In this video essay I breakdown how David Fincher uses popular music in films like Fight Club, The Social Network and the new Netflix series Mindhunter.
The alchemist behind Fight Club and Zodiac discusses his newest true crime saga, the Netflix Original series MINDHUNTER.
Netflix has come a long way since the launch of its flagship in-house production, House of Cards back in 2013. The first two episodes of that landmark series saw one of American cinema’s most fastidious craftsmen make his first foray into television. Now David Fincher is back and doubling down, helming four episodes of 2017’s most anticipated binge-fest, an adaptation of the memoir by FBI agent John Douglas, the criminal profiler who served as inspiration for Jack Crawford in Thomas Harris’ bestseller, ‘The Silence of the Lambs’. Fincher gave us a call for an epic conversation about all things MINDHUNTER.
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Netflix‘s new original series Mindhunter has enrapt a legion of viewers with its smart, reserved style. Chris sits down with episodes 3 and 4 director Asif Kapadia to look at how it came together, how Brad Pitt‘s DVD of Senna led to his signing, directing an actor as serial killer Ed Kemper, learning from David Fincher on set, and how a season of TV’s episodes are carved up for different directors.
Director and producer David Fincher wanted a backing track that “didn’t sound like music” for his new Netflix series Mindhunter, which is exactly what he got in the 10-episode show’s original score by composer Jason Hill. Hill, a veteran of the early aughts indie rock scene with throwback style, invented a library of original sounds he processed into music. “I didn’t use any sound libraries,” said Hill, proprietor of the Department of Recording & Power. “I do use a computer, in terms of capture, but everything pretty much starts with a bunch of analog, weird stuff. I kind of get mad scientist brain when I press play.” Pitch perfect for a show about the genesis of the FBI’s elite Behavioral Sciences Unit, formed in 1978. An inspired touch — the sound of Hill running his fingers around water-filled wine glasses — has become something of an audio signature for the series, which also features a rigorously curated complement of 1970s tunes.
Fincher is known as a meticulous craftsman who not only chooses great material, but applies his exacting style to bring it to the screen in a way that is both visually and narratively compelling. While his talent as a musical tastemaker has certainly been acknowledged, it’s emphasized to a lesser extent against the dazzle of his other gifts. But Fincher’s record stands: best score Oscars for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for 2010’s The Social Network, and a best soundtrack Grammy for the duo’s 2012 The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo as well as a nom for their work on Gone Girl.
Fincher received his own Academy Award nominations for directing The Social Network and 2008’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (which also earned Oscar and Grammy nominations for composer Alexandre Desplat). And that’s before even getting to the part about how in the ’80s he helped invent the music video genre as a founder of Propaganda Films (including Don Henley’s cinematic “The End of the Innocence” and helming entries for Madonna and Nine Inch Nails (as well as Loverboy and Rick Springfield, among many others. He’s collected his own Grammys for directing the 1994 clip for The Rolling Stones‘ “Love is Strong” featuring the band and their friends as giants cavorting through Manhattan), and more recently, in 2014 for Justin Timberlake’s “Suit and Tie” (feat. Jay Z). Fincher spoke to MaxTheTrax editor in chief Paula Parisi about the music for Mindhunter, his music video roots and (small!) contribution to Trent Reznor’s career as a film composer.
19 Oct 2017
David Fincher is one of the greatest filmmakers working in Hollywood, with a CV that includes some of the best dramas and thrillers of the past thirty years, from Seven to Fight Club to Gone Girl to The Social Network. Now he’s returned to the small screen with Mindhunter, a tough new Netflix TV drama that deals with the FBI agents trying to get under the skin of serial killers. To mark the occasion, we sat down with the man for a forty-minute conversation about his approach, his style, and his future projects.
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Published on 18 May 2017
The year is 1972. On May 7, Tony Orlando & Dawn is in the middle of a four-week ride atop the Billboard Hot 100 with “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree,” and Edmund Kemper is indicted on eight counts of murder in Santa Cruz, Calif. Welcome to the world of David Fincher’s Mindhunter, a circa 1970s crime drama that debuts on Netflix this weekend.
Set within the FBI’s elite Behavioral Sciences Unit, the show delves into the psyche of high-profile serial killers because, “How do we get ahead of crazy, if we don’t know how crazy thinks?” In other words, as sophisticated a study in depravity as audiences are likely to see outside of a theater showing a Fincher film, and he wanted the music to match.
Fincher’s facility with score has been validated with an Oscar, a Grammy and two noms for his past four films, which include Gone Girl, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. House of Cards, another show Fincher executive produces for Netflix, has accumulated five Emmy nominations for composer Jeff Beal (who won this year). And he famously convinced Trent Reznor to score 2010’s The Social Network, resulting in Oscars for the Nine Inch Nails principal and collaborator Atticus Ross. But Fincher is surprisingly modest about accruing any of that acclaim.
“I just hire people that are great and get out of their way,” says the man who was the enfant terrible of ’80s music video.
The muted, subterranean Mindhunter soundtrack is composed by erstwhile alt pop comet Jason Hill — he soared, he shined, he fell short of being a star with bands Louis XIV and Vicky Cryer. But the 42-year-old rose to the occasion for Fincher, who asked him to craft a score that wouldn’t sound, literally, like music.