In this edition I’ll look at Jeff Cronenweth, who, to a large extent, is responsible for popularising a style of ‘dark cinematography’, through his work on movies such as Fight Club or The Social Network.
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3 Things That Working With Jeff Cronenweth Taught Me About Cinematography
Chapters: 00:00 Intro — How David Fincher became a Filmmaker 02:01 Early Career & Return of the Jedi 03:18 Shot Composition and Blocking 06:19 “Relentless” Number of Takes 11:02 Directing with Precision 13:43 Color Theory & Creating the Look 15:48 Create a Feeling (Production Design & Music) 19:35 Final Takeaways
David Fincher is a director’s director. His reputation for having complete control over his work is well-known but many directors have had similar power. So, what makes his approach to film directing so captivating? In this David Fincher video essay, we’ll let the man speak for himself. Through a collection of interviews from throughout his career, Fincher guides us through some of the strongest characteristics of his directing style.
To date, over the past four decades, David Fincher has directed a plethora of music videos, commercials, and 11 feature films. Along the way, he has refined his directing style which can be summed up in two words: precise and purposeful. When watching any David Fincher movies, you would be hard-pressed to find an out-of-place camera movement, or a lazy frame composition. One lesson we learned from Fincher is how he balanced and imbalanced the frame during Nick and Amy’s first meeting in Gone Girl to show the “push and pull” of their flirting.
Another well-known staple of the David Fincher directing style is his predilection for shooting multiple takes. He famously shot 99 takes of the opening scene in The Social Network, for example. But there’s a method to his madness — he wants the actors to move “beyond muscle memory” especially in their domestic environments. In Fincher’s logic, when the actor sits on their couch, they need to have sat in it a hundred times to make it look like they’ve sat in it a hundred times.
Fincher also explains how he creates mood and tone with lighting, color, and music. With a darker frame, desaturated color, and the brooding tones of Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor, there certainly is a distinct experience watching David Fincher films. While all of this sounds extreme, the proof that he’s doing something right is visible on-screen.
♬ Songs used:
“Father / Son” — Makeup and Vanity Set “Subdivide” — Stanley Gurvich “Switchback” — Nu Alkemi$t “Battle in the Forest” — Charles Gerhardt – National Philharmonic Orchestra “Chasing Time” – David A. Molina “Sugar Storm” – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross “Soul Sacrifice” – Santana “Graysmith Obsessed” – David Shire “Intriguing Possibilities” – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross “Wendy Suite” – Jason Hill “Under the Midnight Sun” — Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross “14 – Ghosts II” – Nine Inch Nails “Corporate World” – The Dust Brothers “Appearances” – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross “With Suspicion” – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross “What Have We Done to Each Other” – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross “Cowboys and Indians” – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross “San Simeon Waltz” – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross “Fool” – Ryan Taubert “Where Is My Mind” – The Pixies
The Team Deakins podcast is an ongoing conversation between acclaimed cinematographer Roger Deakins and James Deakins, his collaborator, about cinematography, the film business and whatever other questions are submitted. We start with a specific question and end….who knows where! We are joined by guests periodically. Followup questions can be posted in the forums at rogerdeakins.com.
Team Deakins talks with cinematographer Darius Khondji(Uncut Gems, Alien Resurrection, Se7en). We talk a lot about light, specifically learning how to light and how he started to learn with natural light. He shares the experience of working with David Fincher on the film Se7en and how their collaboration allowed him to take risks. He speaks about how important it is to get to understand the director and how he sees visual style as a house that you have to find the key to unlocking and that he usually finds this key through the character. Darius tells us about working on the movies Lost City of Z, Uncut Gems, My Blueberry Nights, and Amour. He also shares his thoughts on working in features and television. A wonderful glimpse into the eye of a great cinematographer!
00:00:00: Introduction 00:06:41: Conversation with Victoria Alonso, EVP, Production at Marvel Studios 00:22:51: Conversation with Peter Mavromates, Co-Producer of Mank 00:36:18: Conversation with Aaron Lovell, SVP of Post Production at Boardwalk Pictures 00:45:49: Conversation with Florian Schneider, Producer of Freaks: You’re One of Us, Stephan Kuch, Colorist at PANOPTIMO, Andreas Rudroff, Sound Mixer at Orange Sound Studio 00:58:31: Conversation with Jessie Schroeder, VP, Post Production at Pixar Animation Studios and Kori Rae, Producer at Pixar Animation Studios
Thanks to all of those that joined Dolby and our special industry guests as we discussed the evolution of entertainment and explored how world-renowned content creators are using Dolby technologies to expand their creative palette and empower immersive storytelling.
This PGA members-only event was the first in a series of events designed to both inspire and educate producers in film, television, and new media to create future-forward, immersive experiences in Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. We hope those who attended the live event found it valuable. For those who were unable to attend or would like to see it again we have provided a recording of the event.
Mank could have easily been a parody of old school Hollywood, but Erik Messerschmidt and David Fincher weren’t going to let that happen. They went for broke on thoroughly reproduced sets, meticulous lighting, smoke filled offices, energetic conversations, and characters that breathe.
Once Mank opens its first scene, the scenery and intelligent dialogue make it hard to look away. As much as I thought I knew about San Simeon, having grown up ten minutes away from Hearst Castle, it was exciting to look into the bygone era when this California location was a lively hotbed of social chemistry, and parties, and movie creation, rather than just a stale museum where no one can touch the furniture.
When preparing to speak with Erik Messerschmidt, I would almost get lost working back through the layers of filmmakers contributing to this story. Mank pays homage to the legend Gregg Toland’s game-changing eye for cinematography. The dynamism between Toland, Orson Welles and the writer Herman J. Mankiewicz would be recrafted 80 years later by this modern team of David Fincher and Erik Messerschmidt, with Jack Fincher writing the screenplay.
In mid April 2021 Erik Messerschmidt took the ASC Award for Outstanding Cinematography, and then in May, deservedly, the Best Achievement in Cinematography Oscar for his lensing of the period piece Mank.
Despite his youthful appearance, Erik’s film career has already spanned decades, working his way up through the ranks as a grip, an electrician, and a number of years as a gaffer. Some of his gaffer work included Gone Girl, as well as DP on Mindhunter, with Fincher, further developing that relationship till the day when David asked Erik if he wanted to shoot this next project, Mank, and Erik said “Of course I want to shoot the movie!”
Mank, Erik’s first cinematography role outside of television, his first movie as DP, has won multiple awards this year. What kind of heavenly dream must that be for any cinematographer? Who hits a grand slam at their first baseball game?
FilmLight hosts a discussion with the talents who have contributed to the stories that are entertaining us the most. Four prestigious colourists from Los Angeles, London and Cape Town present their outstanding work and share their artistic journey.
Discover amazing projects, including provocative comedy thriller ‘Promising Young Woman’, the Netflix original documentary ‘My Octopus Teacher’, multi-nominated biographical drama ‘Mank’ from David Fincher and the superb coming of age drama ‘Rocks’.
Guest colourists: Kyle Stroebel (Refinery); Katie Jordan (Light Iron); Jateen Patel (Molinare); and Eric Weidt.
Eric Weidt spent years in Paris working with fashion photographers transitioning from traditional film to digital capture workflows. He created custom film-emulation ICC profiles, and mastered color work and compositing techniques for print stills and fashion films.
Clients included Mario Testino, David Sims, Patrick Demarchelier, Mert Alas and Markus Piggot, Steven Meisel, Hedi Slimane, Karl Lagerfeld. His motion picture work for David Fincher includes responsibilies as VFX artist (Gone Girl), and Digital Intermediate Colorist (Videosyncracy and Mindhunter).
He holds a BA in Theater Arts from the University of California at Santa Cruz and is both an American and French citizen.
Director of Photography Erik Messerschmidt received the statuette at the Academy Awards for his work on Mank.
He had already won the American Society of Cinematographers’ Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Feature Film, and the Satellite Award.
The other nominees were Joshua James Richards (Nomadland), Dariusz Wolski (News of the World), Sean Bobbitt (Judas and the Black Messiah), and Phedon Papamichael (The Trial of the Chicago 7).
Mank was nominated in 10 categories: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, Production Design, Cinematography, Costume Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, Sound and Original Score. Production Designer Donald Graham Burt and Set Decorator Jan Pascale also won in the category of Best Production Design.
Erik’s acceptance speech:
“Wow! I wish I could cut this into five pieces because it’s such an honor to be nominated amongst all of you. It’s an incredible honor. David, thank you for creating an environment where we could do our best work. I got to go home and feel like I gave it my all, every night (David Fincher: ‘You did’). Ceán [Chaffin], thank you for the endless support. Eric Roth, thank you for the guidance. Amanda, Gary, what a privilege and a joy to watch you work. The entire cast, thank you for hitting your marks. It mattered! This really belongs to an extraordinary crew who I could not do anything without: Brian, Will, Alex, Dave, Gary, Dwayne, Danny, Jerry, and all of your team. You make my job easy. Thank you. And thank you to my beautiful wife, Naiara, who tolerates this crazy business and helped me get through this movie. So thank you so much. Thank you.”
MANK’s Thank You Cam Speech: Production Design
Erik Messerschmidt Backstage Interview
Erik Messerschmidt ‘Oscars: After Dark’ Winner Interview