FilmLight hosts a discussion with the talents who have contributed to the stories that are entertaining us the most. Four prestigious colourists from Los Angeles, London and Cape Town present their outstanding work and share their artistic journey.
Discover amazing projects, including provocative comedy thriller ‘Promising Young Woman’, the Netflix original documentary ‘My Octopus Teacher’, multi-nominated biographical drama ‘Mank’ from David Fincher and the superb coming of age drama ‘Rocks’.
Guest colourists: Kyle Stroebel (Refinery); Katie Jordan (Light Iron); Jateen Patel (Molinare); and Eric Weidt.
Eric Weidt spent years in Paris working with fashion photographers transitioning from traditional film to digital capture workflows. He created custom film-emulation ICC profiles, and mastered color work and compositing techniques for print stills and fashion films.
Clients included Mario Testino, David Sims, Patrick Demarchelier, Mert Alas and Markus Piggot, Steven Meisel, Hedi Slimane, Karl Lagerfeld. His motion picture work for David Fincher includes responsibilies as VFX artist (Gone Girl), and Digital Intermediate Colorist (Videosyncracy and Mindhunter).
He holds a BA in Theater Arts from the University of California at Santa Cruz and is both an American and French citizen.
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.
Hear from Cinematographer Erik MesserschmidtASC, Colorist Eric Weidt, and Co-Producer Peter Mavromates as they share their insights and experiences creating the stunning visuals for David Fincher’s Oscar nominated movie Mank in Dolby Vision HDR. This session provides insights into their methodology and workflow for creating this stunning black-and-white Hollywood epic Netflix movie.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When tackling a period-centered project like Mank, David Fincher and his assembly of below the line craftspersons create magic, fully immersing the viewer in a faithfully recreated 1930s-era California. While the project leveraged many real-world locations and built sets, changing times and the absence of an unlimited budget posed some challenges to create that immersive world Fincher and team demanded. To complete the illusion, the filmmakers looked to co-producer Peter Mavromates, who led a team of four visual effects (VFX) supervisors.
Now, Mank isn’t effects-heavy The Avengers, but that doesn’t mean VFX aren’t just as critical to the film’s storytelling and overall atmosphere.
“The assumption, at minimum, is that you’re going to at least need to retouch a background to get rid of modern anachronisms,” Mavromates explained. “As in this movie, there are situations where David [Fincher] will want to actually replace the background so that period buildings are back there.”
There are many reasons why there’s a general wave of excitement whenever there’s a new David Fincher movie. That’s particularly been the case with Mank considering the six-year gap since Fincher’s last film Gone Girl, roughly half that time in which Fincher was making the series Mindhunter for Netflix.
Most of Fincher’s fans within and outside the industry see the filmmaker as a modern master of the visual medium, and Mank offers further proof of this with stunning shots recreating Hollywood in the ‘30s and ‘40s, fully realized background environments in which well-known icons from the era discuss the political climate of the times, both in the country and in Tinsel Town itself. At the center of it all is Gary Oldman’s Herman Mankiewicz, the illustrious screenwriter who would win a shared Oscar for co-writing Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane.
One person who has been along for the ride watching Fincher’s rise as a visionary filmmaker is Peter Mavromates, whose first film with Fincher was 1997’s The Game, but who first met the director on a Michael Jackson video and a commercial he directed. Mavromates has worked in post for over 35 years, as one of the first to champion the benefits of combining analog film with digital post, producing his first DI (Digital Intermediary) for Fincher’s 2002 movie, Panic Room, which was shot on analog. Five years later, he did the same for Zodiac, Fincher’s first digitally-shot film.
As Fincher’s Post-Production Supervisor, Mavromates’ duties continued to expand and evolve, his duties involving all the budgeting and hiring when it comes to the post process. “I like to describe it as once the image is captured, it becomes my problem,” he told Below the Line over a Zoom call a few weeks back.
A consistent entry on the greatest of all-time films is Citizen Kane, which is famous for innovative filmmaking, having been inspired by the life of American media mogul William Randolph Hearst and serving as the Hollywood debut of wunderkind Orson Welles. Just as legendary is the behind-the-scenes turmoil, in particularly Hearst attempting to derail the project and the careers of those involved. There were also accusations that Welles did not deserve a screenwriting credit as the true author was Herman J. Mankiewicz.
The script controversy captured the attention of journalist Jack Fincher who wrote an initial draft 30 years ago that was furthered developed by his son, David Fincher, best known for directing Seven, Fight Club, Zodiac and The Social Network. The Netflix production of Mank stars Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Arliss Howard, Tuppence Middleton and Charles Dance.
Over the course of his career, Mank co-producer and VFX Producer Peter Mavromates (Mindhunter) has frequently collaborated with Fincher as a post-production supervisor. “There is a high level of consistency in our post team, so we get to have that conversation about how we can do it better the next time.”
Visual effects and DI are done in-house. “When we’re doing tests during pre-production,” Mavromates says, “a lot of the time they are shot in the parking lot and we bring the files right into the DI in the building. How awesome is that kind of feedback for Erik Messerschmidt [Raised by Wolves], our DP, and David Fincher to be able to play with something, see it, test it, bend it, and then go back out and try an alternative version right away? That’s valuable. That’s also the advantage to having in-house visual effects, which is having the ability not to be on the clock. I can call David upstairs where our visual effects are and say, ‘I want you to look at these three shots.’ I can give feedback to the artist right there, and maybe the artist can immediately do his note and get him to sign off. I think of David as the visual effects supervisor and I am the supervisor on some of the more technical stuff, like retouches.”