Breakdown reel showcasing David Fincher‘s invisible visual effects in the Netflix Original Series Mindhunter.
Thanks to Joe Frady
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.
Cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt breaks down how the look of Netflix’s “Mindhunter” builds on Fincher’s well-established style.
David Fincher is one of the most distinctive visual storytellers working today. On his new Netflix’s show “Mindhunter,” the director’s well-established visual style and use of film language is carried throughout the entire Season 1 arc, despite Fincher having only directed four of the ten episodes himself. IndieWire recently talked the show’s principal cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt – who was once Fincher’s gaffer, and shot 90% of “Mindhunter” – about what defines the cinematic style of the great auteur and how he built off the look of “Zodiac” to create something we aren’t used to seeing on TV.
David Fincher: “Look at the Behavior”
John Douglas in Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit: “Behavior reflects personality”
Published on 18 May 2017
David Fincher‘s new Netflix series is edited with an all-Adobe workflow, including Premiere Pro and After Effects, bringing VFX and editorial under one roof.
David Fincher is known for directing many successful films, including Gone Girl, The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, as well as the Netflix hit series House of Cards. With each new project, he mesmerizes audiences with his unique storytelling and visual style. His latest project, the 10-episode Netflix series Mindhunter, is no exception.
One of the keys to David Fincher’s success is a talented post-production team that shares his work ethic, passion for filmmaking, and willingness to push boundaries. Peter Mavromates has served as a producer and post-production supervisor on multiple Fincher projects, while Editors Kirk Baxter and Tyler Nelson, along with Assistant Editor Billy Peake and In-house VFX Compositor Christopher Doulgeris, are all veterans on the team.
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.
‘Mindhunter’ DP Erik Messerschmidt shot the darkly intimate show with custom-made RED Xenomorphs.
When it comes to cinematography, every filmmaker, every movie or show, and every shot is different. While there may be a “textbook” way to approach a scene, there is no “correct” way. Even so, patterns and styles always emerge, and few filmmakers have developed a look as distinctive as David Fincher‘s. While Fincher is best known for his mysterious and gritty films, ranging from Fight Club to The Social Network, he’s recently ventured into the realm of streaming television, where he has produced and directed the critically-acclaimed House of Cards, and now seeks to expand on that success with the recently-released Mindhunter for Netflix.
Mindhunter tells the story of a pair of FBI agents, played by Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany, as their work in the Elite Serial Crime Unit leads them down a dark path where they interrogate and explore the mindsets of serial killers and rapists. It’s another psychologically tense world from the mind of Fincher, and a significant part of what brings this world to life is the work of cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt, who keeps audiences grounded and in the moment.
Messerschmidt, a longtime gaffer in the industry, built up years of knowledge while working alongside some of the best DPs in Hollywood, and his unique background allowed him to creatively solve problems and accentuate story with his camerawork. No Film School recently sat down with Messerschmidt to talk about his career and Mindhunter, including his decision to come up through the lighting department, mastering crew-management skills, and how to incorporate natural lighting into your shots.