The Cinematography Podcast: Erik Messerschmidt

Erik Messerschmidt, ASC: Mank, Mindhunter, Legion, Raised By Wolves, working with David Fincher.

Ben Rock & Illya Friedman
December 30, 2020
The Cinematography Podcast (Cam Noir)

Erik Messerschmidt, ASC believes that cinematographers get too much credit for how a movie looks and not enough for how the story is told. When you break a scene apart and assemble a sequence, the cinematographer has a huge part to play in the process of deciding when to move the camera, what lenses are used, how it flows and when it moves. Erik thinks when you look at it that way, cinematography has a lot more in common with editing rather than photography.

Erik’s most recent project, Mank– which is currently streaming on Netflix- was shot entirely in black and white. The look was the result of lots of conversations with director David Fincher. They both had a clear idea of what they wanted it to look like and also exactly what they did not want- too much heavy handed, contrast-heavy black and white cinematography in a film-noir style would take the viewers out of the experience, so it needed a lighter touch. Erik used fine art photography from the ’30’s to the mid ’40’s as a reference, and he and David Fincher wanted an homage to Citizen Kane without it actually looking like the film. Fincher was clear that he wished to transport the audience so they would lose their awareness of watching a black and white movie, and feel as though they are in the world of Herman J. Mankiewicz as he writes the script for Citizen Kane in the 1940’s.

Erik has worked with director David Fincher on several projects, first working as a gaffer on Gone Girl, then moving into the camera department on the series MindhunterErik and David have become very close collaborators, and he enjoys working with him. Fincher likes a sense of hyper reality to his movies, and Erik sees it as his job as the cinematographer to learn what the director responds to, figure out how best to support their process and bring something to the party.

Before moving into the camera department, Erik worked for several years as a gaffer. After working with David Fincher on two seasons of Mindhunter, Erik needed more work since he was a newly minted director of photography. He got the opportunity to shoot second unit on Sicario: Day of the Soldado with cinematographer Dariusz Wolski as the lead DP. He then worked on a few episodes of the TV series Legion with producer/director Noah Hawley and DP-turned-director Dana Gonzales, which was visually fun to work on. Legion’s look was whimsical yet dark, as it explored the main character’s mental illness and possible superpowers. He had the opportunity to work with Dana again on the finale of season four of Fargo. Erik also shot several episodes of the Ridley Scott series, Raised By Wolves, splitting the series with DP Ross Emery.

Listen to the podcast:

Cam Noir
Apple Podcasts

Mank is available to watch right now on Netflix.
Find Erik Messerschmidt: Instagram

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Podcast Credits:

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras (Instagram)
Editor in Chief: Illya Friedman (Instagram)
Ben Rock (TwitterInstagram)
Producer: Alana Kode
Editor: Ben Katz
Composer: Kays Alatractchi

Mank Cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt on Why He Didn’t Shoot on Celluloid, Classic Influences, and Modern Touches

Joshua Encinias
December 17, 2020
The Film Stage

Beginning his collaboration with David Fincher as a gaffer on Gone Girl, cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt’s third collaboration with the director has now arrived nearly a decade later. Mank follows alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz in his mad dash to finish the script for Citizen Kane, and Messerschmidt’s playful interpolation of Gregg Toland’s iconic cinematography is a sight to behold in every frame.

I spoke with Messerschmidt about his work with Fincher on Mindhunter organically leading to Mank, how Fincher doesn’t accept “much of anything he can’t control,” emulating the look of 1940s cinema without trying to perfectly recreate it, and he provides a list of movies he studied in preparation for Mank

Read the full interview

Adobe: Hollywood Post-production with Team Fincher

A virtual panel with famed director David Fincher’s assistant editors and his post producer.

Mike Kanfer, Karl Soule, Matt Christensen, Marjorie Sacks
November 13, 2020
Adobe, Adobe for Education (YouTube)

Jennifer Chung, Assistant Editor
Ben Insler, First Assistant Editor
Peter Mavromates, Post Producer

In this panel, you’ll hear Team Fincher discuss their TV and feature film workflows and see how they used the new Productions feature in Premiere Pro along with After Effects in a completely remote scenario during the pandemic.

They’ll also discuss their career paths and give advice on how to succeed as a professional editor.

Watch the full event in six parts (playlist):

Part 1: Demo of Premiere Pro Productions

Part 2: Narrative Workflows in Premiere Pro

Part 3: Split Screen and Remote Workflows

Part 4: Career Advice

Part 5: Q&A

Part 6: Q&A Continued

Soundstage Access: Erik Messerschmidt, Cinematographer (David Fincher’s ‘MANK’, ‘Mindhunter’)

Brando Benetton
December 5, 2020
Soundstage Access

It’s so exciting to sit down with Erik Messerschmidt, ASC – an Emmy-nominated cinematographer whose credits include the popular Netflix series MINDHUNTER, HBO’s RAISED BY WOLVES and David Fincher‘s latest Netflix film MANK!

In today’s conversation, me and Erik discuss his beginnings in the film industry working as a gaffer (learning from the best cinematographers in the business); a deep dive into his cinematography for the two Emmy-nominated seasons of MINDHUNTER; Erik’s creative relationship with David Fincher, and the thought process behind the infamous “multiple takes” Fincher is so known for; how classic Hollywood noirs of the ‘30s and 40s influenced the visual style for MANK—all of this, and much more.

Check out Erik’s new film MANK (now on Netflix), which many speculate will land him his first Oscar nomination for Cinematography in just a few months.

Listen to the podcast on:

Apple Podcasts


Kazu Hiro, Special Makeup Effects Designer
Stephen Nakamura, Colorist
John Schwartzman, Cinematographer

Soundstage Access on Facebook and Twitter.

David Fincher: Hollywood’s Most Disturbing Director

With films including Se7en, Zodiac and Fight Club, David Fincher has explored the darkest edges of humanity. Yet there’s more to his unique vision, writes Gregory Wakeman, as the director’s film Mank is released.

Gregory Wakeman
December 3, 2020
BBC Culture

David Fincher fans have had plenty to celebrate over the past few months. September marked the 25th anniversary of Se7en, Fincher’s deeply disturbing psychological thriller that established the then 33-year-old as one of the most iconoclastic young directors in Hollywood. Then, just a couple of weeks later, The Social Network, Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s searing exploration of Mark Zuckerberg and the origins of Facebook, turned 10. Most exciting of all for Fincher aficionados, though, is the fact that, more than six years after the release of his last feature film Gone Girl, Mank will finally arrive on Netflix on 4 December.

Fincher has waited around 20 years to find the perfect home for the film, which was originally written by his father Jack in the late 1990s. But while most major Hollywood studios were put off by the idea of a black and white biopic of Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman J Mankiewicz, Netflix gave Fincher carte blanche to fulfil his vision.

The early reviews for Mank have been extremely positive, and Fincher has immediately become one of the main contenders for the best director Oscar. Covid-19’s disruption of the 2020 cinematic calendar means that Fincher’s competition isn’t quite as strong as it could have been. But it’s to the Academy Awards’ great shame that this titan of modern filmmaking has somehow only received best director nominations for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Social Network. Despite this oversight, Fincher’s place in the cinematic pantheon has long been secure. No other modern filmmaker has examined alienation, depression, obsession, and the dark side of intelligence like he has, while keeping a stylish, visceral, and, most importantly of all, entertaining approach. 

But what is it that sets Fincher’s work apart from that of his peers?

Curating Reality: Cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt and “Mank”

Mank BTS (Miles Crist)

An in-depth conversation with “Mank” DP Erik Messerschmidt about his detailed work on the film.

Nicolas Rapold
December 4, 2020
Notebook (MUBI)

It’s impressive when a Director of Photography’s first fiction feature is with David Fincher, notorious for his exacting eye in terms of both working methods and stringent aesthetics. But before Mank—Fincher’s passion project on Herman J. Mankiewicz and the writing of Citizen KaneErik Messerschmidt had been a part of Fincher’s team on both seasons of Mindhunter and even earlier as a gaffer on Gone Girl for DP Jeff Cronenweth. On Mindhunter, Messerschmidt’s camera infused the bloodless institutional interiors of its serial-killer/FBI interview set pieces with subtly vulnerable undertones, hewing to a Fincher playbook of visual control that telegraphs barely contained chaos.

Mank posed its own challenge with the director’s dream of making a black-and-white period picture in 2020, a vision of authenticity that is something of a chimera in cinema’s digital age. The story shuttles between Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) writing Citizen Kane in 1940 and his preceding years of experience with the people and society that inspired him, including Davies (Amanda Seyfried) and William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance). Mank does not simulate the look of any single movie made in the 1940s but rather comprises a gentle pastiche of styles and signifiers (no office seems without slatted shades). Standout scenes include the banquets in cavernous Hearst Castle, where Mank dunks on the assembled high-flown guests; bull sessions in the screenwriter’s Mojave Desert bungalow as he hems and haws and bangs out the screenplay for Citizen Kane; a glitzy-weary 1934 election party for California’s gubernatorial contest, celebrating Republican Frank Merriam’s victory over Upton Sinclair; and anything featuring Seyfried as Davies, remarkably the sole true star in a film set in 1930s and ’40s Hollywood.

Speaking with Messerschmidt, I zeroed in on the feelings and associations within the look of Mindhunter, and the particular technical choices that went into creating Mank’s Hollywoodland.

Read the full interview

La Septième Obsession 31: David Fincher

La Septième Obsession

OBSESSION: David Fincher

1. Mank de David Fincher

Le grand film de Fincher débarque sur Netflix le 4 décembre. L’occasion d’un entretien avec le cinéaste, mais aussi avec ses collaborateurs les plus proches. 16 pages spéciales.

Scénario pour une critique par Nicolas Tellop

Filmopathe entretien avec David Fincher – par Nev Pierce

Collaborer avec Fincher entretiens avec Erik Messerschmidt (chef opérateur) – Donald Graham Burt (chef décorateur) – Trish Summerville (costumière) – Kirk Baxter (monteur)

2. Revisiter Fincher

Plongée exceptionnelle dans l’oeuvre de l’un des plus grands cinéastes contemporains. Filmographie commentée, analyses… 50 pages à lire.

4 nuances de Fincher par Jean-Sébastien Massart et Fabrice Fuentes

David Fincher en 14 titres Propaganda Films (clips) – Alien 3Se7enThe GameFight ClubPanic Room + les plans de Panic RoomZodiacL’Étrange histoire de Benjamin ButtonThe Social Network Millénium + la musique hantée de MilléniumGone Girl Mindhunter

3. Analyses

Démoniaque – la perfection du crime par Nathan Reneaud
Fantômes et paranoïa par Jérôme d’Estais
Solitude & obsession – Fincher Dogma par Alexandre Jourdain
Poétique du suicide par Aurélien Lemant
Le système des objets – design finchérien par Dick Tomasovic

Sommaire complet


Magnificent Obsession: David Fincher on His Three-Decade Quest to Bring ‘Mank’ to Life

Brent Lang
November 18, 2020

Mank” is the gripping story of the brilliant but troubled artist behind “Citizen Kane,” often considered to be the greatest movie ever made.

No, it’s not about director Orson Welles. Instead, it pushes Herman J. Mankiewicz, the alcoholic writer for hire who is responsible for bringing the film’s revolutionary, non-linear narrative structure and corrosive portrait of wealth and power, to the center of the frame.

“He was one of those voices that charted the way,” says David Fincher, the director who labored for nearly 30 years to bring “Mank” to life. “My hope is that people will be entertained watching a generational wit, who is in some ways forgotten and never got his due.”

Gatefold print cover designed by Dan Benesch

Mank,” which Netflix will debut Dec. 4, is also likely to reignite a fierce debate around the concept of auteurism. If film is truly a director’s medium, then who gets the credit for a masterpiece? It’s an argument about authorship that has swirled around “Citizen Kane” almost from the time it hit theaters in 1941. That’s largely due to the fact that Welles not only starred in the movie: He also directed, produced and co-wrote it while still just a 24-year-old wunderkind.

Others disagree about the extent of Welles’ contributions. As Pauline Kael’s controversial 1971 essay “Raising Kane” and now “Mank” make clear, “Citizen Kane” was greatly informed by Mankiewicz’s friendship with William Randolph Hearst (the newspaper baron who inspired Kane), as well his personal experience with media and politics.

You might think that Fincher, a revered visual stylist, whose perfectionism can drive film crews and actors to the breaking point, would be a subscriber to the Great Man theory at the heart of auteurism — the idea that some talents are so outsize they seep into every shot or beat of a movie. You’d be wrong though.

Read the full profile

Cover illustration by Greg Ruth; Fincher image reference by Frank Ockenfels

David Fincher on ‘Mindhunter’: ‘I Don’t Know if It Makes Sense to Continue’

Brent Lang
November 18, 2020

How Variety Covered the Era of ‘Citizen Kane’ and Herman J. Mankiewicz

Tim Gray
November 18, 2020

Fotogramas: Ciudadano Fincher

El primer y único guion que escribió su padre. Un proyecto con el que ha soñado más de 30 años. La leyenda detrás de la, quizás, película más mítica de la historia. Todo eso y mucho más es ‘Mank’, una mirada –en glorioso blanco y negro–a la figura de Herman J. Mankiewicz –un glorioso Gary Oldman–, y el film más personal de David Fincher. FOTOGRAMAS tuvo la suerte de compartir con él una extensa, divertida y exclusiva charla.

Roger Salvans
Noviembre 2020

David Fincher (Denver, Colorado, 1962) tiene fama de perfeccionista y de no andarse con rodeos. Mejor: de tener una atención al detalle rozando la obsesión que es directamente proporcional a su nula capacidad de tolerar a todo aquel que: a) le impida materializar su punto de vista creativo; b) ose hacerle perder el tiempo, ya sea un mandamás en traje o la estrella de turno con la que comparta rodaje. Pero si alguien puede permitirse esa imagen es él. Fincher es autor –un término que, veremos, no comparte–de un cúmulo de obras que han marcado el pulso y también el camino del reciente cine contemporáneo. Así, cuando, una tarde de otoño, FOTOGRAMAS descolgó el teléfono para entrevistarlo, esperábamos encontrar a ese Fincher cuyos sets, según Robert Downey Jr., son como gulags. El director de las 100 tomas de media. El de los rifirrafes con los estudios. Y no, no fue así. ¿Hola? Soy David. Es alucinante. He conseguido conectar sin equivocarme, le escuchamos decir. ¿Es realmente David Fincher? ¿Dónde está el acostumbrado filtro del equipo de publicistas y relaciones públicas? Soy yo de verdad. No tengo agentes de prensa ni relaciones públicas porque todo el mundo sabe que no me relaciono en público, dice entre risas. Esa fue la primera carcajada. Toda una sorpresa. Y vendrían más.

La sombra de una duda

Desaparecido de la gran pantalla desde esa pérfida vuelta de tuerca al thriller y la comedia romántica que es Perdida (2014), Fincher firma con Mank su film más clásico, y también el más personal: un retrato íntimo de Herman J. Mankiewicz, experiodista, alcohólico vocacional, novelista frustrado y toda una personalidad entre los bastidores de la Edad de Oro de Hollywood que firmó, junto a Orson Welles, el guion de Ciudadano Kane (1941). Esa colaboración y un acercamiento sobre el proceso creativo y sus fuentes son el corazón de una trama que bebe de una de las polémicas más publicitadas sobre la autoría artística. En los 70, Pauline Kael, la referente de la crítica estadounidense, publicó en The New Yorker una serie de artículos –editados después en el ensayo Raising Kane (publicado en España por Cult Books como El libro de Ciudadano Kane)– en los que se aseguraba que Welles no participó en absoluto en la escritura del film. El mérito era solo de Mankiewicz, decía. Poco después, Peter Bogdanovich, íntimo amigo de Welles, respondería con otro texto en el que desmentía, con testimonios y las anotaciones del propio cineasta, la versión de Kael. La duda, sin embargo, quedó. Pero ni esa disputa ni tampoco su resolución, como si de un serial killer a cazar se tratara, están en el origen del proyecto. Lo que convierte este film en algo personal para Fincher es que se trata del único guion de Jack, su padre. Y el Rosebud de Mank, evidentemente, tenemos que buscarlo en su infancia.

Lee la entrevista completa con David Fincher en el número de Fotogramas de noviembre, ya a la venta en los quioscos

¿Seguirá ‘Mindhunter’ en Netflix? David Fincher nos responde en exclusiva

El director, que estrena en la plataforma la película ‘Mank’, nos habla sobre el futuro de una de las series más aclamadas de los últimos años.

Roger Salvans y Rafael Sánchez Casademont
Octubre 27, 2020

Premiere: Pourquoi David Fincher n’a pas tourné de film depuis six ans ?

“Que voulez-vous, je suis lent”, répond le réalisateur avec humour dans Première.

Léonard Haddad
Octobre 28, 2020

Mank, le prochain film de David Fincher sortira le 4 décembre sur Netflix. Au cours d’un long entretien, le réalisateur détaille dans le nouveau numéro de Première (n°512 – novembre 2020) la création de ce film en noir et blanc qui plonge les spectateurs dans le Hollywood des années 1930, plus précisément au coeur de la fabrication de Citizen Kane, le premier film d’Orson Welles réalisé à partir d’un scénario de Herman J. Mankiewicz.

Gone Girl, le dernier film de David Fincher, était sorti en France le 8 octobre 2014. Six ans se sont donc écoulés depuis cette adaptation du thriller de Gillian Flynn avec Rosamund Pike et Ben Affleck. Soit la plus longue pause de la carrière de David Fincher, un an de plus que la période déjà interminable qui avait séparé Panic Room (2002) de Zodiac (2007). Le cinéaste n’a pas bullé pour autant, travaillant sur une série sur les serial killers pour NetflixMindhunter, et produisant, toujours pour la plateforme, l’anthologie animée de Tim MillerLove, Death + Robots. Il voulait aussi tourner la suite de World War Z avec Brad Pitt, son acteur de Seven (1995), Fight Club (1999) et L’Etrange histoire de Benjamin Button (2008), mais ce projet a fini par tomber à l’eau. Dans Première, le réalisateur détaille pourquoi son retour à la mise en scène d’un long métrage a mis autant de temps.


Première : Gone Girl date de 2014, ça commençait à faire long, non ?

David Fincher : J’ai fait les deux saisons de Mindhunter et… Au départ, je devais juste aider à mettre la série sur des rails, il n’était pas prévu que je sois showrunner. Et puis, par défaut, je le suis devenu, avec deux autres personnes. Et disons qu’il est possible que ce ne soit pas mon point fort, finalement. Je dois être trop obsessionnel et tatillon pour tenir ce rôle

Au final, ça fait quand même très peu de films signés David Fincher…

Que voulez-vous, je suis lent. Quand j’ai le sentiment qu’un truc est prêt à être tourné, ça peut aller très vite. The Social Network, tout était en place, on n’avait plus qu’à choisir les acteurs. Mais ces situations-là sont rares, les cas où tu lis un script et où tu dis : « OK, les gars, écartez-vous, on s’y met. » Vers 2007-2008 puis 2010-2011, j’ai enchaîné relativement vite, en tout cas selon mes standards habituels : Zodiac et Benjamin Button puis The Social Network et Millénium. Mais je ne suis pas certain que cela ait été une si bonne chose que ça au final. En tout cas, j’avais besoin de recharger mes batteries. Maintenant, si j’ai signé ce deal Netflix, c’est aussi parce que j’aimerais travailler comme Picasso peignait, essayer des choses très différentes, tenter de briser la forme ou de changer de mode de fonctionnement. J’aime l’idée d’avoir une « œuvre ». Eh oui, j’admets que ça me fait bizarre, après quarante ans dans ce métier, de n’avoir que dix films à mon actif. Enfin onze, mais dix dont je peux dire qu’ils sont à moi. Oui, objectivement, c’est un constat assez terrifiant

Propos recueillis par Léonard Haddad

L’interview complète de David Fincher est à retrouver dans le nouveau numéro de Première. Voici son sommaire:

Mank : David Fincher a un contrat d’exclusivité de 4 ans avec Netflix

François Léger
Novembre 11, 2020