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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How Rooney Mara Became One of the Most Exciting Actresses Working Today

Rooney Mara is addicted to filmmaking vision, and it’s resulted in one of the most surprising young careers Hollywood has right now.

Zack Sharf
Jul 7, 2017
IndieWire

It’s the “A Ghost Story” scene critics can’t stop talking about. Still grieving from the loss of her husband, the widow M returns home and consumes an entire vegan chocolate pie in one sitting. David Lowery captures the moment in a nearly four-minute long take, but the stillness of the camera makes it feel like an eternity. It’s up to Rooney Mara to fill the frame with a sense of hopelessness that anyone who’s been through the grieving process can relate to. She does so with the commitment and the sensitive gusto that has defined a majority of her 12 years as an actress.

Mara first began acting as an extra in movies starring her sister, Kate, before landing television supporting roles on shows like “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Women’s Murder Club” and “ER.” Now she’s one of the most exciting film stars in the business, with one of the year’s best films in select theaters (read IndieWire’s A review here) and a potential Oscar contender hitting awards season on November 24 (“Mary Magdalene”). Her ascension to becoming an indie film darling has been marked by careful decision-making, and it all started with a shot from Hollywood’s most demanding auteur.

With “A Ghost Story” now playing, it’s become increasingly clear Rooney Mara will never stop surprising when it comes to her performances. Here’s how she made it happen.

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