X2X: Glimpse into Future Filmmaking with Mank

How will filmmaking adapt in the post-Covid era? A glimpse into the future is afforded by Mank, the forthcoming Netflix feature project directed by David Fincher and spearheaded by producer Ceán Chaffin. More than a love letter to a catalog title, Mank is a glimpse of the complex interplay of human creativity and the filmmaking process as practiced in Hollywood’s golden era.

December 9, 2020

Fincher is known for working in the vanguard of filmmaking technology. Examples include a very early digital intermediate on Panic Room – the first ever in a facility designed for the purpose – and Zodiac, one of the first major features to be shot almost entirely digitally. The remote collaboration envisioned by futurists at the dawn of the internet era was already common practice for his team long before the pandemic.

“Fortunately, we have not missed a beat,” says Chaffin. “We are working now exactly how we mostly could have been working the past ten years, which is working from home during post.”

But the virus and its requirement to remain physically apart may constitute a final push for the industry at large. All the attributes of true remote connectivity – reduced travel time and its attendant benefits in terms of stress, pollution and time savings, enhanced with rapid feedback, superior organization and a centralized database – will still be applicable when health concerns subside.

A canvas of the top pros on David Fincher’s team indicates that while the pandemic naturally raises stress levels, the need to work separately has been essentially a non-factor in terms of their ability to collaborate efficiently and keep the production on track.

Fincher came to the project with a mandate that the production work with the PIX production hub. Chaffin, who has made nine films with Fincher, says that the system is an essential tool for collaboration and input.

“This is how we have worked for a long time.” says Chaffin. “David feels the team is making the film with him, sharing in the problem-solving. Even when we were in the same building, David was often responding exclusively through PIX. His preferences and concerns are there for everyone to refer to. You don’t have to go find that one email, or remember a comment someone made on their way out the door.

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‘Mank’ Cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt on Recreating 1930s Hollywood with David Fincher

The DP sheds light on why they didn’t shoot on film, shooting day-for-night, and how they shot those massive dinner party scenes.

Adam Chitwood
December 8, 2020

Shooting your first movie as a cinematographer is always a somewhat daunting prospect, but imagine your first movie is a 1930s-Hollywood set story about the writing of one of the greatest films ever made, boasting a cast of some of the best actors working today. Oh, and it’s in black-and-white. And the director? David Fincher.

That’s exactly what happened to Erik Messerschmidt, who got the call from Fincher that the director behind Zodiac, The Social Network, and Fight Club wanted him to be the cinematographer on his next film, Mank. The results? Absolutely stunning. Messerschmidt’s demeanor about the ordeal? Cool as a cucumber.

Messerschmidt first worked with Fincher as a gaffer on his 2014 film Gone Girl (an underrated entry in Fincher’s filmography, IMO) and then worked intimately with the filmmaker on the first two seasons of his Netflix series Mindhunter. Messerschmidt shot nearly every episode of Mindhunter, and in doing so developed a short-hand with Fincher. Which may be one of the reasons the director hired Messerschmidt to tackle one of his most visually ambitious films yet.

Mank takes place in Hollywood throughout the 1930s as it follows screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) and the process by which he wrote the first draft for what would become Citizen Kane. The film alternates between Mank’s writing process and his trials and tribulations in Hollywood that would inspire some of the characters and situations in Citizen Kane, including a kinship with actress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried) and an association with publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance).

Mank is alternately jubilant and melancholic as it essentially tells the story of a talented, fun-loving writer with a knack for zingers who is somewhat changed by what he sees throughout the 1930s, and shoots his shot when Orson Welles comes a-calling.

The film is presented entirely in black-and-white with visual allusions to Citizen Kane’s groundbreaking cinematography, and when I recently got the chance to speak with Messerschmidt at length about his work on the film, he pulled back the curtain on the process through which he and Fincher brought this story to life in living monochrome.

During our 45-minute conversation, the cinematographer explained why he and Fincher never considered shooting on film, and discussed the lengthy testing process by which they ultimately found the winning formula to achieve a look that fits right in with the films made in the 30s and 40s. He also broke down the process of filming specific sequences, including Mank and Marion’s nighttime walk (shot day-for-night) and the two epic party scenes.

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

How ‘Mank’ Shot Day for Night, and in Hi-Dynamic Range Black-and-White

Cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt had two challenges shooting the moonlight stroll at San Simeon: black-and-white and day for night.

Bill Desowitz
December 7, 2020

There was never any doubt that David Fincher was going to shoot “Mank” in black-and-white. His biopic about alcoholic and acerbic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) struggling to churn out a first draft of “Citizen Kane” cried out for monochromatic treatment. And yet Fincher and cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt (“Mindhunter”) were not about to indulge in a “Kane”-like re-enactment, or be confined to shooting on film, or composing in the period accurate aspect ratio of 1.37:1. Not with Fincher’s digital prowess and penchant for the 2.39: 1 widescreen format.

So Fincher and Messerschmidt struck a balance between retro and modern, taking advantage of the director’s efficient digital workflow to approximate the look of a movie made around the time of “Kane” in 1940 yet “Photographed in Hi-Dynamic Range” (as the title card proclaims).

“Filmmaking has always been a medium where we selectively employ the techniques that are available on the day,” Messerschmidt said. But shooting in black-and-white was a lot to unpack for the cinematographer, who had only done a few music videos and commercials outside of still photography and film school projects.

Read the full profile

David Fincher reclaims ‘Citizen Kane’ with political spin on father’s ‘Mank’ screenplay

Gary Oldman and camera operator Brian Osmond (Nikolai Loveikis)

Bob Strauss
December 2, 2020
Datebook (San Francisco Chronicle)

Technically, “Mank” is the story of how the script for what’s often considered the greatest movie ever made, “Citizen Kane,” may have been written. But there’s a lot more to David Fincher’s deep-focused, black-and-white, flashback-filled Netflix movie, which starts streaming on the service Friday, Dec. 4.

Built on a screenplay written by the director’s father, the late Bay Area journalist Jack Fincher, “Mank” is a speculative swirl of 1930s Hollywood and California history. The new film has already rekindled the controversy over whether veteran screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz (played by Gary Oldman) or 25-year-old, first-time director/star Orson Welles (Tom Burke) was the primary author of “Citizen Kane.”

The main show, however, revolves around alcoholic Mankiewicz’s memories. Some of those involve his friendship with the actress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried) and, at more of a remove, her powerful lover, newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance). The model for Welles’ fictional Charles Foster Kane, Hearst — whose company owned the San Francisco Examiner at the time and now runs The Chronicle — famously exerted his considerable clout to have “Citizen Kane” squelched before it was released in 1941.

Speaking to The Chronicle by phone from Los Angeles, the Marin County-raised Fincher responded nimbly when informed he was talking to a Hearst publication.

Read the full profile

Mank: Interviews. Gary Oldman

Gary Oldman plays screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz in Mank.

Gary Oldman, Mank, Christian Bale Helps grow a belly, when things go wrong, David Fincher

Margaret Gardiner (YouTube)
November 16, 2020

Hollywood’s Gary Oldman, Lily Collins talk ‘Mank’

Arab News (YouTube)
December 10, 2020

The Role of a Lifetime | Gary Oldman in Mank

Netflix Film Club (YouTube)
January 12, 2021

Actor Gary Oldman on his new film ‘Mank’ and the future of cinema | ITV News

Nina Nannar
January 21, 2021
ITV News

Conversation with Gary Oldman

Netflix Awards FYC
January 21, 2021

2020 Oscar Roundtable – George Clooney, Delroy Lindo and more discuss their films

Los Angeles Times (YouTube)
January 21, 2021

Netflix’s Mank: Gary Oldman in Conversation with EW’s Leah Greenblatt

92nd Street Y
January 27, 2021

Gary Oldman (‘Mank’) would have had bold advice for Herman J. Mankiewicz: ‘Get sober!’

Chris Beachum
January 28, 2021
Gold Derby

Oscar winner Gary Oldman on ‘Mank’ and working with David Fincher

Popcorn with Peter Travers (YouTube)
January 27, 2021

Oldman’s boozy, blunt-talking ‘Mank’ gaining buzz

Reuters (YouTube)
January 30, 2021

Oldman on Fincher’s many takes: ‘I’m there to serve’

Associated Press (YouTube)
February 3, 2021

Gary Oldman Announces Mank | AFI Awards

American Film Institute (YouTube)
February 18, 2021

Actor Roundtable: Ben Affleck, Sacha Baron Cohen, Delroy Lindo, Gary Oldman, John David Washington and Steven Yeun on Their Liberating Roles

Scott Feinberg
February 24, 2021
The Hollywood Reporter

Gary Oldman on playing real characters & his next directorial project | Tea with BAFTA

BAFTA Guru (YouTube)
March 4, 2021

Stories That Matter with Douglas Urbanski and Gary Oldman | Mank | Netflix

Netflix Film Club (YouTube)
March 11, 2021

The Callback with Gary Oldman and Vanessa Kirby | Mank and Pieces of a Woman | Netflix

Netflix Film Club (YouTube)
March 17, 2021

Inside Total Film: Gary Oldman & Lily Collins for Mank + Viggo Mortensen & Lance Henriksen for Falling

Inside Total Film
December 3, 2020

Gary Oldman found ‘Mank’ a more challenging role than Sid Vicious or Dracula

Brian Truitt
November 19, 2020
USA Today

Gary Oldman On Playing ‘Mank’, Working With David Fincher And His Take On The Controversial Question Of Who Really Wrote ‘Citizen Kane’

Pete Hammond
December 4, 2020

Gary Oldman on finding the frequency of ‘Mank’

Jake Coyle
December 7, 2020
Associated Press

Sir Paul McCartney, Miranda Hart and Gary Oldman

Zoe Ball
December 21, 2020
The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show

Gary Oldman: 1:08:26 min.

Gary Oldman on his ‘role of a lifetime’ in movie Mank & thinking he’s anonymous

January 19, 2021
The Chris Evans Breakfast Show (Virgin Radio)

Read the article
Listen to the interview (Select Time: 8:30-9:00 & 9:00-9:30)

Present Company: Gary Oldman

Krista Smith
January 13, 2021
Present Company (Apple Podcasts)

Gary Oldman: Changemaker

Krista Smith
January 13, 2021
Netflix Queue

Awards Daily Podcast: Gary Oldman Is a ‘Mank’ For the Ages

Clarence Moye
January 29, 2021
Awards Daily

Interview. Gary Oldman Discusses Mankiewicz, Fincher, and ‘Mank’

Karen M. Peterson
January 28, 2021
We Live Entertainment

MovieMaker Podcast: Gary Oldman (Mank‪)‬

Tim Molloy
February 8, 2021

The Sober Gary Oldman Talks About Playing a Drunk in ‘Mank’: ‘I Do Know About That’

Anne Thompson
February 11, 2021

Gary Oldman knows Mank and those drinking issues: ‘I used to sweat vodka’

Glenn Whipp
March 2, 2021
Los Angeles Times

Awards Chatter Podcast: Gary Oldman – ‘Mank’

Scott Feinberg
February 23, 2021
Awards Chatter (The Hollywood Reporter)

Costume Designer Trish Summerville on the Glamorous Looks of ‘Mank’s’ Amanda Seyfried

Summerville discusses creating the stylish looks in black and white for the actress, who plays star Marion Davies in the new David Fincher film.

Degen Pener
December 7, 2020
The Hollywood Reporter

When costume designer Trish Summerville first started working on David Fincher’s new Netflix film Mank, “even people in my crew and friends were like, ‘This would probably make things so much easier.” That’s because the film is shot in black and white. In fact, though, the opposite was true. “It actually made it a bit more difficult,” says Summerville. “When you shoot in color, you have all these different shades and tones you can work with and you can do stuff that’s tone on tone.”

What she found out — while researching the period and visiting costume rental houses, where she took photos of garments in black and white — is that not only are many options are no-go but that other problems present themselves.

Read the full profile

Mank: Interviews. Tuppence Middleton

Tuppence Middleton plays Sara Mankiewicz, Herman’s wife, in Mank.

Tuppence Middleton talks Mank and limericks with Gary Oldman I Netflix Interview

Brief Take (YouTube)
December 4, 2020

Back To One: Tuppence Middleton

Back To One (Filmmaker Magazine) (Apple Podcasts)
December 8, 2020

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.

Avec « Mank », David Fincher sur les traces de « Citizen Kane » et de son père

C’est l’événement cinématographique de cet hiver. Avec « Mank », en ligne sur Netflix vendredi 4 décembre, David Fincher signe le portrait de Herman J. Mankiewicz, scénariste de « Citizen Kane ».

Le cinéaste David Fincher (Kate Gibb à partir d’une photo de Frank Ockenfels)

Samuel Blumenfeld
4 décembre 2020
Le magazine du Monde

Quand, au début des années 1990, son père a posé un scénario sur la table, David Fincher s’est contenté de regarder le titre inscrit sur la couverture. Mank. Il n’avait pas besoin d’en savoir plus. En un instant, il avait compris le sujet du récit que son père, Jack Fincher, journaliste, avait écrit. Une référence au diminutif par lequel ses pairs, à la cantine de la MGM – le studio hollywoodien le plus prestigieux des années 1930 et 1940 (Autant en emporte le ventLe Magicien d’Oz…) –, désignaient l’un des plus brillants scénaristes de sa génération, Herman J. Mankiewicz.

Ce dernier, frère du célèbre réalisateur Joseph L. Mankiewicz, oscarisé pour Chaînes conjugales (1949) et Eve (1950), était un touche-à-tout de génie. Un scénariste capable de proposer d’instinct que les séquences au Kansas du Magicien d’Oz soient tournées en noir et blanc et celle à Oz en couleurs, assurément l’utilisation la plus judicieuse d’un effet spécial à l’écran. Herman J. Mankiewicz était aussi l’auteur du scénario qui donnerait, en 1941, naissance à ce qui est communément désigné comme le plus grand film de l’histoire du cinéma : Citizen Kane.

A 7 ans, David Fincher avait entendu son père parler du chef-d’œuvre d’Orson Welles. S’il n’avait pas compris grand-chose, l’enfant avait saisi l’admiration portée au film, quasiment une dévotion. Alors, en ce début des années 1990, à presque 30 ans, le réalisateur de clips vidéo et de films publicitaires le plus talentueux de la planète pouvait légitimement prétendre devenir le destinataire de ce scénario. Mais ses états de service n’apparaissaient pas assez convaincants aux yeux de son père.

Ce journaliste, qui venait de prendre sa retraite – il dirigeait le bureau à San Francisco de l’hebdomadaire Life –, avait écrit ce scénario et discuté du projet avec son fils mais sans jamais rien mettre en branle pour le voir adapté à l’écran. Il s’était contenté de rêver ce film, imaginant le voir réalisé par un cinéaste de sa génération, un aventurier comme John Huston, par exemple. Le réalisateur du Trésor de la Sierra Madre (1948) et d’African Queen (1951) avait été boxeur, chasseur d’éléphants et collectionnait l’art précolombien. « Moi, en comparaison, soupire Fincher, j’avais fait quoi ? Réalisé des vidéos avec Madonna et des publicités pour Pepsi et Nike ? Ce n’est pas l’image du réalisateur qu’il se faisait. »

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