Zodiac Screenwriter on His Overlong Spec Script and Convos with David Fincher on the ‘Passage of Time’

Author Robert Graysmith, director David Fincher, producer Brad Fischer, and screenwriter James Vanderbilt (Photo: Margot Graysmith)

Caleb Hammond
March 2, 2022
MovieMaker

James Vanderbilt wrote the screenplay for 2007’s Zodiac on spec — meaning he wasn’t commissioned to write it. So he began cutting it down before he sent it out to studios.

“I was just like, ‘This script is too fucking long. No one is going to read it.’ And I think the original script they sent out was 150 pages. It’s the thing you shouldn’t do, is write a 150-page script,” Vanderbilt tells MovieMaker about the film, released 15 years ago today.

Even when David Fincher agreed to direct the project, Vanderbilt was still concerned about its length. But much to his surprise, scenes were often added in development, not removed.

“In the spec, I had written the whole sequence with Brian Cox, and the morning show where Zodiac calls in, and then I cut it before sending the script out,” Vanderbilt says.

“And then one day Fincher was like, ‘You know, Zodiac might have called this morning show?’

“I was like, ‘Oh, I wrote it.’”

Fincher, who had spent months doing his own research on Zodiac, was impressed.

“You did?” he replied.

So Vanderbilt sent him the previously-cut 15 minute sequence.

“And he goes, ‘Well, this has got to go back in,’” Vanderbilt says. “And so it just kind of kept growing.”

Eventually Fincher sat Vanderbilt down and told him to “stop worrying about the length. I’m going to just make everyone talk very fast,” Vanderbilt says.

True to his word, “if you watch the movie, it is very bip, bip, bip, bip — everyone is talking very fast,” he adds.

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‘Zodiac’ Turns 15: Behind-the-Scenes Facts You Didn’t Know About the David Fincher Movie

David Fincher’s legendary attention to detail on the serial killer film inspired plenty of on-set drama.

Christian Zilko
March 03, 2022
IndieWire

This week marks 15 years since “Zodiac” was released in theaters, and save for the actors looking 15 years younger than they do now, the film still feels like it could be released today. If anything, “Zodiac” feels more like a product of 2022 than 2007. The country is more obsessed with serial killers than ever before, with true crime podcasts and documentaries continuing to draw massive ratings, Zodiac killer memes being used in presidential primaries, and the latest Batman movie taking the form of a serial killer drama.

That makes it a great time to revisit “Zodiac,” as well as a good opportunity to take a deep dive into the making of the film. “Zodiac” attracted as much attention for its painstaking production process as it did for the finished product, as the always detail-oriented David Fincher went above and beyond to make sure everything in his film was historically accurate. Sometimes his methodical process hurt his relationships with the cast, but one thing is for certain: They made a great movie.

Read the 15 facts about the making of “Zodiac” that you may not have known.

Jeff Cronenweth, ASC: An Adventurous Eye

Jeff Cronenweth, ASC on the set of his most recent feature, Being the Ricardos.

The cinematographer’s career exemplifies how talent, versatility​, opportunity and collaboration can combine to result in bold camerawork.

Jon Silberg
February 25, 2022
American Cinematographer

Directors who have worked with Jeff Cronenweth, ASC observe that he is quiet, centered, and possesses a very dry sense of humor. Working in an eclectic mix of genres and styles, he quickly zeroes in on central concepts, often exceeding expectations with the results. His career as a feature cinematographer began auspiciously with David Fincher’s eye-popping Fight Club (AC Nov. ’99), and his filmography since then includes The Social Network (AC Oct. ’10), Gone Girl (AC Nov. ’14), One Hour Photo (AC Aug. ’02) and the Amazon miniseries Tales From the Loop (AC April ’20). Cronenweth has also shot stylistically bold, groundbreaking music videos for David Bowie, Taylor Swift, Janet JacksonNine Inch Nails and many other top artists.

Jeff with his father, Jordan Cronenweth, ASC.

It wouldn’t be at all hyperbolic to say Cronenweth was born into filmmaking. His great-grandfather owned and operated a photographic-equipment store in Wilkinsburg, Pa.; his grandfather Edward worked as a portrait photographer for Hollywood studios during the peak of that unique specialty, earning an Academy Award for his work; his grandmother Rosita was a Busby Berkeley dancer; and his father, renowned ASC member Jordan Cronenweth, served as director of photography on Blade Runner (AC July ’82), Peggy Sue Got Married (AC April ’87), Altered States (AC March ’81), Gardens of Stone (AC May ’87), and many classic music videos for leading artists of the 1980s and ’90s. 

Taking this lineage a step further, Jeff Cronenweth has also collaborated with his brother Tim, a successful commercial director, on more than 500 spots.

“A storyteller doesn’t want to tell the same story over and over, and I don’t want to, either. I always want to find something new and challenging to work on.”
— Jeff Cronenweth, ASC

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85 Queen: Adam Nayman on David Fincher

Mallory Andrews
January 31, 2022
Kitchener Public Library (YouTube)

Author and Film Critic Adam Nayman returns to Kitchener Public Library to discuss his latest book David Fincher: Mind Games.

David Fincher: Mind Games is the definitive critical and visual survey of the Academy Award– and Golden Globe–nominated works of director David Fincher. From feature films Alien 3, Se7en, The Game, Fight Club, Panic Room, Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl, and Mank through his MTV clips for Madonna and the Rolling Stones and the Netflix series House of Cards and Mindhunter, each chapter weaves production history with original critical analysis, as well as with behind the scenes photography, still-frames, and original illustrations from Little White Lies‘ international team of artists and graphic designers. Mind Games also features interviews with Fincher’s frequent collaborators, including Jeff Cronenweth, Angus Wall, Laray Mayfield, Holt McCallany, Howard Shore and Erik Messerschmidt.

Grouping Fincher’s work around themes of procedure, imprisonment, paranoia, prestige and relationship dynamics, Mind Games is styled as an investigation into a filmmaker obsessed with investigation, and the design will shift to echo case files within a larger psychological profile.

Jeff Cronenweth: The Cinematography of Fight Club

Cooke Optics TV (YouTube)

Cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth talks to Cooke Optics TV about working on the iconic 90’s movie Fight Club. A long-time collaborator with director David Fincher, Cronenweth reflects on how they work together, giving insight into how some of the most recognisable scenes were shot, and revealing a surprising inspiration for the look of the movie, a Prada fashion campaign.

Glen Luchford – Prada 96-98 (Idea, Second Edition)

Thank you to the British Society of Cinematographers (BSC).

Filmed with a Sony FS5 and Cooke Mini S4/i Lenses.

Produced by ImageNova.

Email danny.haikin@cookeoptics.com for enquires or leave a comment!

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Follow Jeff Cronenweth, ASC Archives on Twitter.

Red Carpet Rookies: Jeff Cronenweth. Cinematographer

Mike Battle
January 31, 2022
Red Carpet Rookies

In this episode, we’re joined by one of the world’s greatest Cinematographers, Jeff Cronenweth. Born into the film business, he grafted his way through the rungs of the camera department and music video scene of the 1990s, until he got the call from David Fincher to take the reins of Fight Club. From there it’s been a run of legendary movies including, One Hour Photo and Gone Girl, as well as The Social Network and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo both of which he picked up Oscar nominations.

What you’ll learn from Jeff:

  • Jeff’s opinion on whether film school is still necessary
  • Whether music videos are still useful starting grounds for DPs
  • How Jeff get imposter syndrome on Fight Club
  • What it’s like to work with Aaron Sorkin
  • How does the DP Director relationship work
  • Jeff’s opinion on the film fanboys that constantly copy the ‘Fincher/Cronwneth aesthetic!’
  • Whether Jeff has taught David Fincher anything
  • What a day of prep is like for Fincher and Jeff

And of course in our quick-fire: Jeff’s no 1 piece of advice, favourite film, book to read, person to work with, and more.

Listen to the podcast:

Red Carpet Rookies (with a transcript)
Apple Podcast
Spotify
Google Podcasts

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Follow Mike: Instagram, Twitter

FilmLight Colour Awards: Eric Weidt with ‘Mank’

An interview with the winner for best colour grading in Theatrical Feature 2021

February 3, 2022
FilmLight

Presenting the winners of the FilmLight Colour Awards 2021.

Winner, Theatrical Feature: Eric Weidt, for ‘Mank

The award for the grading of a theatrical feature went to Eric Weidt, who worked with DoP Erik Messerschmidt on ‘Mank’. Shot on an 8K RED camera, the movie is striking for its 30s Hollywood look combined with the crystal-sharp resolution.

Weidt also talks about his projects with Fincher for 2022.

Watch the video on YouTube

David Fincher’s “The Goon”. Development Hell

Andrew S. Baldwin
January 30, 2022
Supervoid Cinema (YouTube)

The Unmaking Of Movies. In-depth accounts of the ‘Greatest Movies Never Made’, Prominent ‘what ifs?’. Behind the scenes looks at canceled movies, lost projects, and the reasons why some projects went down in flames of development hell… Superman, Batman, Iron Man, Spider-Man, He-Man, Aliens, Hellboy, Robocop, and many more!

David Fincher has long been signed to produce a movie adaptation of Eric Powell‘s cult comic book: The Goon, published by Dark Horse, to be co-directed by Tim Miller and Jeff Fowler of Blur Studios with an original screenplay by Powell.

Video contains test animation for the David Fincher / Blur Studios / Dark Horse Entertainment produced film The Goon. Based on the Dark Horse Comic series by Eric Powell. Clancy Brown and Paul Giamatti provided the voices for this test. All artwork & footage belongs to its respective creators.

History of the 90s: David Fincher

Kathy Kenzora
January 26, 2022
History of the 90s (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram)

On History of the 90’s we’ll travel back in time through the stories that defined a decade. The last 10 years of the 20th century was a time like no other, from Columbine to Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Seinfeld, Air Jordan, and the Spice Girls… if it happened in the 90’s you’ll hear about it on this podcast. Join Kathy Kenzora as we journey through the History of the 90’s every other Wednesday.

In the 1990’s director David Fincher brought us classic movies like Seven and Fight Club, making his mark on the industry as one the best film makers of his generation.  But Fincher’s impact on the decade stretches beyond movies.  Through dozens of TV commercials and music videos Fincher helped style the 90s.

Guest: Adam Nayman, author of David Fincher: Mind Games

Listen to the podcast:

CuriousCast
Apple Podcasts
Spotify

The cinematography of “VOIR: Summer of the Shark”

January 2022: Weathering the storm

Mark London Williams
January 2022
British Cinematographer

We open this year’s column with a kind of meta reflection on cinematography itself, as contained in the recent Netflix series Voir.

Continentally savvy readers already know “voir” means “to see,” but this is a series about “seeing” movies, cinema, in the broadest sense, which is to say, what films mean, and what effect they have on both individuals, and the world at large. It’s done in a series of visual meditations, usually on the specific film in question which sent the various narrators into their respective futures as essayists, bloggers, reviewers, and makers of the medium. 

From producers David Fincher and David PriorVoir dropped with vastly less fanfare accorded to something like a new Cobra Kai or Witcher season, perhaps because it’s non-fiction, or more likely, because each episode averages about fifteen minutes. They are shorts in other words. About movies.

We caught up with cinematographer Martim Vian, who shot four of the series’ six episodes. The one we wanted to really talk to him about though, was the first one (if simultaneously dropped episodes can be said to have an order), called Summer of the Shark

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Voir. Cr. Netflix © 2021

Cinematographer Martim Vian Shares the Importance of Eliciting Nostalgia in Netflix’s Voir

January 19, 2022
ProductionHUB

David Fincher and David Prior are producers on Netflix‘s latest upcoming series Voir— a series of visual essays celebrating Cinema and the personal connection we each have to the stories we see on the big screen.

Each episode celebrates various aspects of cinema through interviews and personal anecdotes from historians and filmmakers. The series’ cinematographer, Martim Vian, spoke exclusively to ProductionHUB about his specific vision for the series, the importance of personal and historical anecdotes, and the impact of Vior on the viewer. 

Read the full interview