Click for a full screen view:
DVD Set kindly donated by Joe Frady
Click for a full screen view:
DVD Set kindly donated by Joe Frady
Merrick Morton / Netflix
Fincher was very particular about conveying control and dominance through lighting and production design in his Netflix FBI crime drama.
David Fincher brilliantly pushes his cinematic formalism in “Mindhunter,” Netflix’s 10-episode crime drama that explores the FBI’s fledgling Behavioral Science Unit in Quantico, Virginia, in the late ’70s. But, for the dialogue-heavy creepy interrogations with imprisoned serial killers by agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), executive producer/co-director Fincher manages to visually convey constant power shifts.
“It’s about control and dominance and also about misogyny,” Fincher said. “People forget that this goes all the way back to Jack the Ripper.”
And Fincher’s collaboration with production designer Steve Arnold (“House of Cards”) and gaffer-turned cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt (“Mad Men”) was crucial to the authentic ’70s look and dynamic blocking of the interrogation scenes, particularly those involving Ed Kemper (Cameron Britton), who captivates and mentors Holden.
June 15, 2018
SDSA International (Set Decorators Society of America)
In the late 1970s two FBI agents expand criminal science by delving into the psychology of murder and getting uneasily close to all-too-real monsters.
Catching a criminal often requires the authorities to get inside the villain’s mind to figure out how he thinks. That’s the job of FBI agents Holden Ford [Jonathan Goff] and Bill Tench [Holt McCallany]. They attempt to understand and catch serial killers by studying their damaged psyches. Along the way, working with Boston University psychology professor Wendy Carr [Anna Torv], the agents pioneer the development of modern serial killer profiling.
The crime drama has a strong pedigree behind the camera, with Oscar-nominated director David Fincher and Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron among the show’s executive producers, and Fincher directing the first episodes. — Netflix
Add in Production Designer Steve Arnold and Set Decorator Tracey Doyle SDSA, and you know it will have a carefully curated stylized realism mixed with fully realized layered reality. Sets that could be paintings, except they seem so real.
We checked in with the duo for snippets about the making of MINDHUNTER, Season 1…
Erik Messerschmidt with Camera Operator Brian Osmond, SOC (Patrick Harbron / Netflix)
Merrick Morton / Netflix
The Netflix original series Mindhunter is, by far, one of the best new shows currently running. The true story-based, 1977-set drama chronicles the early days of criminal psychology and criminal profiling primarily through the eyes of three people at the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit: eager newcomer Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff), somewhat jaded veteran Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), and brilliant psychology professor Wendy Carr (Anna Torv). That this show is immaculately crafted from top to bottom will come as no surprise to those aware that it’s the brainchild of David Fincher, who serves as executive producer and directed nearly half of the series’ first season.
This is without doubt one of the best looking pieces of entertainment released in 2017, regardless of medium, with classical framing, motivated camera movement, and a tremendous palette that gives a mere peek into the darkness inside the minds of the criminals and serial killers who are the subject of the Behavioral Science Unit’s interviews.
So when I got the chance to speak with cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt about his work on the series, I was thrilled. Messerschmidt shot eight of the first season’s 10 episodes, including the Fincher-directed closing installments, and as he revealed during our interview, this was essentially his first major gig as a cinematographer. Messerschmidt had worked previously as a gaffer on shows like Mad Men and Bones, and then later the feature film Gone Girl where he first came into contact with Fincher. Based on their work together on that film, Fincher called Messerschmidt up when they were looking for a new DP for Mindhunter after the show’s original cinematographer exited over creative differences.
This promotion from gaffer to DP is a familiar refrain with Fincher’s cinematographers, as he did the same with his The Game and Fight Club gaffer Claudio Miranda, who was brought on as DP for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and went on to win the Oscar for Best Cinematography for his work on Life of Pi.
Messerschmidt’s rise to the primary cinematographer of Fincher’s brand new TV show elicits similarly spectacular results, as the DP’s work on Mindhunter is elegantly classical and incredibly motivated by character and theme. During the course of our conversation, Messerschmidt talked about the road that led to him becoming the cinematographer on Mindhunter, the specifics of his working relationship with Fincher, what it’s like to serve as a DP in the world of episodic television, how the work of production designers and costumes designers goes under-appreciated, and trying to maintain a consistent aesthetic with multiple directors. He also teased a bit about Mindhunter Season 2, including revealing their extensive shooting schedule.
Erik Messerschmidt with Episodes 3 & 4 Director Asif Kapadia (Merrick Morton / Netflix)
Hint of Film (YouTube)
May 21, 2018
What better way to pay tribute to a movie about obsession than to obsessively track down every single book in the movie?
The Complete List:
– Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories (1958) by Dr. Seuss
– The Code Breakers (1967) by David Kahn
– Codes and Ciphers: Secret Writing Through the Ages (1964) by John Laffin
– Secret Writing: The Craft of the Cryptographer (1970) by James Raymond Wolfe
– The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) film directed by Eugene Lourie
– Dick Tracy Lunchbox, 1967
– Animal Crackers (cookie)
– The Most Dangerous Game (1932) film directed by Irving Pichel and Ernest B. Schoedsack
– Hair, original musical poster, show debut in 1967
– They Laughed When I Sat Down: An Informal History of Advertising in Words and Pictures (1959) by Frank Rowsome, Jr.
– McElligot’s Pool (1947) by Dr. Seuss
– TIME Magazine “Race and Reform on Campus,” Volume 93 No. 16, April 18, 1969
– The Asphalt Jungle (1950) film directed by John Huston
– The Wrong Man (1956) film directed by Alfred Hitchcock
– The Celebrated Cases of Dick Tracy, 1931-1951 (Anthology, 1970) by Chester Gould
– Fox in Socks (1965) by Dr. Seuss
– Curtain and The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1975) by Agatha Christie
– An Artist in America (1951) by Thomas Hart Benton
– Drawing: Seeing and Observation (1973) by Ian Simpson
– Drawing the Female Figure (1975) by Joseph Sheppard
– Mainstreams of Modern Art: David to Picasso (1961) by John Canaday
– Homicide Investigation (first published 1944) by Lemoyne Snyder
– Rescued in the Clouds (1927) by Franklin W. Dixon
– LIFE Magazine “Confrontation in Harvard Yard,” Vol. 66 No. 16, April 25, 1969
– Slinky Toy Commercial from the 1960s
– Slinky Toy
– I Died A Thousand Times (1955) film directed by Stuart Heisler
– Star Trek, Season 3 Episode 4 “And the Children Shall Lead” (1968) guest starring Melvin Belli, portrayed by Brian Cox in Zodiac
– Aquavelva (alcoholic drink)
– Reprise: The Code Breakers (1967) by David Kahn
– Reprise: Codes and Ciphers (1964) by John Laffin
– Richard Nixon Presidential Campaign Button, 1968
– “I Am Not Avery” button
– 6 extremely rare first edition covers of Ian Fleming James Bond Novels: Dr. No (1958), For Your Eyes Only (1960), Moonraker (1955), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963), You Only Live Twice (1964), The Spy Who Loved Me (1962)
– Six Crises (1962) by Richard M. Nixon
– San Francisco (first published 1969) edited by Jack McDowell and Dorothy Krell
– The Selling of the President, 1968 (1969) by Joe McGinniss
– Rubber Life Magazine, Vol. 01, No. 01, (1972)
– Dirty Harry (1971) film directed by Don Siegel
– Pong (1972) video game by Atari
– I Looked and Listened: Informal Recollections of Radio and TV (1970) by Ben Gross
– The Crime Vaccine: How to End the Crime Epidemic (1996) by Jay B. Marcus
– The FBI in Our Open Society (1969) by Harry & Bonaro Overstreet
– Kidnap: The Story of the Lindbergh Case (1961) by George Waller
– The Property Man (1914) film directed by Charlie Chaplin
– McCall’s Sewing Book (1968) by McCall Corporation
– Them! (1954) film directed by Gordon Douglas
– Illegal (1955) film directed by Lewis Allen
– The World Almanac – Centennial Edition (1968)
– The Rink (1916) film directed by Charlie Chaplin
– Conquest (1937) film directed by Clarence Brown and Gustav Marchaty
– Key Largo (1948) film directed by John Huston
– Zodiac: The Shocking True Story of the Nation’s Most Bizarre Mass Murderer (1986) by Robert Graysmith
Zodiac (2007) Credits:
Directed by David Fincher
Production Design by Donald G. Burt
Art Direction by Keith Cunningham
Set Decoration by Victor J. Zolfo
May 5, 2018
A ‘joyously nerdy’ video in which I attempt to assemble all the components to recreate the reel-to-reel title sequence from the Netflix Show Mindhunter.
The Tapeheads forums: “Looking for the sony tc-510”
The RPF forums: “The Tape Recorder from Netflix MINDHUNTER” (“David wants perfect”)
New Mindhunter style metal 5″ reels can be bought from Righteous Reels.
Special thanks to Jason Moore (on Patreon) for the tip regarding The Professionals episode.
The music used in my recreation of the title sequence is ‘Spirit Of the Dead‘ – by Aakash Ghandi and is from the youtube audio library (Download link).
NOTE: The TDK tape leader was created specifically for the sequence with CGI to hide the original Sony one:
Ollin VFX 2018 Demo reel
Ollin VFX (vimeo)
December 12, 2017
Thanks to Andrew Moore
David Fincher went looking for the 1970s — and found them in Pittsburgh. but that was just the start for the esteemed producer-director and his team, who recreated the era for Mindhunter, the Netflix series about two pioneering FBI profilers.
Watching the Netflix series Mindhunter, you may shudder as convicted serial killer Ed Kemper (Cameron Britton) casually chats about his string of brutal murders, or flinch when — spoiler alert! — a bird hits the fan courtesy of mass murderer Richard Speck (Jack Erdie).
What you’re less likely to notice is the precision with which the show’s late-’70s landscape has been created. David Fincher considers that a win.
“It’s really important that it feels like two people having a conversation — and that 40 people aren’t on their iPhones simultaneously just outside of frame,” says Fincher, who is executive-producing the series with Joshua Donen, Charlize Theron and Ceán Chaffin. “The great news is, I lived through the ’70s, so I remember what that looks like.”
Created by Joe Penhall — and based loosely on FBI agent John Douglas‘s book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit — the series explores the birth of criminal profiling.
Special agent Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff, playing a fictionalized version of Douglas) and his partner, Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), work alongside psychologist Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) to dig into what makes murderers tick. Shot in Pittsburgh, the show is a window on a time before the term serial killer had been coined, much less become the focus of TV shows and casual conversations.
While that seemingly more innocent time is reflected partly in the show’s relative lack of gore, the decade’s thornier complexities required a critical eye (or, in this case, eyes) to see past the polyester-covered clichés.
“David is the most holistic filmmaker I’ve ever met,” director of photography Erik Messerschmidt says. “The tone of every scene is important, and [so are] how the costumes and lighting and set decoration and everything play a part in creating the finished product.”
Fincher, who directed four of the first season’s 10 episodes, is famously meticulous, but he says the secret to getting it right is finding the right people.
“I don’t think you keep a project in a kind of design and aesthetic wheelhouse by being a dictatorial influence. Just stomping your feet and holding your breath is not going to make stuff work,” he says. “A lot of times, you have to empower people who are the advance troops and the follow-up troops to make decisions that are based on conversations that you have.”
In this case, one of the first decisions — where to shoot — was daunting.
“Our biggest issue,” Fincher says, “was: where do we find 1978?”
Thanks to Mindhunter News