Exclusive: DP Claudio Miranda on ‘Only the Brave’, Shooting Fire, and David Fincher Stories

By Adam Chitwood
October 12, 2017
Collider

Claudio Miranda has had an interesting career thus far. After working as a gaffer on films like Se7en and Fight Club, filmmaker David Fincher (with whom he’d worked on a few commercials and music videos as a cinematographer) asked him to serve as the cinematographer for the wildly ambitious 2008 film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. That VFX-intensive effort scored Miranda an Oscar nomination and led to him then shooting visually breathtaking movies like Tron: Legacy and Oblivion, and of course Life of Pi, for which he won the Best Cinematography Oscar.

Miranda’s latest film reteams him with director Joseph Kosinski for the third time and also marks something of a departure—the true story drama Only the Brave. The film revolves around one unit of local firefighters who battled the Yarnell Hill wildfire in 2013 to tragic results. Josh Brolin leads a cast that includes Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, James Badge Dale, Taylor Kitsch, and Jennifer Connelly.

With Only the Brave hitting theaters on October 20th, I recently got the chance to have an extended conversation with Miranda about his work on the film. He talked about his working relationship with Kosinski, the challenges of capturing real fire onscreen, shooting on location, and his approach to shooting realistic visual effects.

But I’m also a big fan of Miranda’s work in general, so the conversation veered off into his early days working as a gaffer for Fincher, and we discussed his “trial by fire” experience shooting Benjamin Button as well as what it’s like to work with Fincher and how his gaffer work with other cinematographers like Harris Savides and Dariusz Wolski has shaped his approach. Finally, with Kosinski next set to direct the Top Gun sequel Top Gun: Maverick, I asked Miranda what the prep has been like on that movie so far.

It’s a wide-ranging and refreshingly candid conversation that hopefully admirers of Miranda’s work, or just those curious about cinematography in general, will find illuminating. I certainly had a great time chatting with the talented DP.

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David Fincher on his new Netflix series Mindhunter and what’s gone wrong with film-making

(Merrick Morton, Netflix)

by Danny Leigh
October 12, 2017
Financial Times

“Have we got a show?” David Fincher asks. He is joking, but not really. The show in question is Mindhunter, a new drama Fincher has created for the all-powerful Netflix. The setting is a non-specific late 1970s, the principals a pair of FBI agents at the dawn of modern criminal psychology. Fincher, an executive producer, also directed the first two and last two episodes. When we meet in a starched London hotel, these are all that have been shown to a small group of journalists. Through scarcity alone, my opinion is valued. I tell him the truth — I found it very moreish — and he nods. “OK. Good. Good. You just never know.”

For much of his career, Fincher has enjoyed a reputation for a certain spikiness. Now, at 55, his goatee beard has silvered to the point of a minimalist Santa Claus. At times he almost seems avuncular. Santa, however, never brought anyone the kind of visions on which Fincher made his name. While his movies have been many and various, the best of him has surfaced in tales about the most depraved human behaviours, the horrible brilliance of Se7en and Zodiac now joined by another story of serial killers and those who pursue them. I ask when Fincher first became aware of what in Mindhunter are still called “sequence killers”?

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‘Mindhunter’ DP Recounts Rise From ‘Gone Girl’ Gaffer to Cinematographer on Netflix Series

(Merrick Morton, Netflix)

Valentina I. Valentini
October 12, 2017
Variety

When Erik Messerschmidt stepped into the role of David Fincher’s cinematographer on “Mindhunter” — a series centered on an elite FBI serial crime unit that premieres on Netflix on Oct. 13 — he and the director were already in sync.

“David and I see the world in a similar way,” says Messerschmidt, who was Fincher’s gaffer on “Gone Girl.” “I felt like I had a lot of freedom to try things visually and take some calculated risks. He was a huge supporter of that.”

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David Fincher’s journey into the minds of serial killers

The ‘Fight Club’ director – who grew up under the shadow of the infamous Zodiac murders – tells Nev Pierce about his new Netflix series

Nev Pierce
12 October 2017
The Telegraph (The Daily Telegraph)

“I love Hannibal Lecter,” says director David Fincher, referring to fiction’s most infamous serial killer, from The Silence of the Lambs. “But he doesn’t exist when you really look into serial killing. He may actually be destructive to the understanding of who these people are.”

Few film-makers have “looked into” serial killing with the intense interest of this wry 55-year-old. His breakthrough picture Seven, which announced this one-time music video maestro as a major cinematic force with a flair for an indelible visual image, featured a serial killer (Kevin Spacey) who slaughtered people according to the seven deadly sins and a notoriously shocking ending that left police procedural clichés decapitated.

His best film is arguably Zodiac, a meticulous account of the frustrated attempts to catch the real life titular killer who terrorised California in the late Sixties. You could even argue – though this would likely bring a raised eyebrow from the director who also counts Gone Girl, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Fight Club on his CV – that the predatory Xenomorph from his ill-fated debut, Alien 3, is more dangerous even than Lecter, or that the reverse-ageing romance The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is really about the ultimate serial killer, Death himself.

His new Netflix series Mindhunter, however, is more grounded in reality than any of these projects. Yes, it deals with killers, but these aren’t gourmets or masterminds. Instead, inspired by the memoir of FBI agent John Douglas, it follows two agents (Holt McCallany and Jonathan Groff) as they interview convicted killers for insights to help them capture active murderers.

“I thought it was more interesting to see what makes a serial killer in real life, rather than turning him into a comic book supervillain,” says Fincher of the 10-part show, which is really about the birth of psychological profiling. “I thought a show based on conversations with the monster could be compelling, maybe in a new way. I was interested in the idea of not imbuing these creatures with a mythological power over us.”

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Charlize Theron and David Fincher, ‘Mindhunter’ delves into the darker corners of the criminal mind

Meredith Blake
October 12, 2017
Los Angeles Times

To meet Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany, stars of the Netflix series “Mindhunter,” you’d never suspect they recently spent 10 long months consumed with the darkest reaches of the human psyche.

Groff, a charmer known for playing the lead in HBO’s “Looking” and King George in the original Broadway version of “Hamilton,” laughs generously as McCallany, a seasoned character actor and gabby raconteur with a booming voice, shares a story about training to throw out the first pitch at a Mets game.

Yet given their obvious rapport, it’s easy to see why they were cast as the leads in “Mindhunter,” which debuts Friday. The psychological drama, executive produced by David Fincher and Charlize Theron, follows a pair of trailblazing FBI agents as they interrogate notorious real-life murderers in an effort to understand — and maybe prevent — the senseless urge to kill.

Groff stars as Holden Ford, a clean-cut but open-minded young agent intent on shaking up the hidebound agency, while McCallany plays Bill Tench, a cynical veteran who asks what might be the series’ central question: “How do we get ahead of crazy if we don’t know how crazy thinks?”

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BFI LFF: MINDHUNTER Q&A with David Fincher hosted by Nev Pierce. Complete Audio

Nev Pierce and David Fincher (BFI, Twitter)

Nev Pierce
Audio recorded by Joe Frady

Plus: MINDHUNTER Q&A with David Fincher, Jonathan Groff & Holt McCallany hosted by Kate Taylor.

2017-10-11 Matthew Doyle (Twitter) - Preview of first two episodes of MINDHUNTER at LFF plus Q&A

David Fincher, Jonathan Groff, and Holt McCallany (Matthew Doyle, Twitter)

Why You See a Face in the Bloody ‘Mindhunter’ Inkblot

By Lucy Huang
on June 17, 2017
Inverse (Science & Chill)

Droplets of blood fall and bloom in the trailer for the upcoming Netflix psychological thriller series Mindhunter. Between shots from the show, which will explore the FBI’s partnership with serial killers when it premieres on October 13, the drops expand and gather into symmetrical blotches, forming the well-known shapes of a Rorschach test. For some viewers, they may seem to pool, eventually, into a very familiar pattern. If you start seeing an agonized face in the crimson splotch, you’re not the only one.

The Rorschach test was developed in 1918 by Swiss psychologist Hermann Rorschach, who made the ink blots himself by dribbling ink onto paper and folding them in half. Rorschach, who believed the test could help psychologists understand their patient’s perception and mental grasp, asked people what they saw in the blots and then analyzed their responses. What he was really doing was exploiting a natural phenomenon called pareidolia, which occurs every time we see things that aren’t actually there.

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Five Questions for: David Fincher

Interview by Ellie Walker-Arnott
October 10-16, 2017
Time Out (London)

DIRECTOR DAVID FINCHER is renowned for exploring the darker recesses of the human psyche, with brilliantly unsettling crime thrillers ‘Se7en’, ‘Zodiac’ and ‘Gone Girl’ to his name. Now he’s bringing his forensic eye to the FBI’s elite serial killer unit with a new Netflix series ‘Mindhunter’. Prepare for a trip to the dark side.

1- This isn’t the first time you’ve looked at serial killer psychology. What was it about this story that intrigued you?

‘“Mindhunter” is about a lot of things. It was a time and a place where the FBI had to begin to understand they didn’t know everything about criminality. I was taken with this idea that, in order to truly comprehend your enemy, you have to empathise with them.’

2- ‘Mindhunter’ is set post-Watergate in 1979. Do you think it also speaks to today’s political turmoil?

‘My parents lived through the Great Depression, assassinations and the Cuban missile crisis. They thought the world couldn’t get more crazy. My dad, who was a journalist, would probably be shocked at how things are now. In every generation, humanity finds a way to shock and disturb.’

3- You’ve done TV before with ‘House of Cards’. How does it compare to making feature films?

‘A motion picture is like a band’s first album. There’s a lot of time figuring out what you want to be. Television is more like a second album. “Quick! We need another album”. It’s more frenetic, but allows you time for characterisation. The audience have to invite you into their home and be willing to go places that you want to take them.’

4- You’ve spoken before about wanting to shock audiences. Is that always your intention?

‘If you’re just shocking people for the sake of it I don’t know that it becomes indelible. The most indelible moments an audience has with a film come from a subconscious place, from curiosity. People won’t go into the basement with you unless they want something.’

5- The movies that you’ve made stick with people. What films have left that kind of impression on you?

“‘The Exorcist” still troubles me. “Jaws” is incredibly evocative. I can remember the summer of ’75 because of “Jaws”.’ ■

‘Mindhunter’ is available on Netflix from Fri Oct 13.

David Fincher Knows Exactly Why We’re All So Obsessed With True Crime

Eliana Dockterman
Oct 10, 2017
Time

David Fincher has made a career of delving into abnormal minds, with Seven, Fight Club, Zodiac, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl. But he says his newest project, Mindhunter, isn’t about psychopaths. It’s about the people who figured out how to hunt psychopaths — and that’s an important distinction.

Fincher produced and directed four episodes of the addictive new Netflix show, which starts streaming Oct. 13. The series is about the agents who interviewed the likes of Charles Manson and the Son of Sam in order to better understand the psychology of mass murderers. By doing so, they created a psychological profile for these killers that would allow the FBI to catch similar psychopaths more quickly in the future.

The show is based on the real life events chronicled in the book Mindhunter by the FBI agents who coined the term “serial killer.” But Fincher says he struggled with how deeply the show should dive into the details of these grisly murders. “I said many times as we were in the process of making the show, ‘Wait a minute, we’re making this show about serial killers. We’re not making this show for serial killers,'” the director says.

Fincher spoke to TIME about why he hates the idea of becoming the “serial killer director,” casting the cheery Glee star Jonathan Groff in a dreary role and why we’re all so obsessed with true crime stories.

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A little behind the scenes teaser for Mindhunter

Christopher Probst (Instagram)