Ian Vertovec is Supervising Colorist at Light Iron, which he co-founded, a Panavision company specialized in dailies, digital intermediate, archival, and data services for projects originated on file-based motion cameras.
David Fincher, Jennifer Miller & Tim Miller, Executive Producers
SXSW Film Festival. Austin, TX
(Daniel Boczarski / Getty Images, Zimbio)
Tim Miller and David Fincher aim to scramble and rearrange the face of TV animation with their ambitious Netflix series Love, Death & Robots, which features short, adult tales told in a variety of styles. At SXSW this week, they debuted six of the 18 shorts that went live on Netflix today. These risque shorts ran the gamut of comedy, thriller, crime, sci-fi horror and everything in-between.
This isn’t the first time Fincher has teamed up with Tim Miller. Before Miller achieved fame as director of Deadpool, he owned the Blur animation and VFX studio, and worked as Fincher’s guy for opening title sequences. The two even tried to get an animated adaptation of Eric Powell‘s The Goon off the ground 10 years ago.
In this chat with Tim Miller and his producer and wife Jennifer Miller, we talk about the process of bringing Love, Death & Robots to life, how that could potentially help make their Goon adaptation a reality, as well, and what it was like juggling dozens of directors and production outfits.
I don’t think you and I talked around the time, but I did talk with both David Fincher and Eric Powell when you all were trying to get The Goon off the ground about ten years ago…
Tim: We have not given up. It will happen.
Watching those episodes from Love, Death & Robots last night I couldn’t help but hope that it does well enough for Netflix that maybe they’ll go ahead and finally make Goon a reality. I’d love for this to pave the way to The Goon actually happening.
Tim: I think it will only help, but we haven’t given up on The Goon. Never have, never will. And I think you’ll be happy. Soon. I’m excited about it and I do think all of this helps. It can take a while. I don’t think I’m talking out of school, but the last hiccup was Eric had some older business that needed to be cleared out for lawyers to be happy and stuff. I feel it keenly, like if I was a fan and I would go, “These f***ers took my money and what did they do with it?” We did exactly what we said. We have a whole reel. We spent that money and more of our own besides. We have a full reel for the movie. It’s going to be great. It’s just any movie is a push up hill. For (Love, Death & Robots) David and I tried for 10 years.
Since you tried to get The Goon off the ground you’ve made one of the most successful superhero movies of all time…
Tim: Which also took five years to do as well, but we never gave up. David never gave up. On this show, literally the weekend Deadpool came out, David called and said, “Okay, you’re going to get a little juice off of this and we’re going to use that to combine it with my power and we’re going to push this forward.” The thing that was nice about Deadpool, which David saw, was it was something that everybody said won’t work and then they see it not only works but it works well and there’s a hunger for this kind of material out there. That was the same door we were pushing against with this R-rated animated anthology. So you can see the corollaries, and I think the same thing will be for The Goon. Why not?
That source material is so fun It’s a tragedy that it hasn’t happened yet, but I love that you guys are still pushing forward on it.
Tim: David never gives up and I don’t either. It’s not like I can’t give up because I have so much time invested. I just never stopped liking it. I didn’t get bored with it. Sometimes you just can’t get it done. You hit a wall and you have to find another way around.
Jennifer: I think it’s one of the things that makes you successful. You will walk through a wall to get to that project. I’ve seen you do it. You hang on for years and years. That tenacity is great. You need it, in this business especially.
You’re producing all these different shorts and you also directed one of your own. Did you find that there was much a difference when you were directing versus when you’re producing the other projects? Did you find yourself in any kind of different mindset?
Tim: I don’t think directors make the best producers because it’s hard for you not to go, “Well, how would I do this?” or “I would never do that.” But I do think from running a studio for years, Blur is almost 25. We have a lot of directors doing projects and I’m used to helping them or, I hate this word, but mentoring some of them or just chiming in and with an opinion when I’m asked. I’ve never felt like I had to control everything. I’m not that type of guy. And David is definitely not. I mean, we did the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo opening and David was like, “Tell me I’m the best f***ing client you’ve ever had.” I mean it was his vision for what it was, but as far as like saying “No, do this,” or “Cut out five frames early,” he never said any of that.
In fact, the last review was him saying, “I want to stop by and see it.” And I said, “Oh, why?” He’s like “’cause it’s cool. I just want to come by and see it and I’m in the neighborhood.” That’s the way he was for the whole project. And I try and be that way. On the other hand, Netflix expects us, Blur, as the hub of this whole enterprise to make something great. If we don’t deliver, first David will go, “Dude, what the f***? This sucks.” And then secondly, Netflix will go, “Uhhh…” So we feel a sense of responsibility to make sure it hits a certain level of quality, but I think you can do that without being heavy-handed. Maybe you should ask the other directors. (laughs) We only made two or three people cry during the production.
Jennifer: One of your superpowers is finding excellent talent. You would scour through the Internet and find all these great artists to come work at Blur and now you’re scouring the Internet to find these fantastic new directors. You gave them a lot of latitude and you set them up for success with fantastic stories and it worked. I think that very excellent hiring of talent really just set you up to be able to let go as a director and let them do their job.
Tim: Timing-wise, it worked pretty well for us. When Netflix said go we had a chunk of time before I had to leave and do The Terminator. We got through the entire story selection process. We got through the entire selection of the directors and studios that were doing the work. We got through the initial presentations of here’s what we’d like it to look like and here are our storyboards, and, in some cases, even animatics before I had to say, “See you later!” Terminator was a seven days a week, 24 hours a day enterprise. Jennifer and the production team are involved in all of that as well, so I don’t have to worry about that. Blur can do that without any input from me. It was a really great teamwork approach to the whole thing.
Merrick Morton (Sony Pictures)
When David Fincher was fielding accolades for his 2010 masterpiece The Social Network, he was already in the midst of filming his follow-up project. On the surface, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo wasn’t a significant departure for Fincher. At the time, he was already well-versed in the arena of making dark dramas with an edge, be it The Game or Zodiac, and he clearly had plenty of experience telling stories about serial killers. The source material of Dragon Tattoo was massively popular, sure, but with that popularity came the opportunity to take hold of an even bigger budget, telling this dark tale about a pair of outsiders investigating a killer of women against an epic canvas. What Fincher (and the rest of us) couldn’t have known at the time, however, was that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo would be one of the last of its kind, the dying breath of the big budget studio adult drama, as Hollywood would pivot to bigger, flashier, and more superhero-er films in the ensuing years. In hindsight, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a fossil from a bygone era.
The “American” adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s bestselling novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was born in 2009, when producer Scott Rudin secured the rights to the book for Sony Pictures and fellow producers Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal. They set Oscar-winning Schindler’s List screenwriter Steven Zaillian to work on the adaptation, and in March 2010—just as Fincher had completed principal photography on Sony’s The Social Network—the studio began courting the Se7en filmmaker to take the helm.
Fincher had actually been approached about Dragon Tattoo years earlier by Kathleen Kennedy, with whom he’d worked on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. But he rejected the proposition without reading the book, assuming a movie about a bisexual hacker in Stockholm who helps a disgraced journalist uncover a dark secret would never get made. The Swedish film adaptation proved he was wrong, and when Pascal came calling a couple years later, she had an exciting proposition:
“As I finished Social Network, [Sony studio boss] Amy Pascal told me they’d just bought the rights to Dragon Tattoo,” says Fincher. “She said, ‘We believe that a movie franchise doesn’t necessarily have to be for 11-year-olds, that this material is most certainly not for 11-year-olds and that is why we are bringing it to you’.”
January 16, 2018
Ian has colored major films “The Social Network,” “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” and “Gone Girl.” And more recently, he has colored the TV shows “Baskets” for FX and “Glow” on Netflix.
Originally from Chicago, Ian focused on photography, then moved on to digital compositing. He later co-founded two post facilities in Los Angeles: Plaster City, then Light Iron. Out of necessity, he moved on to color at his company. He found his combination of photography and compositing matched perfectly for a career as a colorist.
In this podcast, we talk about:
- Coloring David Fincher films and working with extremely dark images
- The challenges of working on VFX heavy projects
- Making HDR look both cinematic and realistic
- Advantages of working with high-end systems like Quantel Pablo
- The difference between working on TV and films
- How experience with compositing served him as a colorist
- Bringing life to images using texture
- Using film emulation LUTs in his workflow
- Comparing different cameras as a colorist
- Using ACES in a color managed workflow
- Keeping grades simple, clean, and efficient
Tech Media Planet: The Social Network
December 6, 2010
Tech Media Planet
Colorist Ian Vertovec from Light Iron Digital takes us through the ins and outs of color grading one of this year’s biggest hit films “The Social Network”.
Dolby: Ian Vertovec and Michael Cioni, from Light Iron
September 2, 2011
Thanks to Joe Frady
January 30, 2018
Lessons from the Screenplay (YouTube)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is an exciting thriller about an unlikely pair of misfits trying to solve a forty-year-old crime, but it’s also interesting from a structural perspective. It uses a non-conventional, five-act structure. This video breaks down the anatomy of an act, to examine how the film breaks the rules while following them at the same time.
Watch the previous video on The Avengers and traditional act structure:
David Fincher quote:
BFI LFF: MINDHUNTER Q&A with David Fincher hosted by Nev Pierce. Audio
Other Lessons from the Screenplay:
Gone Girl — Don’t Underestimate the Screenwriter
True Detective vs. Se7en — Creating Light Amongst The Dark
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo deserved better. David Fincher’s adaptation of the popular Swedish novel ranks amongst his most undercelebrated movies. Although it was critically praised and did moderately well at the box office (oh yeah, and it landed Rooney Mara a Best Actress nomination), it somehow still wasn’t enough for the studio to decide to continue the trilogy.