Celebrating Enduring Cinematography: The 35th Annual ASC Awards

MankTwo of UsThe Truffle HuntersThe MandalorianMotherland: Fort Salem, The Crown and The Queen’s Gambit take top honors in this year’s ceremony.

Samantha Dillard
April 19, 2021
The American Society of Cinematographers

Hosted by Turner Classic Movie’s Ben Mankiewicz, this year’s ASC Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography celebrated spectacular imagery, masters of the craft, and the ways in which the industry has adapted in the wake of Covid-19.

One such way that was recognized, celebrated and even employed to produce the awards show was virtual production. Cinematography’s biggest night, which typically takes place in the Ray Dolby Ballroom at the Hollywood & Highland complex, was instead held in the virtual space on Sunday, April 18, with special live moments captured at the historic ASC Clubhouse. This marked the first time in the show’s history that it was livestreamed to a global audience.

The event kicked off with a performance from the show’s live orchestra while a reel played, showcasing the indelible cinematography captured by ASC members — as well as some of this year’s honorees and nominees. Mankiewicz and ASC Awards Chair Dana Gonzales, ASC then welcomed nominees, guests, sponsors and audience members.

[…]

The final award of the day — in the Feature Film category — was presented by filmmakers Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC and James Deakins to Erik Messerschmidt, ASC for his work on Mank. This category was sponsored by Keslow Camera. This is Messerschmidt’s first ASC nomination and win.

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Shot Talk: Mank, with Director David Fincher and Cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt

Lawrence Sher, ASC
April 18, 2021
Shotdeck

We’re extremely excited to share with you the latest addition of our Shot Talk interview series. Legendary filmmaker David Fincher and his incredible cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt sit down with cinematographer Lawrence Sher to discuss their 10x Oscar-nominated film Mank.

This episode has the kind of technical deep-dive discussions that you’re not gonna get anywhere else, including the philosophy of black and white vs. color cinematography, detailed FX breakdowns on several important scenes from the film, and why Fincher avoids Steadicam at all costs.

Along with the interview, we’re also releasing a bunch of great shots from the film, so you can start adding them to your decks and getting inspired right away!

But before you dive in and watch the filmmaking mini-masterclass above… make sure to go check out Mank, streaming now on Netflix.

Sign up for an account at ShotDeck, the world’s first fully-searchable film image database. It’s an invaluable research and educational resource that makes life easier for anyone in Film, Media, Advertising, and Education.

If you are creative, Shotdeck is the place to get inspired and discover new films and talented artists through our meticulously tagged database of still images, all while saving you time.

Search by film title, keyword, location, color, or a dozen other criteria to quickly find the exact “shots” you need to communicate your vision for your next project.

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In conversation with Donald Graham Burt, Erik Messerschmidt and Ren Klyce

John Horn
April 13, 2021
Netflix Awards FYC

A conversation with Production Designer Donald Graham Burt, Cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt and Sound Designer Ren Klyce on behalf of Mank. Moderated by John Horn.

Watch the full conversation

Erik Messerschmidt ASC / Mank : Masterclass in Monochrome

Black-and-white biopic Mank sees another successful collaboration between cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt ASC and director David Fincher as they craft an authentic portrayal of Hollywood’s golden age and explore the turbulent development of the script for Citizen Kane.

Zoe Mutter
April 12, 2021
British Cinematographer

“This was not an offer I had to consider; the answer was an immediate yes,” says cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt ASC when thinking back to the moment he was asked to film director David Fincher’s Mank which depicts the life of screenwriter Herman J. ‘Mank’ Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) as he develops the script for director Orson Welles’ 1941 classic Citizen Kane.

“I was thrilled when David called me,” he says. “I was nervous too of course as I felt a tremendous responsibility to be considerate and respectful to the film, but it’s a cinematographer’s dream to get the opportunity to make a movie like this.”

As Citizen Kane is widely regarded as one of cinema’s masterpieces, the pressure was on to capture the essence of Gregg Toland ASC’s cinematography and to faithfully encapsulate the distinctive mood, lighting and composition reminiscent of a golden era of filmmaking.

Mank, which received a limited theatrical release before streaming on Netflix, is based on a script written by Fincher’s late father, the journalist and writer, Howard “Jack” Fincher which focuses on the controversy surrounding who had creative ownership of Citizen Kane – Welles or Mankiewicz.

The film uses flashback sequences to explore the prolific talent of Mank as well as his alcoholism and tumultuous relationships with Hollywood executives such as film producer and MGM Studios co-founder Louis B. Mayer (Arliss Howard) and Irving G. Thalberg (Ferdinand Kingsley) and publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance), who is widely claimed to be the inspiration for Citizen Kane’s protagonist.

Fincher was clear from the beginning that the film would be shot in black-and-white. “We never even considered what the movie would look like in colour,” says Messerchmidt. “Part of David’s intent was to transport the audience back to the classic ‘30s and ‘40s Hollywood era. Black-and-white was an excellent way to do that.”

Ensuring black-and-white was used as a homage or a pastiche rather than a parody was a priority. “When they approach black-and-white, cinematographers can tend to reach for noir as they are excited by its gestured, stylised lighting which you don’t get to use very often when shooting in colour,” adds Messerschmidt.

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‘Mank’ Cinematographer: ‘My Memories of Making the Film Are All in Black and White’

Erik Messerschmidt, Oscar nominated for his debut feature film as a cinematographer, talks to TheWrap about working with David Fincher on the 1940s-era period piece

Joe McGovern
April 13, 2021
The Wrap

Though he’s been active in the industry for nearly two decades, cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt made his feature film debut last year with David Fincher’s silvery period drama “Mank.” Messerschmidt’s credits include television work in projects as diverse as “Everybody Hates Chris,” Ridley Scott’s “Raised by Wolves,” and Fincher’s “Mindhunter.” Fincher, in fact, had hired Messerschmidt three years ago to lens his sequel to “World War Z,” but after that project was cancelled in early 2019, the director called the cinematographer with a different proposal.

“David said, ‘I’ve got this black and white movie I’m thinking about. Do you want to do it?” Messerschmidt recalled to TheWrap. “He’s kind of coy like that. So I didn’t really know anything about what the film was. But I said, ‘Sure.’”

The film, of course, was Fincher’s biopic of “Citizen Kane” screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz (played by Gary Oldman), and “Mank,” which is available for streaming on Netflix, led the pack in terms of total Oscar nominations with 10, including Best Picture, Best Director, and one for the 40-year-old Messerschmidt.

The cinematography category is a fresh crowd this year. Messerschmidt, Dariusz Wolski (“News of the World”), Joshua James Richards (“Nomadland”) and Sean Bobbitt (“Judas and the Black Messiah”) are all first-time nominees. Only Phedon Papamichael (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”) has ever been nominated before. For context, at the previous Oscars, two nominees (Robert Richardson and eventual winner Roger Deakins) had a tally of 25 career nominations between them.

Messerschmidt is currently working in Georgia on the upcoming Korean War drama “Devotion.” We caught up with him to talk about his work on “Mank” after a long week of night shoots. “If my answers are incoherent,” he said with a laugh, “just ask me to clarify.”

Read the full interview

Deep Focus: Erik Messerschmidt, ASC

Portrait by Eli Ade on the Savannah, GA set of Devotion

Director of Photography – Mank

Erik Messerschmidt, ASC (Instagram)
April 2021
ICG Magazine

On set, David Fincher prioritizes time with the actors more than anything else, so most of our work is done in the prep. In terms of Mank, we spent much of that prep time discussing how we could incorporate the visual language of black and white cinema into our own version of the story. We wanted to transport the audience to the time period without too much pastiche. It was a delicate balance.

Read the full article:

Read past issues of ICG Magazine.

MANK Craft Panel. With Erik Messerschmidt, Donald Graham Burt & Trish Summerville

Jessica Radloff
April 7, 2021
American Cinematheque

Mank Craft Panel with cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt, production designer Donald Graham Burt and costume designer Trish Summerville, moderated by Jessica Radloff. Presented by the American Cinematheque on Saturday, April 3, 2021.

In Conversation: Behind the Crafts of Mank

Wendy Mitchell
March 3, 2021
Netflix Awards FYC

A conversation with Cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt, ASC, Production Designer Donald Graham Burt, Set Decorator Jan Pascale, Costume Designer Trish Summerville, and Makeup Department Head Gigi Williams on behalf of Mank. Moderated by Wendy Mitchell.

Watch the full conversation

The Filmmakers Podcast: The Making of David Fincher’s “Mank”

Cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt, Make Up Designer Gigi Williams, Production Designer Don Burt & Costume Designer Trish Summerville

Giles Alderson, Andrew Rodger, Phil Hawkins
April 2, 2021
The Filmmakers Podcast

We are delighted to bring to you our SPECIAL bumper episode on the Making of David Fincher’s BAFTA & OSCAR nominated ‘Mank’.

We start with Giles Alderson and Andrew Rodger having a chat with ‘Mank’ Cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt about going from Gaffer on Fincher’s Gone Girl to DoP on Mank and how he made the transition to make his debut feature film.

He talks pre-production, how he works with Fincher especially during the repeated takes, what the process was to shooting in black and white and the camera they used.

Co host Phil Hawkins then joins Giles to chat to Make Up designer Gigi Williams about her process, the difference between shooting on digital vs. film. What she works on first how she collaborates with the HOD team and gives some brilliant Make Up tips.

We then chat to Production Designer and Art Director Donald Graham Burt AKA Don Burt about designing the film from preparation through the shooting. He explains why listening is so important in film-making, how he researches a project and how he created the 1930/s & 1940 style and look. And how you don’t have to appease to get ahead.

Finally we chat to Costume Designer Trish Summerville about how she created the look and feel of Mank through her costumes. She talks about working in teams, how to collaborate with actors to help create the characters and how to use colours and patterns to portray certain emotions!

Listen to the podcast:

The Filmmakers Podcast
Apple Podcasts
Spotify

Mank’s Monochrome Effects

Mike Seymour
March 14, 2021
fxguide

Mank is nominated for 10 Academy awards in this year’s 93rd Oscars in categories such as Best Picture, Lead Actor, and Best Director. It is also nominated for the VES award for Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature. The film follows screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz’s tumultuous development of Orson Welles’ iconic masterpiece Citizen Kane (1941).

There were several VFX supervisors nominated, Simon Carr (Territory Studio), Wei Zheng (Artemple), James Pastorius (Savage VFX), along with Peter Mavromates. In many respects, director David Fincher could have also been nominated for VFX. The director is himself an expert in visual effects and was a very active contributor to the film’s effect work. Peter Mavromates is a long-time collaborator with David Fincher and was officially the Co-producer, Post Supervisor and VFX Producer on the film. Additionally, Pablo Helman at ILM was key in creating the CG animals at the San Simeon zoo.

The film had its roots going back over 20 years. “We had a false start about 20 years ago, around 1999. The script had been written at that time but it never happened for a number of reasons,” Mavromates comments. “Probably a contributing factor was that it was black and white and if you weren’t Woody Allen in the 90s, you couldn’t shoot black and white. Even Mel Brooks had to change producers for Young Frankenstein because the studio wouldn’t let him shoot black and white and he had to find another studio.”

The movie finished filming about 2 weeks before the W.H.O. declared the COVID pandemic in Feb 2020. This meant nearly all the VFX was done using remote protocols at each of the VFX vendors.

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