks Back on ‘Snatch’, ‘Oceans 12’, ‘Once Upon a Time…’ and More at SBIFF
Blu-rays vs iTunes HD vs D-VHS vs DVD vs Laserdisc
April 7, 2018
Not On Blu-ray?
Caustic, nihilistic and controversial, Fight Club successfully adapted Chuck Palahniuk’s transgressive fiction novel, it’s a credit to screenwriter Jim Uhl’s excellent adaptation that the voice of the original novel is heard so clearly, and at the same time the film proved to be an enormous success. Though much credit is also due to the excellent sound and editing: so much in this film depends on hitting exactly the right tone.
Based on a reader suggestion, I decided to take a look at the various home video versions of Fight Club that are available.
Filming Fight Club
Fight club was photographed by Jeff Cronenweth, a then hot and upcoming Cinematographer who until that point hadn’t shot a major feature, but did have the advantage of being Blade Runner cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth’s son. Fincher has worked with both father and son on a number of projects culminating in ‘Alien 3’. Subsequently Jeff did camera work on a number of Fincher’s other features including ‘Se7en’ and ‘The Game’.
An Interview with Cronenweth in American cinematographer records Fincher’s preference for both natural and pre-existing lighting in locations over elaborate lighting setups. This necessitated the choice of higher speed stocks.
The film was shot using the Super35 format, and framed at 2.35:1. Daylight scenes were shot on Kodak EXR 100T and Vision 250D film, while the majority of night scenes were shot on ‘faster’, grainier Vision 500T.
Selected night scenes from the film were 5% flashed at the laboratory, which boosts contrast and enhances detail in the darker parts of the frame. Additionally a handful of release prints were treated with the Technicolor’s ENR silver retention process (bleach bypass) at the 80 IR level.
Shooting in Super35 at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 provides considerable latitude for re-framing during the editing process, which David Fincher may have developed a taste for when working on the various home video editions of Se7en.
Here the composition is noticeably skewed between the 16:9 and 2.35:1 versions.
Thanks to Joe Frady.
Tom van der Linden
Like Stories of Old (YouTube)
Movies have always had a strong impact on me, they affect the way I look at the world and help make me a better person. With this channel I want to explore this boundary between film analysis and life lessons, because I believe that movies, just like the stories of old, contain valuable lessons and insights, and to better understand them is to better understand life.
In this video essay on Fight Club, I examine how charismatic leaders like Tyler Durden turn men into Space Monkeys.
‘Where Is My Mind’ cover by Alex Voulgaris. Follow Alex on Instagram.
‘Where Is My Mind’ cover by Gattobus
Skyler Lawson – Eclater
Luke Atencio – Projections
Additional music licensed from Musicbed