January 29, 2021
Netflix Awards FYC
A conversation with composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross on behalf of Mank. Moderated by Morgan Neville.
On David Fincher’s Mank, sound designer Ren Klyce was tasked with crafting a monaural soundtrack, similar to those heard in films of the ’30s and ’40s, engaging in a laborious, experimental process, in order to round out the world of one of the year’s most distinctive films.
Scripted by Fincher’s late father Jack, the director’s longtime passion project follows Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman)—a washed up, alcoholic screenwriter from Hollywood’s Golden Age—as he endeavors to finish the screenplay for the iconic Citizen Kane.
The goal with Mank was to immerse viewers in its period world through the creation of visual and sonic ‘patinas,’ each working in concert with the other. While cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt shot the black-and-white film digitally, at extremely high resolution—allowing Fincher to degrade the image in post—Klyce would tinker with sonic degradation, tapping into all of the characteristics that gave early 20th century soundtracks their unique feel.
One of Fincher’s closest collaborators—who has worked with him on 10 features and two television series since 1995—Klyce had experimented only briefly with mono sound in the past, on a handful of Fincher films. “But we never did it with the conviction of, ‘This is the purpose,’” the sound designer notes, “‘because we want it to feel like it was made using the technology of the time.’”
Below, the seven-time Oscar nominee recalls his earliest conversations with Fincher about Mank, and the multifaceted process of fashioning its vintage sonic palette.
February 3, 2021
Anheuser-Busch – Let’s Grab a Beer (Super Bowl LV) (“90)
Anheuser-Busch – Let’s Grab a Beer (Super Bowl LV) (“60)
“It’s never just about the beer. It’s about being together.”
Global Chief Creative Officer
Global Chief Operating Officer
Director of Strategic Planning
Head of Integrated Production
Group Account Director
Group Strategy Director
Managing Director/Executive Producer
1sr Assistant Director
Directors of Photography
Eigil Bryld, Chayse Irvin
Donald Graham Burt
Musical Creative Director
Editorial & Finishing
Inside the journey to W+K’s ‘Let’s Grab a Beer’
Atticus Ross and Ren Klyce continue to collaborate with David Fincher–this time on a Super Bowl spot directed by Adam Hashemi.
April 2, 2021
Netflix’s drama Mank led all Golden Globe feature nominations this morning with a count of six, and one of those belonged to composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score for the David Fincher film. Mank reps the fourth feature between the filmmaker and the composers, the latter who immediately took home the Oscar and Golden Globe in the first noms for their score of 2010’s The Social Network.
Fincher’s new age noir in Social Network, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl is continually heightened by Reznor and Ross’ synthetic, metallic, pulsating tonal stylings, but in Mank the two composers pull a 180 and deliver a lively jazz score that pays deep homage to the cinema of the 1930s and 1940s.
We talk with them both on Crew Call today about their shorthand with Fincher, and how they sparked a fascinating rhythm about embattled scribe Herman J. Mankiewicz’s rage against Hollywood, and his once mentor and friend, media titan William Randolph Hearst.
Reznor and Ross were a double Golden Globe nominee today, also nabbing a second score nom for Disney/Pixar’s Soul.
Film composers may be accustomed to working alone, but they weren’t immune to the tumult of 2020. Six film music specialists came together — virtually — to discuss the key to writing an effective score, even when creatively challenged by the pandemic: “What I really miss is playing music with human beings.”
2020 was a year like no other, so it’s fitting that The Hollywood Reporter’s Composer Roundtable was unlike any that had gone before.
On Jan. 8, six of Hollywood’s leading film composers came together via Zoom, across three continents, to talk shop: Ludwig Göransson followed up his Oscar-winning Black Panther score with a thumping, time-shifting soundtrack to Christopher Nolan’s Tenet; Tamar-kali offered up a dissonant, daring soundscape for Shirley that won praise from the likes of Iggy Pop; Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross had a busy year with work that included the wall-to-wall 1940s orchestral score for David Fincher’s Mank and the ethereal, synthetic sound of Pixar feature Soul; Terence Blanchard, Spike Lee‘s go-to composer, delivered the majestic musical backdrop for the war drama Da 5 Bloods; and Emile Mosseri, who has quickly established himself as one of indie cinema’s most in-demand music makers, created an affecting, ethereal soundscape for Lee Isaac Chung‘s Minari.
In a lively discussion, this eclectic group of film music veterans and newer talents who find themselves — and their music — in the awards-season conversation discussed the art and craft of film composing, the value of defying expectations and how each of them would score 2020.
2020 was certainly a tough year for everyone, but there were some bright spots for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. The composer duo won their first Emmy Award in September for “Watchmen.” Their band Nine Inch Nails was inducted (although virtually) into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in November. And the end of the year brought the film releases of “Mank” for Netflix and “Soul” for Disney/Pixar, for which they composed the score of each.
In our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video above), Reznor says, “When I heard you say that about the list of accomplishments this past year, set against the backdrop of the brutality and relentlessness of the pandemic and politically what’s happening. As parents trying to keep our kids safe and sane and happy and some sense of normality, it has been a weird juxtaposition of accolades set against this year we’d all like to put in the rear-view mirror.”
Reznor and Ross won an Oscar for Best Original Score on their first feature film (“The Social Network,” 2010). They have teamed with that movie’s director, David Fincher, several times, including for “Mank,” the behind-the-scenes story of writer Herman J. Mankiewicz and his work on the classic 1941 film “Citizen Kane.” They have collaborated for the first time with Pixar chief Pete Docter on his animated feature “Soul,” about a jazz musician who wants to navigate his way back to his body from the afterlife.
On working with two such distinctive and varied directors, Reznor adds, “The similarities of Pete and David are that they’re both geniuses, different styles of genius, but they’re both the very best at what they do. Being around them is… that we thrive on that. We’re searching out excellence because we are inspired by it.”
Our latest guests on Soundtracking are a duo Edith’s been chasing since we started this podcast, so it’s an absolute thrill to finally lure them on.
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross burst onto the film-composing scene with their score for David Fincher’s The Social Network, for which they won an Oscar in 2010. The trio have since joined forces on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl.
Trent and Atticus’s most recent work can be heard on Fincher’s Mank and Pete Docter’s Soul, which you can watch right now on Netflix and Disney + respectively.
The two films couldn’t be more different and had wildly contrasting musical requirements – which is testimony to the range of their talents.
Listen to the podcast:
Reznor, Atticus Ross, Daniel Pemberton and George Clooney talk about the challenges of recording music during a pandemic.
When it comes to the postproduction process on movies during a pandemic, much of the work doesn’t have to change dramatically. Film editors, after all, are used to sitting in dark rooms, often by themselves; sound editors and visual-effects artists can also do their work in front of computer screens and share it with co-workers without needing to be in the same room.
But recording a movie’s musical score is different. Unless a composer both writes and performs everything him or herself, a film score involves getting people together to play music — in the case of orchestral scores, getting lots of people together to play music.
Trent Reznor, composer of the score to David Fincher’s “Mank” with Atticus Ross, had a succinct and evocative phrase for working on the music to that film in the early days of the pandemic. “It wasn’t impossible, but it felt like trying to be intimate in hazmat suits,” he said.
TheWrap magazine: The Nine Inch Nails composers were hired to write the score but ended up also creating music to play over radios in David Fincher’s film, “(If Only You Could) Save Me,” a big-band ballad with a sultry vocal by Adryon de León.
A version of this story about Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and “Mank” first appeared in the Race Begins issue of TheWrap’s Oscar magazine.
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.”
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.