From ‘Zodiac’ to ‘Mindhunter’: 5 Visual Elements that Define David Fincher’s Cinematic Universe

Cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt breaks down how the look of Netflix’s “Mindhunter” builds on Fincher’s well-established style.

Chris O’Falt
October 19, 2017
IndieWire

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.

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Why David Fincher’s ‘Mindhunter’ DP Believes ‘There Are No Rules’ in Lighting

Hawkins DuBois
October 13, 2017
No Film School

‘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.

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

(Merrick Morton, Netflix)

By 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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A little behind the scenes teaser for Mindhunter

Christopher Probst (Instagram)

“75,000 feet of Rushes Discovered in a Vault”

Reported by Joe Frady

George Michael – Freedom ’90 Music Video Outtakes

George Michael VEVO
Published on 26 Sep 2017
YouTube

 

TRAILER | George Michael: Freedom | Coming Soon

Channel 4
Published on Sep 15, 2017
YouTube

The documentary will air on October 16 on Channel 4 and on October 21st on Showtime.

 

George Michael – Freedom! ’90 (Official Video)

George Michael VEVO
Published on Oct 2, 2009
YouTube

Directed by David Fincher
Director of Photography: Mike Southon, BSC

The Ultimate Plate Van for MINDHUNTER

From Jarred Land (Facebook) with Matthew Tremblay (Facebook), and Christopher Probst (Instagram)

Jarred Land (President at RED):

David Fincher‘s insane Plate Van for Mindhunter. 11 Epic Dragons on Global Dynamics United Tilt Plates all triggered by one detonator. Great Design Colab between Fincher, Myself and Christopher Probst.

All things considered, this wasn’t actually as expensive as it would seem.

I had a bunch of the 80/20 extrusions left over from previous projects and those Black Magic monitors I bought for super cheap online. My engineers built the 11 camera trigger out of a left over battery shell for about $40 in parts.

The initial design process was super efficient because 80/20 has plugins for SolidWorks so Fincher and I spent a lot of time on the computer pre-visualizing everything and we could figure out the weak links very quickly before we even had the van.

The GDU low profile bombproof tilt plates which Fincher, Matthew Tremblay and I designed we built just for this (which became the GDU tilt plates) seemed exotic but was actually way more cost effective than buying or renting dutch or tango heads that were expensive and not really made for what we were using them for. Remember this is a multi-year show so they actually are saving a ton of money designing it and building it rather than just renting everything for such a long period of time… it likely has already paid for itself.

This is just the prototype of something Fincher and I have been working on for a few years now and it’s going to get way way more badass as time goes on.

Christopher Probst:

Click to enlarge and read descriptions