Kirk Baxter Talks About Methods and Madness in Editing Netflix’s ‘Mindhunter’

Patrick Z. McGavin
September 25, 2019
CineMontage

In a world filled with police procedurals, Netflix’s “Mindhunter” has attracted a lot of attention.

Created by Joe Penhall, the series is a police procedural about two FBI special agents, Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany).  It has attracted top-tier talent such as David Fincher, Carl Franklin (“One False Move”) and executive producer Charlize Theron.

The second season dropped last month on the streaming platform. The Australian-born editor Kirk Baxter, ACE, a two-time Academy Award-winner for Fincher’s “The Social Network” (2011) and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (2012), is the editor of four of the nine episodes.

In an exclusive interview, Baxter talked about serial killers, editing difficult material, and working with the notorious perfectionist Fincher.

You you have had a long and very successful creative collaboration with Fincher. How did you first meet?

Kirk Baxter: I got introduced to David through Angus Wall when Angus was editing “Zodiac” (2007). I got brought into helping out, so I met David when I was already cutting a scene for him. Things went well. I became a puppy that never left.

How you would describe your working methods?

Baxter: I try to rely on him as little as possible because I am familiar with what his days are like, especially during the shooting process. David is incredibly busy, and I like to get on with it.

We work through PIX [a workflow tool that allows production teams to securely share and review content], so I will put a lot of stuff up for him every day and it is the day’s PIX that we critique and do back and forth at his pace.

David is pretty good at being all-consuming. He will tend to get back to me immediately. I don’t really hit him with questions. I just hit him with work.

He shoots, I select, put something together and send it to him and I take the feedback kind of dryly. I don’t take anything from [it as] a personal affront. I just work until it is there, until we are happy with it. I am trying to outgrow the part where you loathe yourself until you like the scene. I am getting better, but I haven’t perfected it yet.

Wheat tends to happen is during the shooting process, the initial assembly is just misery. We all hate ourselves, hate the show, and then once it is beginning to take shape, there is more of a jovial atmosphere where you start to feel comfortable that things are working.

In Season 2, was there a conscious decision to take the work in different stylistic or formal directions?

Baxter: No. David might have had that conversation with the cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt, but certainly not with me. Again, rarely am I going to have a philosophical conversation about what we want to do. My communication with David is just by doing.

Read the full interview

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What Makes Mindhunter So Compelling? An Analysis

Thomas Flight
August 16, 2019
Netflix UK & Ireland (YouTube)

Mindhunter is not like other crime shows. In this video essay, Thomas Flight explores some of the inventive techniques creators Joe Penhall and David Fincher employ to inject drama and conflict into the show.

This is a detailed analysis of the ways in which Mindhunter pulls the audience into the lives of its characters as they explore the minds of some of the worst criminals on earth.

Mindhunter’s Brilliant Editing. A Breakdown

Thomas Flight
September 25, 2019
Thomas Flight (YouTube)

Editors on Editing: Kirk Baxter, ACE talks GONE GIRL

American Cinema Editors (YouTube)
May 6, 2018

Editors on Editing: Glenn Garland, ACE talks to Kirk Baxter, ACE about editing the film, GONE GIRL.

Original release:

Gone Girl: Kirk Baxter, ACE
October 2014
moviola.com

‘Mindhunter’: David Fincher and Editor Kirk Baxter’s Dance of Death

Cameron Britton as serial killer Ed Kemper in Episode 10 (Patrick Harbron / Netflix)

2014. Kirk Baxter
Film Editor Kirk Baxter

The FBI crime drama about early behavioral profiling is a Fincher Master Class in blocking and montage, with an assist from Steven Soderbergh.

Bill Desowitz
May 29, 2018
IndieWire

With Netflix’s “Mindhunter,” executive producer David Fincher delivers a gripping crime series about the early days of FBI behavioral profiling in 1977 without any grisly murders. (Fincher directed the initial two episodes as well as the concluding two.) And for Oscar-winning editor Kirk Baxter (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “Social Network”), this dialogue-heavy walk and talk between agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) was a gift.

“The skill that David has with blocking scenes is what’s most enjoyable,” Baxter said. “With 25 different angles of different set ups, it’s very dense and takes a lot of man-hours in perfecting, but a walk and talk with an A and B camera, all I have to do is pick the best take.”

Read the full profile

Netflix Delivers a Killer Serial Killer Series: Production on David Fincher’s ‘Mindhunter’

In addition to serving as co-executive producer for Mindhunter, Fincher directed four hours of the 10-episode season.

By: Kevin H. Martin
10/26/2017
Creative Planet Network / Digital Video Magazine

The first masterpiece from filmmaker David Fincher was his feature film Se7en, a procedural featuring one of the most memorable serial killers ever committed to celluloid. Ten years ago he returned this dark territory with Zodiac, an adaptation of the true-life case involving a still-unknown killer who struck repeatedly throughout the San Francisco Bay area. In the years since, Fincher helped launch House of Cards (an adaptation of the successful UK series) for Netflix. He comes back to the crime investigation genre with Mindhunter, a 10-part streaming series that launched on Netflix on Oct. 13.

[…]

In addition to serving as co-executive producer for Mindhunter, Fincher directed four hours of the 10-episode season, with Christopher Probst shooting the pilot installment. The other directors were Asif Kapadia, Tobias Lindholm and Andrew Douglas.

Cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt shot part of episode two, along with the remaining eight episodes. Messerschmidt had served as gaffer on Fincher’s most recent feature, Gone Girl. He pulled double duty on this fall’s Granite Mountain, gaffing and shooting 2nd unit—the latter a duty he performed for next year’s Sicario follow-up, Soldado, as well. “Fincher was very involved in the process, which is to be expected. He was there every day,” Messerschmidt says.

Read the full article

2018-04 ICG Magazine - Mindhunter 11 (Patrick Harbron)
Patrick Harbron / Netflix

Crime Scenes: Evolving the Postproduction Process on ‘Mindhunter’

I recently spoke with Tyler Nelson, one of the four series editors, who was given the opportunity to move from the assistant chair to that of a primary editor on ‘Mindhunter.’

By: Oliver Peters
10/26/2017
Creative Planet Network / Digital Video Magazine