The editing and post-production of David Fincher‘s Mank.
Netflix’s Mank was leading 2021 Oscars nominations with 10 nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. First assistant editor Ben Insler opens up the editing timeline of the film and shares insights on the editing and workflow process.
It’s probably fair to say that the 2021 Academy Awards were unlike any others. How do we count all the ways?
A global pandemic that shuttered productions and theaters. Distribution of first-run films over streaming services or with premium per-view rental prices. A raft of indie-style films made on shoestring budgets. Big-budget blockbusters pushing their release dates to 2021 and beyond, taking them out of the race. A ceremony broadcast that was not just delayed by two months, but was entirely reconceived and relocated from the Dolby Theatre to Los Angeles’s Union Station, with acceptance speeches uninterrupted by orchestras and time limits.
It’s also the first year that Frame.io made a big splash at the Oscars, used on three of the nominated films (including Best Film Editing and Best Sound winner Sound of Metal), as well as the broadcast show itself. And we’re even doing our own coverage a little differently, splitting the Best Picture nominees and Best Film Editing nominees into two separate articles to give you a deeper dive into the processes, both technical and creative.
And yet, there are the ways in which the spirit of the Oscars remains very much the same. First-timers and foreign films challenging established directors with an acclaimed body of work. The novelty of having a woman (never mind two) nominated for Best Picture—with Chloé Zhao as only the second woman to claim the win. The snubs of Black directors like Spike Lee, Regina King, and perhaps most pointedly, Shaka King, whose Judas and the Black Messiah was nominated for Best Picture.
But all of that aside, the Oscars are still a much-anticipated yearly tradition for those of us who love cinema.
We’re excited to present our fourth-annual Oscars Workflow Roundup! We’ll dig into the workflows of the eight films nominated for Best Picture and consider how this strange and unprecedented year has played out—and what it might mean for the future of how movies are both made and consumed.
Join Adobe for an exciting discussion with the editorial team from Netflix’s Mank featuring special guests Kirk Baxter, ACE, first assistant editor Ben Insler, and assistant editor Jennifer Chung. The team goes behind-the-scenes of the critically-acclaimed, Oscar nominated film to share their creative editing process and collaborative workflows for in-house VFX. Learn how they crafted a modern-day homage to one of the most celebrated films of all time, and overcame the challenges of a remote workflow using Premiere Pro Productions and After Effects.
Kirk Baxter, ACE, has been recognized with Academy Awards for his work on The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, an Academy Award nomination for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and multiple nominations from the American Cinema Editors. The Australian native is a long-time collaborator of David Fincher, including five of the director’s films and two of his series, Mindhunter and House of Cards.
Ben Insler currently works as a feature film assistant editor in Los Angeles, most recently on David Fincher’s Mank. He has previously assisted on television series, documentaries, and commercials, as well as edited for television, independent features and numerous shorts.
Jennifer Chung is an assistant editor working in Los Angeles. Originally from the midwest, she graduated with a BFA in Cinema Art + Science from Columbia College Chicago. She works in scripted tv and film, most recently on the “Blindspotting” series and David Fincher’s “Mank”. Along with assisting, she has also edited numerous shorts, music videos and promotional content.
Two-time Oscar®-winning film editor Kirk Baxter takes you through his decision-making process for an early sequence from David Fincher‘s Hollywood Golden Age drama, which features the interplay of a number of central characters and relationships.
Citizen Kane has long been regarded as a movie masterpiece for its cinematography, storytelling, and ahead-of-its-time visual effects. Who better to pay homage to the 1940’s film than director David Fincher, whose films are often lauded for these same characteristics? Fincher’s most recent project, the Netflix feature film Mank, brings to life a screenplay written by his late father, journalist Jack Fincher.
Netflix describes the film as “1930s Hollywood…reevaluated through the eyes of scathing wit and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he races to finish Citizen Kane.” This movie about a movie showcases the unique approach to storytelling and visual style that continues to make Fincher’s work stand out.
Helping Fincher to bring his signature style to life is a talented post-production team that includes post producer Peter Mavromates, editor Kirk Baxter, first assistant editor Ben Insler, assistant editor Jennifer Chung, and a number of additional assistant editors and VFX artists. Their collective credits include MINDHUNTER, Gone Girl, The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, House of Cards, and other features.
As co-producer of Mank, Mavromates oversaw the timing, budget, schedule, and integration between the editorial, visual effects, and finishing departments. Insler was responsible for integrating the overall project workflows. Chung prepped dailies and supported the editorial team throughout the post-production process and liaised with the sound, color, and visual effects teams.
The team constantly looks to refine and improve their workflows. “I love the mechanics of post-production,” says Insler. “If there’s a way we can eliminate a bottleneck or figure out a more efficient way to do things, I’m all over it. It’s one of my favorite things to do.”
Insler had that opportunity while working on Mank, which was edited using Productions in Adobe Premiere Pro. Already long-time users of Premiere Pro, Productions made it even easier for the editorial team to organize projects, collaborate, and scale, while solving issues such as avoiding duplicate clips and providing the ability to break large projects into smaller segments so that they open and save faster.
You don’t win two Academy Awards without being pretty great at your job. So, it’s not a stretch to call Kirk Baxter an ace editor. His work, not just alongside Angus Wall, but with director David Fincher, has produced some impeccably edited films. The Social Network, along with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, won Baxter and Wall Oscars, while they also received a nomination for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Throw in Gone Girl, as well as now Mank (which is a solo editing job, without Wall), and you have someone who is truly at the top of their craft. So, getting the chance to pick Baxter’s brain was a chance I had no intention of passing up.
Below, you can hear my conversation with Baxter. Mank is at the center of our chat, but I was just fascinated by editing in general and wanted to hear as much as I could from him. So, we move in a few different directions, thought the Fincher flick is never far from our minds. Baxter is well on his way to another citation from the Academy, so it’s a perfect time to revisit the film over on Netflix. As I wrote in my review (found here), the tech work in the movie, including Baxter’s, is beyond reproach.
“It doesn’t matter what the intention was; it only matters what was captured,” muses two-time Oscar winner Kirk Baxter at the end of his exclusive interview with Gold Derby about editing “Mank” (watch the video above). Baxter and former editing partner Angus Wall are the only in Oscar history to win consecutively for Best Film Editing, which they did for 2010’s “The Social Network” and 2011’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” both under David Fincher. Baxter is currently nominated for a Critics Choice Award for “Mank,” his eighth collaboration with the director.
Two-time Oscar®-winning film editor Kirk Baxter details the assemblage of David Fincher‘s acclaimed new film Mank. He digs in on navigating the director’s wealth of coverage, building transitions, piecing together Mank’s climactic tirade at Hearst Castle and much, much more.