Making of ‘Mank’: How David Fincher Pulled Off a Modern Movie Invoking Old Hollywood

The director had to employ digital advances to achieve a vintage aesthetic in telling the tale of ‘Citizen Kane’ screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz: “If we had done it 30  years ago, it might’ve been truly a bloodletting.”

Rebecca Keegan
January 11, 2021
The Hollywood Reporter

Screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz never sought credit for conceiving one of the all-time great ideas in the history of cinema — the notion that the Kansas scenes in The Wizard of Oz should be shot in black and white and the Oz scenes in color. In fact, for much of his career in Hollywood from the late 1920s to the early ’50s, Mankiewicz seemed to view his scripts with about as much a sense of ownership as a good zinger he had landed at a cocktail party.

But what fascinated David Fincher was that when it came time to assign credit on the screenplay for Citizen Kane, which Mankiewicz wrote with Orson Welles in 1940 (or without, depending on your perspective), the journeyman screenwriter suddenly and inexplicably began to care. Precisely why that happened is the subject of Fincher’s 11th feature film, Mank.

“I wasn’t interested in a posthumous guild arbitration,” Fincher says of Mank, which takes up the Citizen Kane authorship question reinvigorated by a 1971 Pauline Kael essay in The New Yorker. “What was of interest to me was, here’s a guy who had seemingly nothing but contempt for what he did for a living. And, on almost his way out the door, having burned most of the bridges that he could … something changed.”

Shot in black and white and in the style of a 1930s movie, Mank toggles between Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) writing the first draft of Citizen Kane from a remote house in the desert and flashback sequences of his life in Hollywood in the ’30s, including his friendship with newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance), who inspired Citizen Kane, and Hearst’s mistress, actress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried).

A filmmaker known for his compulsive attention to detail, Fincher had even more reason than usual to treat every decision with care on Mank, as he was working from a screenplay written by his father, journalist Jack Fincher, who died in 2003. Jack had taken up the subject in retirement in 1990, just as David was on the eve of directing his first feature, Alien 3, and the two would try throughout the 1990s to get the film made, with potential financiers put off by their insistence on shooting in black and white.

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Awardsline: The Big Picture

David Fincher brings the big screen to us for his latest picture. With a cast led by Gary Oldman & Amanda Seyfried, is Mank a love letter to cinema’s golden age or an indictment of the shadier side of the movie biz?⁠

Joe Utichi
January 6, 2021
Awardsline (Deadline)

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The Burning Question That Drove David Fincher’s Decades-Long Journey To Make ‘Man

Joe Utichi
January 6, 2021
Deadline

David Fincher turns Netflix homes into 1940s movie houses with his latest opus, Mank, which explores the life and frustrations of Citizen Kane’s screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, as he works his way through the draft of what will become Orson Welles’ seminal directorial debut. With its title role imbued with Mankiewicz’s world-weary wit by Gary Oldman, and from a script first drafted more than 20 years ago by Fincher’s father Jack, who passed away in 2003, the film reignites the debate about the authorship of a film Welles might nearly have taken sole credit for. But it is about more than that besides; a love and hate letter to the machinations of the movie business, a remarkably timely examination of the façade of truth in the news media, and an intimate study of tortured souls beaten down by the world around them and their own insecurities. Joe Utichi meets Fincher, Oldman and Amanda Seyfried—who rehabilitates the image of actress and socialite Marion Davies—for a closer look.

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X2X: Glimpse into Future Filmmaking with Mank

How will filmmaking adapt in the post-Covid era? A glimpse into the future is afforded by Mank, the forthcoming Netflix feature project directed by David Fincher and spearheaded by producer Ceán Chaffin. More than a love letter to a catalog title, Mank is a glimpse of the complex interplay of human creativity and the filmmaking process as practiced in Hollywood’s golden era.

December 9, 2020
X2X

Fincher is known for working in the vanguard of filmmaking technology. Examples include a very early digital intermediate on Panic Room – the first ever in a facility designed for the purpose – and Zodiac, one of the first major features to be shot almost entirely digitally. The remote collaboration envisioned by futurists at the dawn of the internet era was already common practice for his team long before the pandemic.

“Fortunately, we have not missed a beat,” says Chaffin. “We are working now exactly how we mostly could have been working the past ten years, which is working from home during post.”

But the virus and its requirement to remain physically apart may constitute a final push for the industry at large. All the attributes of true remote connectivity – reduced travel time and its attendant benefits in terms of stress, pollution and time savings, enhanced with rapid feedback, superior organization and a centralized database – will still be applicable when health concerns subside.

A canvas of the top pros on David Fincher’s team indicates that while the pandemic naturally raises stress levels, the need to work separately has been essentially a non-factor in terms of their ability to collaborate efficiently and keep the production on track.

Fincher came to the project with a mandate that the production work with the PIX production hub. Chaffin, who has made nine films with Fincher, says that the system is an essential tool for collaboration and input.

“This is how we have worked for a long time.” says Chaffin. “David feels the team is making the film with him, sharing in the problem-solving. Even when we were in the same building, David was often responding exclusively through PIX. His preferences and concerns are there for everyone to refer to. You don’t have to go find that one email, or remember a comment someone made on their way out the door.

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Lensing Creativity Goes Remote

The pandemic has accelerated many technical trends that were already underway

David Heuring
November 11, 2020
Variety

Necessity is the mother of invention, and nothing proves this proverb more true than the evolution of film and television production technology in the age of COVID-19. While the field has always changed rapidly even in normal times, the pace of change and adaptation has accelerated over the past six months.

This adjustment has posed many questions. Beyond personal protective equipment, mandatory testing, on-set safety monitors, walking lunches and corona contingency fees, will the pandemic have enduring effects in the creative, collaborative endeavor that is filmmaking? The technology to work remotely has essentially been in place for some time, but will the pandemic finally push us over into a new normal?

Numerous existing technology trends are being suddenly supercharged by the necessities imposed by the coronavirus. Shooting close to home has never been more appealing, and that impulse aligns neatly with ongoing advancements in LED backings and virtual production. In the world of image processing, connectivity solutions such as those offered by Moxion, Frame.io and Sohonet were already bringing immediacy and super-high resolution to a wide variety of devices without regard to location — and now those virtues are suddenly in much higher demand. And remote collaboration solutions including PIX are looking positively prescient.

Director David Fincher’s team found that the PIX production backbone, a tool they’ve helped develop over the years, facilitated safe group creativity but also enhanced efficiency on the forthcoming Mank.

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The End of David Fincher’s Mindhunter: Back To Square One

The viewership of Mindhunter, irrespective of its near-cult status on the web, was evidently not enough to inspire its own creators to continue the journey.

Rahul Desai
October 27, 2020
Film Companion

One of the most significant things to hit the web last week was the trailer of Mank. Global Film Twitter went into overdrive, and understandably so. Think of the context. This was American director extraordinaire David Fincher’s first movie since Gone Girl (2014), so it was a long-awaited return of sorts. Add this to the fact that Mank is a black-and-white movie about the movies – a biographical drama anchored by screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz’s battles with Orson Welles over screenplay credit for Citizen Kane – and that Fincher’s latest passion project is based on his late father’s screenplay. The hype machine is oiled and ready to fire.

Yet, only a day later, the excitement for Mank was replaced by the grief for Mindhunter. In a fascinating Vulture interview, Fincher, who served as an executive producer, director and de facto showrunner of Mindhunter, confirmed that there is likely to be no third season of the acclaimed true-crime thriller. The second season dropped on Netflix last September, two years after the first. Most Mindhunter fans had suspected the worst ever since the contracts of the cast weren’t renewed earlier this year. With Fincher looking to concentrate on Mank, the series was indefinitely put on hold. The global pandemic, of course, added to the uncertainty. Which is to say that the signs were there. So the show’s demise was no blinding bolt from the blue. But the real reasons are unsettling.

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The Mank Production Images by Miles Crist

Miles Crist (Instagram)

“Excited to share these images which I have been working on for the past year in support of Mank. Thank you to David Fincher and Ceán Chaffin for the opportunity to witness and photograph the production of this incredibly unique film. Scorsese said that the most personal is the most creative, and as such, Mank is Fincher’s best film yet.” [1]

“I shot everything digitally, 95% of it on a Leica Q2. I spent a lot of time making everything look like 4×5 – scanning vintage negatives to place around the images, decreasing depth of field/softening the photos by adding Gaussian blur in Photoshop, adding shadow and highlight halation, dodging and burning every image to get the best tonality out of the files while emulating panchromatic film, adding vignetting, and the right amount of grain. I could never have achieved these shots using 4×5, and it was David Fincher’s idea to do this all digitally, and in the process make something that looks even better than film.”

“The reason I chose the Q2 was for its high resolution, as well as its ability to achieve shallow depth of field on a wide angle lens, which I then augmented even further in post.”

“I didn’t push the ISO very often, shooting at f1.7 helped. I don’t like to go above base (50) on the Q2. For Mindhunter I used the Q, as the Q2 wasn’t out yet.” [2]

thewhitewinecameupwiththefish.com

Mank: “The White Wine Came Up with the Fish”

The Brothers Mankiewicz: Hope, Heartbreak, and Hollywood Classics“. By Sydney Ladensohn Stern:

One of his most-repeated wisecracks originated at a dinner party hosted by Arthur Hornblow Jr., a cultured and talented producer so sophisticated that he and Myrna Loy celebrated their divorce with a party at the Mocambo nightclub. The elegant Hornblow was known for lavishing care on his food and wine, but on that occasion, Herman drank so much that he had to bolt from the table to vomit. “Don’t worry, Arthur,” he airily told his host afterward. “The white wine came up with the fish.”

thewhitewinecameupwiththefish.com

Images by Miles Crist
Additional images by Gisele Schmidt & Gary Oldman, Nikolai Loveikis

𝙸𝚗 𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚎𝚌𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚜 𝙽𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚖𝚋𝚎𝚛 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚘𝚗 Netflix 𝙳𝚎𝚌𝚎𝚖𝚋𝚎𝚛 𝟺

When David Fincher Changed TV Forever

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Se7en and the 10th anniversary of The Social NetworkThe Ringer hereby dubs September 21-25 David Fincher Week. Join us all throughout the week as we celebrate and examine the man, the myth, and his impeccable body of work.

Thanks to ‘House of Cards,’ the man so deeply associated with filmmaking may ironically be best remembered for his impact on the streaming revolution

Alison Herman
September 25, 2020
The Ringer

Try and think back, if you can, to 2013. Obama has just won a second term. “Netflix” still means DVDs in red envelopes. And the idea of a major director deigning to do TV is remarkable enough to turn heads.

David Fincher was hardly the first name-brand auteur to try his hand at the small screen. Most famously, David Lynch brought paranormal dread to primetime with Twin Peaks in 1989; Steven Spielberg directed multiple episodes of his NBC anthology Amazing Stories, with subsequent chapters helmed by Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese, and Danny DeVito. But Fincher is neither an irrepressible weirdo prone to counterintuitive career moves nor a middlebrow populist with a family-friendly sensibility. He is, in many ways, a textbook Film Director: an uncompromising visionary who makes dark, violent, and above all, precise movies for adults. Fincher is the last person you could picture taking notes from a network executive, or taking part in the logistical corner-cutting that marks so much of TV production, which naturally made him the first person an up-and-coming entertainment hub would call to signal they’re Not Like Other Networks.

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Light The Fuse: Liz Hannah Interview (Writer of ‘The Post’, ‘Long Shot’, and ‘Mindhunter’)

Charles Hood & Drew Taylor
July 20, 2020
Light The Fuse – A Mission: Impossible Podcast

For this very special episode we are joined by screenwriter Liz Hannah (“The Post,” “Long Shot,” “Mindhunter”). We find out why she loves the franchise (especially “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”), her appreciation for Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa and what she wants out of the two new movies. She also talks about working with David Fincher. And we also get Liz – and her husband – to rank Tom Cruise’s hairstyles!

Listen to the podcast on:

Apple Podcasts
Stitcher
SoundCloud
Spotify
Google Play
YouTube

Or listen here on our website!

The Case for 8K Production and How to Manage That Monster Data

There’s no escaping the fact that 8K is four times as many pixels as 4K… but recording 8K is easier and less expensive than you think.

Adrian Pennington
April 13, 2020
Creative Planet

For many, the idea of recording 8K video understandably conjures up images of unmanageable files sizes, long transfer times, huge piles of hard drives, and slow proxy workflows… not to mention a black hole in the budget.

Leaving aside for one moment the fact that HDR and HFR are far more valuable than resolution to the consumer’s eye, there are benefits to an 8K production which an increasing number of projects are taking advantage of.

Mank, directed by David Fincher and lensed by Erik Messerschmidt, ASC, was acquired 8K using the RED Monstro in monochrome (above); and Money Heist, the Netflix drama which in season 4 is shot at 7K to accommodate HDR in a 4K deliverable, are just two of the most recent.

You can’t sell productions made in less than 4K to Netflix and other streaming services now. One day soon, some will mandate 8K to begin with and Netflix will have its fair share in the bank.

Even if the final output is only going to be 4K/UHD, shooting in 8K gives you many options in post that you do not have when starting in 4K. These include downscaling, cut/crop (pan/scan) or headroom for VFX.

“Before making the decision to capture a project in 8K, producers and cinematographers need to consider the project’s long-term goals,” says Bryce Button, director of product marketing, AJA Video Systems. For instance, capturing in 8K makes a lot of sense if there will be future use for the material.

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