Mank’ DP Erik Messerschmidt On the Importance of Precision and Preparation


Jazz Tangcay

March 4, 2021
Variety

Erik Messerschmidt calls David Fincher’s process “precise.” And it is the greatest compliment. That precision is what Fincher is renowned for, his detail. He prefers the wider shots as he relays his character’s environments, but it’s what’s within the frame; that detail that gets the greatest performances out of actors, and gives audiences a full understanding of what is happening.

Mank,” a love letter to Hollywood’s golden age, is no different. Messerschmidt has collaborated with Fincher before on “Mindhunter,” and is no stranger to the Fincher process, but this was their first feature together.

Messerschmidt reflects on how Fincher works and how they collaborated on the black-and -white drama.

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David Fincher: Maestro of Mank


Netflix Film Club (YouTube)
February 27, 2021

The cast and crew of Mank, including costume designer Trish Summerville and actors Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Tom Pelphrey and Charles Dance, speak to the focus and concentration that a David Fincher set demands. The acclaimed filmmaker himself, meanwhile, takes you through the process of crafting his examination of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Writing the Look for Mank

Erik Messerschmidt, ASC channels cinematographic legend Gregg Toland, ASC to recreate classic era Hollywood for David Fincher

Adrian Pennington
March 1, 2021
RED Digital Cinema

Shot in black and white and often in deep focus, David Fincher’s Mank evokes 1930s classic cinema with rigorous attention to digital detail. Made for Netflix, this biographical drama stars Gary Oldman as Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he races to finish the Kane screenplay for Orson Welles.

Famously, Fincher was among the first A-list directors to embrace digital filmmaking. Since the groundbreaking production The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), he hasn’t deviated from using RED cameras and Mank was no exception. Fincher had always envisioned the screenwriter’s story being told in black and white.

“It would be a crime not to make this movie in black and white,” says Erik Messerschmidt, ASC, who recently earned an Emmy® nomination for shooting Fincher’s Netflix series Mindhunter. “Digital was just right for this project for all manner of reasons.”

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The Magic of the Movies: Behind the Scenes of David Fincher’s Mank


Netflix Film Club (YouTube)
February 28, 2021

Join acclaimed director David Fincher, actors Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried, and the cast and crew of Mank, for a peek behind the curtain of Netflix’s black-and-white ode to Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Insights Into The Lensing of “Mank,” “The Prom,” “Malcolm & Marie”

Cinematographers Erik Messerschmidt, Matthew Libatique, Marcell Rév discuss respective films, collaborating with directors David Fincher, Ryan Murphy, Sam Levinson

Robert Goldrich
February 26, 2021
Shoot

Mank (Netflix) marks cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt’s first narrative feature. It continues a series of firsts for the DP in collaboration with director David Fincher.

Messerschmidt, who earned ASC membership distinction last year, got a major break back in the day while serving as a gaffer for cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, ASC, most notably on the Fincher-directed Gone Girl. During the course of that movie, Fincher had Messerschmidt do some promotional still work for Gone Girl and the two struck up a rapport. This eventually led to Messerschmidt becoming the DP on Fincher’s Mindhunter, the thriller series centered on an FBI agent’s quest to track down serial killers in the late 1970s.

Last July, Messerschmidt garnered his first career Emmy nomination for his lensing of Mindhunter. He’s shot the lion’s share of Mindhunter episodes, representing his first major TV gig as his DP endeavors prior to that were primarily in commercials and other short-form fare. 

Fincher then further expanded Messerschmidt’s reach–this time into the feature realm with Mank which centers on screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (portrayed by Gary Oldman) as he races to finish the script for director Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane on a tight timetable, secluded in a bungalow in a desert town miles removed from Los Angeles as he recuperates from a car accident in 1940. Attending to him are his secretary Rita (Lily Collins) and his German nurse (Monika Grossmann).

In the process, through Mankiewicz’s worldview–marked by his abiding social conscience and wit, at times caustic–we are introduced to not only Hollywood but life in the 1930s, ranging from the struggle of the rank and file during the Great Depression to the grandeur of Hearst Castle and high society. We also become privy to Mankiewicz’s own inner struggles with alcoholism, as well as a professional battle with Welles (played by Tom Burke) over screen credit for what became the classic Citizen Kane. The Mank cast also includes Charles Dance (as William Randolph Hearst), Amanda Seyfried (as Marion Davies, Hearst’s wife), Tuppence Middleton (as Sara Mankiewicz, Herman’s wife), Arliss Howard (as Louis B. Mayer), Sam Troughton (as John Houseman), Tom Pelphrey (as Joe Mankiewicz, Herman’s brother), Toby Leonard Moore (as David O. Selznick) and Ferdinand Kinsley (as Irving Thalberg).

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Mank: Rosebud…

Photo by Nikolai Loveikis

An Interview with Camera Operator Brian S. Osmond, SOC

Kate McCallum
February 2021
SOC Camera Operator (Society of Camera Operators)

Mank is an American biographical drama film about screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz and his battles with director Orson Welles over screenplay credit for Citizen Kane (1941). The film is directed by David Fincher, based on a script written by his father Jack Fincher, with Gary Oldman in the title role.

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‘Mank’ Cast and Crew on Jack Fincher’s Script and Shooting in Black and White

Antonio Ferme
February 22, 2021
Variety

While Netflix’s Oscar contender “Mank” was directed by David Fincher, the script was written by his father, Jack Fincher, prior to his death in 2003. Gary Oldman, who starred in the film as “Citizen Kane” screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, said Fincher’s script was one of the best he had read in a long time.

“It is fun to be a detective and go off and read things and find out things and all of that,” Oldman said. “That’s great fun, but I felt that the work had really been done by Jack.”

In the Variety Streaming Room, hosted by deputy awards and features editor Jenelle Riley, the cast and crew of “Mank” discussed how Jack Fincher’s script was able to capture the extensive legacies of some of the icons from the golden age of Hollywood, as well as the challenges of shooting in black and white.

Amanda Seyfried, who portrayed William Randolph Hearst’s mistress Marion Davies, said that Fincher’s script infused new life into the cinema starlet’s legacy.

“None of what I read in my investigation was different from what the sense that I had gotten of her,” Seyfried said. “The essence was captured in that script right off the bat. So if I had nothing, I would have been okay.”

Aside from a handful of music videos and commercials, “Mank” was the first project cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt had ever filmed in black and white. He said the crew bounced many ideas off of each other when it came to figuring out what colors would look like on set.

“It becomes this very exciting kitchen of ideas, which is a very special thing to participate in,” Messerschmidt said.

When it came to fitting photos, costume designer Trish Summerville said she only sent them to Fincher in black and white. She said she did a lot of her research on what worked as far as which colors, prints and patterns translated well.

“Some things became really contrast-y and too kind of like confetti,” Summerville said. “Once we got to do the camera test, which I think helped us all greatly with seeing what the lighting was going to be, it helped with hair, with makeup, with clothes. It was a big tool for us.”

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Artist Spotlight: Mank Production Designer Donald Graham Burt

Edward Douglas
February 18, 2021
Below the Line

Continuing Below the Line’s look at the crafts behind David Fincher’s Mank, we spoke to Production Designer Donald Graham Burt, his sixth go-round with Fincher after the first worked together on 2007’s Zodiac. A year later, Burt would win the Oscar for Production Design for his work on Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Besides performing those duties for six Fincher films, Burt also played a significant role in the designs for Fincher’s Golden Globe-winning Netflix series, House of Cards.

Burt’s definitely a bit of an old school Hollywood vet, going back to some of his work in the ‘90s like The Joy Luck Club and Dangerous Minds. Still, Mank offered Burt a number of new challenges, the first one being the fact that the film would be shot entirely in black and white, the second would be how it would task Burt and his team to recreate some of Hollywood’s most iconic locations from the ‘30s and ‘40s. You only have to watch the movie or look at some of the images below to agree that Burt and his art department came through with flying colors… even without having any actual color.

Below the Line spoke with Burt over the phone for the following interview.

AFI Awards: Mank Cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt on Making the Film

February 18, 2021
AFI Movie Club

Mank cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt sat down to talk about shooting one of the most outstanding films of the year, which is about the greatest film of all time.

AFI Movie Club: AFI AWARDS Honoree MANK

ASC Insights Premieres

Jay Holben
February 17, 2021
The American Society Cinematographers

In a new series of in-depth interviews with Society members, ASC Insights provides the cinematographer’s perspective on today’s most pertinent topics. The first two episodes cover High Dynamic Range (HDR) from the director of photography’s view.

Episode One discusses the implementation of HDR in postproduction as a deliverable and features the insights from Markus Förderer, ASC, BVK; Polly Morgan, ASC, BSC; and associate member and colorist Dave Cole. The episode examines scenes from Independence Day: Resurgence, the F/X series Legion and the short film Mandy. 

Episode Two examines the implementation of HDR throughout the entire workflow from set to post and features thoughts from Erik Messerschmidt, ASC; Marshall Adams, ASC; and colorist Dave Cole. The members discuss scenes from Netflix’s Mindhunter and El Camino: The Breaking Bad Movie

For both episodes, ASC associate member and American Cinematographer contributing editor Jay Holben discusses the ins and outs of HDR, the benefits and pitfalls and how important it is for the cinematographer to be involved in the postproduction implementation of HDR. The key to the format is in expanding the palette of creative intention for the filmmakers, not in merely delivering a brighter picture.  

Watch both episodes now right here.