Variety’s seventh annual Artisan Awards celebrates those essential to the filmmaking process and who have exhibited the most exciting and innovative work of the year in their respective fields.
The Variety Artisans Award were presented to Editor Alan Baumgarten (The Trial of the Chicago 7), Supervising Sound Editor Nicolas Becker (Sound of Metal), Costume Designer Alexandra Byrne (Emma), Production Designer Donald Graham Burt and Set Decorator Jan Pascale (Mank), Visual Effects Supervisor Sean Faden (Mulan), Hair Department Head Mia Neal (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Actor and Musician Leslie Odom Jr. (One Night in Miami), Musicians Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (Mank, Soul), Cinematographer Joshua James Richards (Nomadland).
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!
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Oscar®-winning Mank production designer Donald Graham Burt breaks down a few key sets from the film, including the ranch house where Herman Mankiewicz sets up shop in order to grind through the first draft of Citizen Kane, and the immaculate recreation of William Randolph Hearst‘s San Simeon castle.
Having collaborated with David Fincher — and each other — on previous projects such as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl, costume designer Trish Summerville and production designer Donald Graham Burt were both aware of the director’s long-gestating project Mank before it ever got the greenlight.
Fincher had wanted to make this 1930s Los Angeles-set period piece about screenwriter Herman J Mankiewicz and his troubled writing of Citizen Kane for director Orson Welles ever since his journalist father Jack penned a screenplay in the late 1990s; Fincher Sr died in 2003 with the script still in a drawer. When Netflix approached Fincher about making a film following their collaboration on crime series Mindhunter, the director immediately suggested Mank and brought Summerville and Burt onboard.
“It was a project that I really wanted to be a part of,” says Summerville. “Being black and white, being a period setting, being with David, it’s the kind of film that’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance.” Burt, too, felt an instant connection. “It’s a period Los Angeles film-industry movie, and I immediately fell in love with it.”
Fincher’s film was to be an authentic emulation of a 1930s movie, featuring real-life locations and characters including Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman), Welles (Tom Burke), media titan William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance), MGM boss Louis B Mayer (Arliss Howard), producer Irving Thalberg (Ferdinand Kingsley) and Hearst’s girlfriend, actress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried). That meant research — and lots of it.
David Fincher’s “Mank” leads all Oscar craft nominations with six. And yet its greatest chance of a win rests with Don Burt’s meticulous production design of the iconic Hearst Castle and San Simeon compound. However, since he was working in black-and-white with set decorator Jan Pascale — his co-nominee — it was more advantageous to capture the spirit of William Randolph Hearst’s opulent retreat than trying to replicate it. For one thing, the colors would get lost, and, for another, they’d still be struggling to recreate all of the detail.
“Hearst Castle felt like something Hearst [Charles Dance] built as his Xanadu [from ‘Citizen Kane’], and now it’s maintained more like a theme park,” said Burt, who actually didn’t visit the landmark since they couldn’t shoot there. But he referenced plenty of images and studied its architecture and interior design along with the beautiful landscaping of San Simeon. “Hearst saw this as his own little castle in the world and his accumulation of art from Europe was representational of this extravagance and indulgence that he had.”
Writer-editor Nicolas Rapold talks with guests about the movies they’ve been watching. It’s as simple as that. From home viewing to the latest from festivals. Named one of the 10 Best Film Podcasts by Sight & Sound magazine.
For this special episode I talk with director David Fincher and production designer Don Burt about Mank, a black-and-white evocation of Hollywood through the jaded eyes of one Herman J. Mankiewicz, as he writes the screenplay for Citizen Kane. If you’ve seen any Fincher films since Zodiac, you’ve also seen Burt’s beautiful work, which won him an Academy Award for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. We talk about the conception of Mank‘s particular spaces; the techniques behind designing for a black-and-white film; the eagle-eyed capabilities of digital cameras; and whether Mank is intended to be a political film. Mank has received 10 Academy Award nominations, including best picture, director, and production design.
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.
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.
Jan Pascale seems to find her greatest success when working in black and white.
The Beechview native has been a set decorator for major Hollywood projects since the 1980s, but didn’t pick up her first Oscar nomination until 2005’s “Good Night, and Good Luck,” a black-and-white film directed by George Clooney. She wound up losing out to “Memoirs of a Geisha” at the 2006 Academy Awards.
Fifteen years later, she has another shot at Oscar glory later this month with her best production design nomination for “Mank,” David Fincher’s black-and-white Netflix drama chronicling Herman J. Mankiewicz’s efforts to write the screenplay for “Citizen Kane.”
“It’s really exciting and humbling,” Pascale told the Post-Gazette. “It’s unique that both of my nominations were for black-and-white films done completely differently.”