Few film books in recent memory made waves like Adam Nayman’s Paul Thomas Anderson: Masterworks, a too-rare melange of authorial talent, topical interest, and opulent presentation. Last year Nayman and I spoke at length about the tome that no doubt you’ve seen in bookstores (big and small alike) since.
Nayman has returned with David Fincher: Mind Games, another Abrams-published doorstop on another double-capital-A American Auteur, lined again with essays that surprise in their capacity to find new perspectives and provocative readings on films for which there seemed no more room. Finally able to talk in person—thus, you’ll (please) read, at greater length—we sat down for a talk on writing thousands of words on someone for whom a consistent critical standing is tougher than meets the eye.
Adam Nyman is a fellow film critic and the author of several books about films and filmmakers, including but not limited to The Coen Brothers: This Book Really Ties the Films Together (2018) and Paul Thomas Anderson: Masterworks (2020). (Though we’ve never crossed paths in person, he also teaches in the department where I did my Master’s program.) He opens Mind Games with a dedicated discussion of the decade or so before Fincher ever made his narrative feature debut with ALIEN³ (1992), but then continues to come back to his commercial and music video work for the remainder of it, wisely treating his adman past as, well, more of an adman present. A few weeks back, Adam and I chatted for an hour about Fincher’s short-form oeuvre, but also his features because—again—the two aren’t as discrete as a lot of people believe. Our conversation has been edited for clarity, but not really so much for length.
Today, I sit down with legendary screenwriter Eric Roth.
We talk about his life and his craft and why we should all be more generous of spirit. Truth be told, Eric has been involved in creating so many iconic films that it would have been impossible to try… so I asked him about the films of his that meant the most to me, and he held court and digressed in the loveliest of ways. I hope you have as much fun listening as I did recording this interview. Enjoy!
Eric’s credits include: The Nickel Ride, The Drowning Pool, The Onion Field, Forrest Gump (for which he won an Oscar), The Postman (for which he won a Razzie), The Horse Whisperer, and then one of my favorite films ever, The Insider, followed by Ali, Munich, The Good Shepherd, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. He’s also worked in Television, and seen not one but two sea changes, first with HBO, and then with Netflix and House of Cards. And much more recently he wrote A Star Is Born, Dune, and the new Western being Directed by Martin Scorsese, Killers of the Flower Moon. He was also a producer on the Oscar nominated Mank, directed by David Fincher, from a script by Fincher’s father.
Today we welcome back the legendary Eric Roth. An Oscar-Winning Screenwriter & Producer.
We talk about how he writes, and blends craft with pure inspiration. He talks about working with Robert Redford. We re-visit Munich & The Good Shepherd. He talks about being re-written, and his unique creative partnership with Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga on A Star Is Born. And last but not least, we talk about writing the new Dune film which he thinks just might be something very special.
It’s a wonderful conversation with one of the very best working in Hollywood today, whose generous not only with his talent, but his spirit. Dig it!
Recommended Viewing: The Horse Whisperer, Munich, The Good Shepherd, A Star Is Born (2018), and Dune (See it in IMAX on October 22, 2021)
The Team Deakins podcast is an ongoing conversation between acclaimed cinematographer Roger Deakins and James Deakins, his collaborator, about cinematography, the film business and whatever other questions are submitted. We start with a specific question and end….who knows where! We are joined by guests periodically. Followup questions can be posted in the forums at rogerdeakins.com.
Team Deakins delves into the craft of production design with the great production designer, Donald Burt (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Hostiles, Mank). We loved hearing about his path to the film business! We talk about his first movie as production designer, Joy Luck Club – quite a film to start on! He shares his methods of working with a director and how he doesn’t want to draw attention to what he is doing and that he wants to be supportive and serve the story first. We also touch on how restrictions and limitations breed imagination, his approach to sets vs locations, and how you can’t be afraid of articulating a stupid idea. And, we also speak about the making of Mank, The Outlaw King, and Zodiac. As well as much, much more!
Chapters: 00:00 Intro — How David Fincher became a Filmmaker 02:01 Early Career & Return of the Jedi 03:18 Shot Composition and Blocking 06:19 “Relentless” Number of Takes 11:02 Directing with Precision 13:43 Color Theory & Creating the Look 15:48 Create a Feeling (Production Design & Music) 19:35 Final Takeaways
David Fincher is a director’s director. His reputation for having complete control over his work is well-known but many directors have had similar power. So, what makes his approach to film directing so captivating? In this David Fincher video essay, we’ll let the man speak for himself. Through a collection of interviews from throughout his career, Fincher guides us through some of the strongest characteristics of his directing style.
To date, over the past four decades, David Fincher has directed a plethora of music videos, commercials, and 11 feature films. Along the way, he has refined his directing style which can be summed up in two words: precise and purposeful. When watching any David Fincher movies, you would be hard-pressed to find an out-of-place camera movement, or a lazy frame composition. One lesson we learned from Fincher is how he balanced and imbalanced the frame during Nick and Amy’s first meeting in Gone Girl to show the “push and pull” of their flirting.
Another well-known staple of the David Fincher directing style is his predilection for shooting multiple takes. He famously shot 99 takes of the opening scene in The Social Network, for example. But there’s a method to his madness — he wants the actors to move “beyond muscle memory” especially in their domestic environments. In Fincher’s logic, when the actor sits on their couch, they need to have sat in it a hundred times to make it look like they’ve sat in it a hundred times.
Fincher also explains how he creates mood and tone with lighting, color, and music. With a darker frame, desaturated color, and the brooding tones of Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor, there certainly is a distinct experience watching David Fincher films. While all of this sounds extreme, the proof that he’s doing something right is visible on-screen.
♬ Songs used:
“Father / Son” — Makeup and Vanity Set “Subdivide” — Stanley Gurvich “Switchback” — Nu Alkemi$t “Battle in the Forest” — Charles Gerhardt – National Philharmonic Orchestra “Chasing Time” – David A. Molina “Sugar Storm” – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross “Soul Sacrifice” – Santana “Graysmith Obsessed” – David Shire “Intriguing Possibilities” – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross “Wendy Suite” – Jason Hill “Under the Midnight Sun” — Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross “14 – Ghosts II” – Nine Inch Nails “Corporate World” – The Dust Brothers “Appearances” – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross “With Suspicion” – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross “What Have We Done to Each Other” – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross “Cowboys and Indians” – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross “San Simeon Waltz” – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross “Fool” – Ryan Taubert “Where Is My Mind” – The Pixies
David Fincher’s Mank recreates 1930s Hollywood through the eyes of scathing wit and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he races to finish Citizen Kane. Starring Gary Oldman as Mankiewicz, Amanda Seyfried as Marion Davies, Charles Dance as William Randolph Hearst and Tom Burke as Orson Welles.
Mank, director David Fincher’s much anticipated take on the behind-the-scenes drama that shaped the making of Citizen Kane, was released last November after a journey to get it made that began almost two decades ago.
Is there any reason to believe that a story about the making of a movie about the making of a movie is any less intriguing than that of its fabled subject?
In terms of finding classic locations in Los Angeles that have survived the moving hands of time, Fincher couldn’t have found a better guy for the job than LM William “Bill” Doyle/LMGI. L.A. is a classic example of a city in a near-constant state of reinvention, but despite the years, some amazing original sites still remain, and Doyle knows most of them.
“I’ve always loved reading about how cities develop,” Doyle says. “Understanding a city… How it was developed or why it was founded, how it was built and when it expanded… Knowing how these things happened can help you make sense of any city anywhere in the world when you’re looking for something specific.”
Catch Ian, Liam, Ellie, Ethan, and Georgia (who was only in about 90% fangirl mode) as we were lucky enough to sit down with an extremely talented actor, writer, and producer whose credits range from Mank to Shipwrecked Comedy to podcasting and even all the way to Cougar Town. Revelations from the interview include:
Hearing how Sean got his start in Los Angeles
Sean talks about the development of the podcast he does with his sister, Sinead: Make Sean & Sinead Love Movie
Sean discussing the difference between being a producer on his own material and a day player on a big tv or film project
A small anecdote about what Gary Oldman is really like
Sean discusses his writing process and how it differs depending on the project
We learn about how to shoot in black and white
The BFE lot pitch their own film choices that most people hate but we can’t help but love
Sean reveals his best film ever and cuts down someone for hating a classic film
Whether Sean would turn down a call from Marvel boss, Kevin Feige
Pets on both side of the video call make their presence known
Sean teases a big announcement dropping for Shipwrecked Comedy on June 15th
Bonus Episode: We speak with 2021’s Oscar Nominee’s Kimberley Spiteri & Colleen LaBaff about the Hair & Makeup work on the film Mank. Unfortunately the Makeup Designer Gigi Williams could not be with us for this interview.
Because We Love Making Movies is an ongoing conversation with filmmakers who work behind the scenes to make the movies we love. These are the invisible warriors we don’t think of: Production & Costume Designers, Cinematographers, Editors, Producers, and the whole family of artists who make movies with their hands and hearts.
Today I talk with Gigi Williams, an Oscar Nominated Makeup Artist, and longtime collaborator with the brilliant David Fincher. Her credits are very long, but to name a few: Rock N’ Roll High School, The Howling, The Professional, as well as Single Man, Argo, The Master & Inherent Vice, not to mention her work with Fincher: Gone Girl, Mindhunter, and now Mank.
We talk about going through doors in life when they open, how her craft is misunderstood, how she cherishes working with Actors, and how she doesn’t do personal makeup, she does the movie. We also talk about Gigi’s incredible beginnings in the New York fashion world before she became a Makeup-Artist, which included working with Andy Warhol & Diane Von Furstenberg… She’s had quite a journey, and she’s still on it. It’s an amazing talk so check it out and share!