The Santa Barbara International Film Festival Outstanding Directors of the Year Award is given to directors not afraid to push the envelope in the cinematic world, with an expertise that is both gracious and bold.
At the 36th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Amanda Seyfried was presented with the Montecito Award by her “First Reformed” co-star Ethan Hawke and “Mank” director David Fincher, who both shared their respect and admiration for the star.
Amanda Seyfried Discusses Mank, Gary Oldman & David Fincher
We’re extremely excited to share with you the latest addition of our Shot Talk interview series. Legendary filmmaker David Fincher and his incredible cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt sit down with cinematographer Lawrence Sher to discuss their 10x Oscar-nominated film Mank.
This episode has the kind of technical deep-dive discussions that you’re not gonna get anywhere else, including the philosophy of black and white vs. color cinematography, detailed FX breakdowns on several important scenes from the film, and why Fincher avoids Steadicam at all costs.
Along with the interview, we’re also releasing a bunch of great shots from the film, so you can start adding them to your decks and getting inspired right away!
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On April 10, the DGA celebrated the craft of directing during the 30th Annual Meet the Nominees: Theatrical Feature Film symposium. In a historic virtual event that was viewed by DGA members worldwide, the 2020 Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Theatrical Feature Film Award nominees — Lee Isaac Chung (Minari), Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman), David Fincher (Mank), Aaron Sorkin (The Trial of the Chicago 7) and Chloé Zhao (Nomadland) — joined Special Projects Committee Chair Jeremy Kagan online for an in-depth discussion about their work.
“In this unimaginable year, which has truly been like no other, it’s an extraordinary pleasure and honor to be joined, even if it’s just virtually, by all five of the outstanding nominees,” said DGA President Thomas Schlamme in his welcome to the online audience. “Each of these fine directors join an illustrious line of filmmakers throughout Guild history who have represented the best in directorial achievements. I personally want to congratulate each and every one of you.”
Following a viewing of clips from each of the nominated features, Kagan prompted the nominees to share stories of their individual journeys that brought their powerful films to life.
“For me, it’s always about what do we think we’re doing as much as what we are doing,” said Fennell when asked her methodology for directing actors. “If we think we’re a hero and that goes against what’s happening in the script, play the hero. And it’s giving permission as well for the actor.”
Sorkin revealed his secrets behind the art of directing crosstalk. “Make sure that they put the burden on the other actor. Make them stop you from talking. Don’t stop because of the script told you to stop. And similarly, the actor who is doing the interrupting interrupt them as soon as you hear the word that’s making you say ‘no!’ or whatever is making you argue.”
Chung shared his process when it comes to rehearsals. “I try to make sure I talk throughout it; I don’t let them fully get into the scenes so that part of it they are still working it out mentally. I don’t get quiet and let them do it. …so I can try to preserve when the cameras are rolling that first time.”
“My personal taste is that I want to see what the audience is seeing,” said Fincher about his work preferences. “I work through the camera. I walk-through a number of rehearsals without having monitors up, but from the time we set a master or alternate master, the rest of the day is working through the camera because that’s the only thing that matters.”
“It’s always what’s on the camera,” agreed Zhao. “That’s it. That’s the difference between film and theater. People think because I work with a lot of nonprofessional actors, I’m usually like right there with them. But I love it very much…. because a lot of the time we have the sun right there and we can only do one take.”
Citizen Kane is often regarded as the greatest film ever made. The fictionalized story of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst didn’t win a Best Picture Oscar in 1942, but it did win a Best Original Screenplay award. Hollywood still loves a story about itself, and this year, Mank, a film about Citizen Kane‘s screenwriter, Herman Mankiewicz, earned 10 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. It also received a nomination for Amanda Seyfried for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Marion Davies.
In real life, as in Mank, Davies was a starlet who lived a life of luxury with Hearst. She was born in Brooklyn and went from the Ziegfeld Follies to Hollywood. She became a siren of the silent movies in the 1920s, and ironed out her accent as she moved into talking pictures.
“Marion was a really talented actor, she had incredible range, she was really funny, and she was able to lighten any scene that she was in,” says Seyfried. “She was very unfiltered like I am, and she was very allergic to being dishonest, which I am absolutely. You know, the Brooklynese was kind of, just, at the end of the day, when she took her shoes off and she grabbed her bottle of gin. She was exactly who she was and you know, she had no shame from where she came from.”
David Prior is an American writer and director who made his feature directorial debut with The Empty Man, an epic in the world of horror, one of the most criminally overlooked horror movies of 2020, and one of the most ambitious horror movies of recent years . It has the scope and execution of a Chris Nolan movie while mixing elements of cults, quantum horror, and creepypastas into an extremely unique mythology that is all its own.
The story behind the making of The Empty Man is very harrowing. In the middle of shooting in South Africa, it was temporarily shut down due to weather conditions, during which a key studio executive who greenlit the film left the studio, essentially leaving the movie abandoned. If that wasn’t enough, once the movie finally got finished, David had to endure a series of calamities, including negative test screenings and studio interference which kept the movie in limbo for years. If that wasn’t enough, once the movie was finally released, it was in theatres during the height of the pandemic only to get largely negative Rotten Tomato reviews (which were very unjust) and thus be completely buried.
However, as of the past few weeks, The Empty Man has been seeing a major resurgence as a number of outspoken critics have been singing the praises of the movie and thus causing it to get the attention it deserves. The story behind The Empty Man brings to light the many issues that can befall a movie but also shows the power of the internet to champion a movie when it belongs in the spotlight. I’m personally thrilled that The Empty Man is getting the viewership that it has been; it’s a must-see, and I’m convinced it will be considered a horror epic for years to come.
In this conversation with David, we got into the whole story behind The Empty Man, his directorial processes, and what he learned observing directors like David Fincher, Tim Burton, and Peter Weir when he visited them on set while producing special features for multiple DVD titles. All of this and so much more on today’s episode of The Nick Taylor Horror Show.
Writer-editor Nicolas Rapold talks with guests about the movies they’ve been watching. It’s as simple as that. From home viewing to the latest from festivals. Named one of the 10 Best Film Podcasts by Sight & Sound magazine.
For this special episode I talk with director David Fincher and production designer Don Burt about Mank, a black-and-white evocation of Hollywood through the jaded eyes of one Herman J. Mankiewicz, as he writes the screenplay for Citizen Kane. If you’ve seen any Fincher films since Zodiac, you’ve also seen Burt’s beautiful work, which won him an Academy Award for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. We talk about the conception of Mank‘s particular spaces; the techniques behind designing for a black-and-white film; the eagle-eyed capabilities of digital cameras; and whether Mank is intended to be a political film. Mank has received 10 Academy Award nominations, including best picture, director, and production design.
Director David Fincher and production designer Don Burt have collaborated since Zodiac. For their latest film, Mank, they talk about the process of deciding what to include and subtract from every scene.
In Mank, that meant re-creating Hearst Castle, the realm of media baron William Randolph Hearst… and the guests Fincher describes as his “captives.”