IndieWire Influencers: David Fincher & Sound Designer Ren Klyce

Influencers: Through their decades-long partnership, the pair have constantly refined how sound can be used to shape a viewer’s emotional response.

Chris O’Falt
January 13, 2021
IndieWire

David Fincher and Ren Klyce came of age during a seminal time for Hollywood: when the pair were just kids, a group of ’70s filmmakers was reshaping what it meant to make movies, right from the pair’s native Bay Area. In a biographical detail almost too perfect to be true, George Lucas rented a house in Marin County to edit his “THX 1138,” that just so happened to be located right next door to the Klyce family’s home. A single suburban lawn is all that separated a then-9-year-old Ren from the great Walter Murch, just as he was starting to change modern movie sound forever, work he’d continue throughout the decade with another NorCal auteur, Francis Ford Coppola. And it would be on a Lucas-produced animated feature, “Twice Upon a Time,” that future sound designer Klyce would meet his Coppola, a then-19-year-old Fincher.

Over the last 25 years, as Hollywood has utilized the multi-channel surround technology pioneered by Murch to create bombastic soundtracks that all too often mask a lack of craft, Klyce has helped Fincher explore the subconscious underbelly of his own films, constantly refining how sound can be used to shape a viewer’s emotional response.

“To me, sound design is not about 96 channels all at 11, and two side cars giving you this sound pressure-gasm; to me, it’s very much about the detail and the nuance and maybe things that you wouldn’t even be aware that you heard until the second or third time you saw it,” said Fincher in an interview about his collaboration with Klyce. “I can’t talk more enthusiastically about someone [Klyce] I feel has very subtly pushed what sound designers do.”

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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)

Read the full issue of Deadline Presents Awardsline

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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Sounding Out Ren Klyce On David Fincher’s “Mank”

7-time Oscar nominee reflects on his longstanding working relationship with the director and the creative challenges of their latest collaboration

Robert Goldrich
January 1, 2021
Shoot

Sound designer, editor and mixer Ren Klyce is a seven-time Oscar nominee, five of those nods coming for David Fincher movies–Fight Club in 2000, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button in 2009, The Social Network in 2011 and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for both sound mixing and sound editing in 2012. (Klyce’s other two noms are for Star Wars: Episode VIII–The Last Jedi for sound editing and mixing in 2018.)

Now Klyce is again in the awards season conversation for Fincher’s Mank (Netflix) which centers on screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (portrayed by Gary Oldman) as he races to finish director Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane on a tight timetable, secluded in a bungalow in a desert town miles removed from Los Angeles as he recuperates from a car accident in 1940. Attending to him are his secretary Rita (Lily Collins) and his German nurse (Monika Grossmann).

In the process, through Mankiewicz’s worldview–marked by his abiding social conscience and wit, at times caustic–we are introduced to not only Hollywood but life in the 1930s, ranging from the grandeur of Hearst Castle and high society to the struggle of the rank and file during the Great Depression. We also become privy to Mankiewicz’s own inner struggles with alcoholism, as well as a professional battle with Welles (played by Tom Burke) over screen credit for what became the classic Citizen Kane. The Mank cast also includes Charles Dance (as William Randolph Hearst), Amanda Seyfried (as Marion Davies, Hearst’s wife), Tuppence Middleton (as Sara Mankiewicz, Herman’s wife), Arliss Howard (as Louis B. Mayer), Sam Troughton (as John Houseman), Tom Pelphrey (as Joe Mankiewicz, Herman’s brother), Toby Leonard Moore (as David O. Selznick) and Ferdinand Kinsley (as Irving Thalberg).

For Klyce, Mank posed layers of challenges on top of the conventional goal of having the soundtrack support the story. “We hear all the dialogue, feel the motion of the music, get a sense of surroundings and characters through sound design. It helps us to connect with the characters,” Klyce explained.

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Making Mank’s Vintage Hollywood-Magic Sound – An In-Depth Interview with Ren Klyce

For Director David Fincher’s latest film Mank — now available on Netflix — he’s teamed up once again with his long-time collaborator, supervising sound editor Ren Klyce. Here, Klyce shares details on creating an ‘old Hollywood’ feel by working in mono, adding patina layers of analog equipment hiss and natural ‘theater’ reverb, and creating a special filter modeled after the original Citizen Kane .

Jennifer Walden
December 10, 2020
A Sound Effect

Fight ClubSe7enThe GameThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Zodiac, Mindhunter, House of Cards, Panic Room, and the list goes on — these are just some of the amazing projects that Director David Fincher and supervising sound editor Ren Klyce have worked on together.

One of the hallmarks of Fincher’s films is the attention to detail, and Klyce is an apposite candidate to fill that bill sonically. The seven-time Oscar-nominated sound supervisor/sound designer is never short of creative ideas and solutions, as he demonstrates most recently on Mank.

Mank is a biographical drama on how Citizen Kane came to be, who the writers were (Herman J. Mankiewicz and Orson Welles), and what the extent of their collaboration was on the film.

Fincher wanted Mank to have an ‘old Hollywood’ feel, so Klyce comes up with a multi-step sonic patina process that includes running the mix through a filter modeled after the sonic shape of the original Citizen Kane film, adding layers of analog film equipment noise and hiss, and adding in natural reverb created by playing the final mix back on a scoring stage and capturing the room bounce.

Here, Klyce shares enlightening and amusing details on how they achieved that patina, the important role of Foley, orchestrating sound effects and music, and so much more!

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‘Mank’: Sound Designer Ren Klyce Talks The Authenticity Of David Fincher’s Latest Film

Tomris Laffly
December 7, 2020
The Playlist

You are likely to feel whisked away to the Golden Age of Hollywood while watching “Mank,” David Fincher’s historical character study about legendary studio screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) and his painstaking process of writing Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane.” Still, Fincher’s Hollywood epic won’t necessarily register as tritely nostalgic or melancholic about the past in a way showbiz movies often do. That’s because “Mank” is far more concerned about seizing a frozen-in-time type of authenticity. It’s a picture one could swear to be of the era as opposed to an homage to the era—a quality its sound design gloriously emulates by ditching contemporary sonic attributes and embracing monaural sound in order to match that of “Citizen Kane.”

“That was one of the very first things David was most eager to speak about,” recalls 7-time Academy Award-nominated sound designer Ren Klyce, who worked on 10 out of 11 Fincher movies and might win his first Oscar with “Mank.” “The original words he said to me were, ‘I want this to feel like this film was literally on the shelf next to “Citizen Kane,” existing on actual celluloid with the soundtrack on it. And I want it to sound like somebody made it back in that period.’ And that was a very interesting idea to start off with. Authenticity is the perfect word for it actually—that’s a very important thing for David in all of his movies. He wants it to feel like it’s coming from a genuine place.”

For Klyce, designing the sound of a film that hypothetically has “always been there the whole time” meant using today’s technology to fabricate a set of means and methods for the past to ultimately telegraph the feeling that the film was made then, with the technology of then. “How do we still make it feel sophisticated, but limit ourselves with an imaginary toolset of the 1940s?”

In an interview with The Playlist, Klyce detailed out his technical process and collaboration with Fincher, explaining how he achieved the vintage sound of “Mank” as well as that old-timey aural grandeur, as if the film is bouncing off the walls of a majestic movie theater.

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Ren Klyce and Jeremy Molod of ‘Mank’ Break Their Silence on the Sound Secrets of 1940s

Rich Quinn (ADR editor), Jonathon Stevens (Sound Effects Editor), Jeremy Molod (Supervising Sound Editor), Malcolm Fife (Sound Effects Editor), Ren Klyce (Sound Designer/Re-Recording Mixer).

Patrick Z. McGavin
December 2, 2020
CineMontage

Orson Welles famously observed a writer needs a pen, a painter a brush, and a filmmaker an army.

One of the soldiers behind Welles’ most fabled work is at the heart of David Fincher’s new Netflix film “Mank,” which excavates a creation myth from the contentious backstory of “Citizen Kane,” Welles’ 1941 feature directing debut. Many critics consider it one of the best films ever made.

Fincher commanded his own army of Foley artists, dialog editors and sound specialists for his iconoclastic biographical portrait of the screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman).

Verisimilitude was the most pressing concern in crafting a symphonic soundtrack of rare cars, Underwood typewriters and vintage telephones.

Sound designer/re-recording mixer Ren Klyce and supervising sound editor Jeremy Molod have worked on every Fincher movie since his breakthrough second feature, “Se7en” (1995).

“We know what Fincher is trying to get at when he is giving us directions,” Molod said. “Sometimes when he is asking us to provide certain sounds and he gives us a description of what the character or location is, it’s not always meant to be a literal translation.

“It’s more of a feeling and what he is trying to convey.”

Klyce assembled an impressive and highly experienced editorial team that included dialog editors Kim Fosacto and Richard Quinn, Foley editor Shaun Farley and the FX editor Malcom Fife and his team, Jonathon Stevens, Josh Gold and Coya Elliott.

Most important they all had a deep work background with the fastidiously exacting filmmaker.

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The People Who Can See Inside David Fincher’s Head

The famously meticulous Mank director is surrounded by collaborators tasked with turning his most ambitious ideas into reality.

David Sims
December 9, 2020
The Atlantic

Early in Netflix’s Mank, the screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (played by Gary Oldman) ambles onto an outdoor movie set, where he bumps into an array of glamorous characters. In a scene full of repartee with real-life figures such as the actor Marion Davies, the film honcho Louis B. Mayer, and the mogul William Randolph Hearst, the visual details of the environment might seem unimportant. But to Mank’s director, David Fincher, they mattered. “The grass was not to David’s liking, and the sky was not to his liking, so all that’s been replaced,” Peter Mavromates, his co-producer, told me. When making a movie, Fincher literally controls heaven and earth.

That example sums up the capricious-sounding, godlike power of a director, especially in the age of digital filmmaking, which allows for total command of every frame. But as with all of his movies, Fincher’s vision for Mank was realized by a group of dedicated collaborators, most of whom have worked with the director for many years across projects. This film, which Fincher mulled for nearly three decades, is unlike anything he has made before. An unusual-looking-and-sounding film set in the Golden Age of Hollywood, Mank reflects the aesthetic of the 1930s with its black-and-white cinematography; an echoey, old-fashioned sound mix; and a brassy, orchestral score. But Fincher also wanted it to be a distinctly modern film, which posed many unique and fascinating technical challenges to the creators charged with bringing his lofty ideas to life.

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‘Mank’ Production Team on Creating a Feast for the Eyes and Ears for the Netflix Period Film

Jazz Tangcay
December 4, 2020
Variety

In David Fincher’s “Mank,” bowing Dec. 4 on Netflix, a key sequence takes place at Hearst Castle, when Gary Oldman’s Herman J. Mankiewicz shows up drunk and unannounced at a lavish dinner party thrown by newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, played by Charles Dance.

Filming is normally not allowed at the actual estate, with Lady Gaga’s “G.U.Y.” video the rare exception. So production designer Donald Graham Burt and Fincher spent months tracking down locations around Los Angeles that could stand in for the grand mansion. Interiors and exteriors were shot at a Pasadena estate, the Huntington Gardens, in Malibu and on soundstages, all carefully decorated to give the feel of San Simeon if not the exact details.

It was up to sound mixer Ren Klyce to capture the extravagance that Fincher sought when filming those scenes. Klyce reverse-engineered the mix — distorting sounds, lowering the dynamic range and limiting the high frequency to take audiences back to 1930s Hollywood and the “Citizen Kane” era.

Burt and Klyce break down how they re-created the estate and captured the aura of wealth.

David Fincher’s Impossible Eye

David Fincher by Jack Davison

With ‘Mank,’ America’s most famously exacting director tackles the movie he’s been waiting his entire career to make.

Jonah Weiner
November 19, 2020
The New York Times

Six years ago, after I contacted David Fincher and told him I wanted to write an article about how he makes movies, he invited me to his office to present my case in person and, while I was there, watch him get some work done. On an April afternoon, I arrived at the Hollywood Art Deco building that has long served as Fincher’s base of operations, where he was about to look at footage from his 10th feature film, Gone Girl,” then in postproduction. We headed upstairs and found the editor Kirk Baxter assembling a scene. Fincher watched it once through, then asked Baxter to replay a five-second stretch. It was a seemingly simple tracking shot, the camera traveling alongside Ben Affleck as he entered a living room in violent disarray: overturned ottoman, shattered glass. The camera moved at the same speed as Affleck, gliding with unvarying smoothness, which is exactly how Fincher likes his shots to behave. Except that three seconds in, something was off. “There’s a bump,” he said.

Jack Fincher photographed by David Fincher in 1976, when he was 14.
“That’s why it’s out of focus”.

No living director surpasses Fincher’s reputation for exactitude. Any account of his methods invariably mentions how many takes he likes to shoot, which can annoy him, not because this is inaccurate but because it abets a vision of him as a dictatorially fussy artiste. Fincher, who is 58, argues that this caricature misses the point: If you want to build worlds as engrossing as those he seeks to construct, then you need actors to push their performances into zones of fecund uncertainty, to shed all traces of what he calls “presentation.” And then you need them to give you options, all while hitting the exact same marks (which goes for the camera operators too) to ensure there will be no continuity errors when you cut the scene together. Getting all these stars to align before, say, Take No. 9 is possible but unlikely. “I get, He’s a perfectionist,” Fincher volunteered. “No. There’s just a difference between mediocre and acceptable.”

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Mix Magazine 2020: The Music in Sound with Ren Klyce

Ren Klyce in Peter Elsea’s Studio (1984)

Larry Blake
November 5, 2020
Mix Magazine / SoundWorks Collection

Animated short for Sesame Street (January 17, 1984) produced by John Korty. Sound and music by Ren Klyce: