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.
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.
When editor Kirk Baxter boarded labyrinthine, Old Hollywood drama Mank, he was met with multiple timelines, and rapid-fire dialogue from a vast assortment of real-life characters.
While Baxter would be tasked with guiding the viewer through the complex period piece, he never thought of the film as a challenge, per se. “I look back,” he tells Deadline, “and see it as a joy.”
Directed by David Fincher, Mank follows alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman), as he endeavors to finish the screenplay for Citizen Kane. Along the way, it also examines the washed-up wordsmith’s relationships with icons of his time, including Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried), William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance), and Orson Welles (Tom Burke).
First collaborating with Fincher on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), Baxter quickly developed a shorthand with the auteur, going on to reteam with him on four other films and two TV series. While Benjamin Button would land him his first Oscar nomination, his first pair of statuettes would come shortly thereafter, for his contributions to The Social Network and The Girl with the DragonTattoo.
Poised to return to the race once more with Mank, Baxter spoke with Deadline about the scene in Fincher’s longtime passion project that scared him the most, the performance that captured his heart, and the aspect of the process that felt like “the cherry on top.”