Netflix’s Mindhunter: Skywalker’s audio adds to David Fincher’s vision

Patrick Birk
March 26, 2020
postPerspective

I was late in discovering David Fincher’s gripping series on serial killers, Mindhunter. But last summer, I noticed the Netflix original lurking in my suggested titles and decided to give it a whirl. I burned through both seasons within a week. The show is both thrilling and chilling, but the majority of these moments are not achieved through blazing guns, jump scares and pyrotechnics. It instead focuses on the inner lives of multiple murderers and the FBI agents whose job it is to understand them through subtle but detail-rich conversation.

Sound plays a crucial role in setting the tone of the series and heightening tension through each narrative arc. I recently spoke to rerecording mixers Scott Lewis and Stephen Urata as well as supervising sound editor Jeremy Molod — all from Skywalker Sound — about their process creating a haunting and detail-laden soundtrack. Let’s start with Lewis and Urata and then work our way to Molod.

Scott Lewis, Stephen Urata, and Jeremy Molod

How is working with David Fincher? Does he have any directorial preferences when it comes to sound? I know he’s been big on loud backgrounds in crowded spaces since The Social Network.

Scott Lewis: David is extremely detail-oriented and knowledgeable about sound. So he would give us very indepth notes about the mix… down to the decibel.

Stephen Urata: That level of attention to detail is one of the more challenging parts of working on a show like Mindhunter.

Working with a director who is so involved in the audio, does that limit your freedom at all?

Lewis: No. It doesn’t curtail your freedom, because when a director has a really clear vision, it’s more about crafting the track to be what he’s looking for. Ultimately, it’s the director’s show, and he has a way of bringing the best work out of people. I’m sure you heard about how he does hundreds of takes with actors to get many options. He takes a similar approach with sound in that we might give him multiple options for a certain scene or give him many different flavors of something to choose from. And he’ll push us to deliver the goods. For example, you might deliver a technically perfect mix but he’ll dig in until it’s exactly what he wants it to be.

Urata: Exactly. It’s not that he’s curtailing or handcuffing us from doing something creative. This project has been one of my favorites because it was just the editorial team and sound design, and then it would come to the mix stage. That’s where it would be just Scott and me in a mix room just the two of us and we’d get a shot at our own aesthetic and our own choice. It was really a lot of fun trying to nail down what our favorite version of the mix would be, and David really gave us that opportunity. If he wanted something else he would have just said, “I want it like this and only do it like this.”

But at the same time, we would do something maybe completely different than he was expecting, and if he liked it, he would say, “I wasn’t thinking that, but if you’re going to go that direction, try this also.” So he wasn’t handcuffing us, he was pushing us.

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PIX System: Introduction to PIX

March 26, 2019
PIX System (YouTube)

At PIX System, we help create entertainment and media by bringing creativity, collaborators and assets together. For 16 years, we’ve been creating and innovating ways to give the top creative talent, studios, mini-majors, networks, indie productions, and online content providers the time and resources they need to create. Better. Faster. More reliably.

Our industry leading platform is an open sandbox and secure home base, viewer, community workspace, media mine, think tank and muse – a place on the digital frontier where creative and strategic content and communication are safe and tidy and easily found, shared and worked on alone or together.

PIX Wins Technical Oscar: Our Conversation

Nick Dager
February 11, 2019
Digital Cinema Report

On Saturday night at its annual Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored PIX with a Technical Achievement Award. The award recognized Eric Dachs, founder and CEO; Erik Bielefeldt, director of research and development; Craig Wood, technical director; and Paul McReynolds for the design and development of the industry leading security mechanism for distributing media. Prior to the awards ceremony, Digital Cinema Report spoke exclusively with Bielefeldt and Wood to talk about the company’s continued innovation in the evolving world of content collaboration from film to digital to next-generation data rich requirements.

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PIX, the only addiction I have left.”
— David Fincher

PIX System

PIX System honored at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Scientific and Technical Awards

February 9, 2019
Oscars.org

Technical Achievement Award (Academy Certificate): to Eric Dachs, Erik Bielefeldt, Craig Wood and Paul McReynolds for the design and development of the PIX System’s novel security mechanism for distributing media.

PIX System’s robust approach to secure media access has enabled wide adoption of their remotely collaborative dailies-review system by the motion picture industry.

Scientific & Technical Awards 2018 | 2019

February 10, 2019
Oscars (YouTube)

PIX founder and CEO Eric Dachs thanked Ren Klyce, Ceán Chaffin and David Fincher (present at the ceremony): “your friendship, patience, and talents have had an enduring and measurable impact on our work, and more importantly, in filmmaking.”

Eric Dachs, Erik Bielefeldt, Craig Wood, and Paul McReynolds
(Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

SciTech Awards

Carolyn Giardina
February 9, 2019
The Hollywood Reporter

Evening of Excellence: 2019 Scientific and Technical Achievement Awards

Jay Holben
February 21, 2019
The American Society of Cinematographers

How David Fincher and ‘Panic Room’ Helped Launch a SciTech Award Recipient

Pix was initially developed to help ‘Panic Room‘s’ sound team.

Carolyn Giardina
February 9, 2019
The Hollywood Reporter

The familiar Pix app is one of the early tools with security features developed to improved communication and collaboration during production, which was initially conceived as filmmaking became more distributed geographically. After being used on more than 5,000 film and TV projects including Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody and Mindhunter, its developers will be among those honored Saturday at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ annual Scientific and Technical Awards.

Pix founder/CEO Eric Dachs — who with director of R&D Erik Bielefeldt, technical director Craig Wood and Paul McReynolds will receive Technical Achievement Awards — started his career in sound and it was while working as an assistant to seven-time Oscar nominated sound designer Ren Klyce on David Fincher’s 2002 film Panic Room that the idea for Pix was born. “I got a look at how digital technology was changing motion picture postproduction, but I also saw the inefficiency from faxing notes when the work was distributed geographically,” Dachs tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I started writing a really simple prototype application for capturing David’s spotting notes and getting them distributed to the crew via a simple web application. So that [composer Howard Shore] could get the music notes in real time, and the different departments within sound were no longer having to wait for faxes.”

One afternoon during the final mix, Klyce showed Fincher the app and the technically-savvy director was impressed. In fact, he continues to use it today.

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Dachs ’98 Receives Sci-Tech Oscar for PIX System

Cynthia Rockwell
March 4, 2019
Wesleyan University

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) honored Eric Dachs ’98, the founder and CEO of PIX System, with a Technical Achievement Award at its Oscars 2019 Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation on Feb. 9, 2019.

Since its creation in 2003, PIX System has become the entertainment industry gold standard in providing secure communication and content management capabilities. Dachs, a theater major while at Wesleyan, designed and coded the initial software early in his career when he was an assistant to sound designer Ren Klyce for Panic Room. It was then that he saw the need for an easy, safe digital platform to share revisions and collaborate across locations.

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PIX, the only addiction I have left.”
David Fincher

PIX System

‘Se7en’: A Rain-Drenched, Somber, Gut-Wrenching Thriller that Restored David Fincher’s Faith in Filmmaking

(May 27, 2017)
Cinephilia & Beyond

Slightly more than 22 years ago, David Fincher, a talented filmmaker who made music videos and commercials and was left by his directorial stint on his first feature Alien 3 so disillusioned and bitter he felt “he’d rather die of colon cancer than do another movie,” stumbled upon a script that would renew his faith in the filmmaking business. This particular piece was written by Andrew Kevin Walker, and was deemed too dark and bleak to succeed. The story was largely shaped by Walker’s experience of living in New York City for a couple of years, where he felt alienated, lonely and unhappy. Desperately trying to get his story made, Walker agreed to rewrite the screenplay on the demand of director Jeremiah Chechik (Christmas Vacation), and it was this altered version that should have ended up in Fincher’s hands. But the studio made a mistake, delivering Walker’s original piece to Fincher, who was immediately intrigued and, even when the mistake was explained, chose to insist on the utter darkness Walker envisioned. By mere happenstance, therefore, Se7en found its director and made the first, crucial step on its way to cinematic immortality. […]

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