‘Mindhunter’ DP Erik Messerschmidt on Working with Fincher, the Show’s Aesthetic, and Season 2

Erik Messerschmidt with Camera Operator Brian Osmond, SOC (Patrick Harbron / Netflix)

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Merrick Morton / Netflix

Adam Chitwood
May 28, 2018
Collider

The Netflix original series Mindhunter is, by far, one of the best new shows currently running. The true story-based, 1977-set drama chronicles the early days of criminal psychology and criminal profiling primarily through the eyes of three people at the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit: eager newcomer Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff), somewhat jaded veteran Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), and brilliant psychology professor Wendy Carr (Anna Torv). That this show is immaculately crafted from top to bottom will come as no surprise to those aware that it’s the brainchild of David Fincher, who serves as executive producer and directed nearly half of the series’ first season.

This is without doubt one of the best looking pieces of entertainment released in 2017, regardless of medium, with classical framing, motivated camera movement, and a tremendous palette that gives a mere peek into the darkness inside the minds of the criminals and serial killers who are the subject of the Behavioral Science Unit’s interviews.

So when I got the chance to speak with cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt about his work on the series, I was thrilled. Messerschmidt shot eight of the first season’s 10 episodes, including the Fincher-directed closing installments, and as he revealed during our interview, this was essentially his first major gig as a cinematographer. Messerschmidt had worked previously as a gaffer on shows like Mad Men and Bones, and then later the feature film Gone Girl where he first came into contact with Fincher. Based on their work together on that film, Fincher called Messerschmidt up when they were looking for a new DP for Mindhunter after the show’s original cinematographer exited over creative differences.

This promotion from gaffer to DP is a familiar refrain with Fincher’s cinematographers, as he did the same with his The Game and Fight Club gaffer Claudio Miranda, who was brought on as DP for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and went on to win the Oscar for Best Cinematography for his work on Life of Pi.

Messerschmidt’s rise to the primary cinematographer of Fincher’s brand new TV show elicits similarly spectacular results, as the DP’s work on Mindhunter is elegantly classical and incredibly motivated by character and theme. During the course of our conversation, Messerschmidt talked about the road that led to him becoming the cinematographer on Mindhunter, the specifics of his working relationship with Fincher, what it’s like to serve as a DP in the world of episodic television, how the work of production designers and costumes designers goes under-appreciated, and trying to maintain a consistent aesthetic with multiple directors. He also teased a bit about Mindhunter Season 2, including revealing their extensive shooting schedule.

Check out the full interview

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Erik Messerschmidt with Episodes 3 & 4 Director Asif Kapadia (Merrick Morton / Netflix)

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MINDHUNTER Production Notes

MINDHUNTER, A NETFLIX ORIGINAL SERIES

By Netflix Media Center

David Fincher returns to Netflix with MINDHUNTER, a rigorous study of the damaged psyches of serial killers and the innovative FBI Agents who attempt to understand and catch them.

Fincher made his Netflix debut with the Emmy ®- and Golden Globe ® -winning political drama House of Cards and his return to long-form storytelling is highly anticipated.

MINDHUNTER follows ambitious FBI agent Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) as he struggles to comprehend incarcerated killers, so that he might use this knowledge to catch others.

He’s teamed with experienced agent Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) in the Behavioral Science Unit and will work with his sometimes reluctant partner to find new methods of investigation.

Together they will meet some of America’s gravest killers – and face the cynicism and scorn of the tradition-bound hierarchy of the 1970s’ Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Ford will risk empathizing with ‘evil’ in order to save lives. But, as Tench says, when arguing the case for their work: “How do we get ahead of crazy if we don’t know how crazy thinks?”

Written by Joe Penhall (The Road) and Jennifer Haley (Hemlock Grove), MINDHUNTER was inspired by the memoir of FBI veteran John R Douglas, Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit (written with Mark Olshaker).

All 10 episodes of MINDHUNTER will become available to Netflix members worldwide on Friday, October 13, 2017.

Read the full article

David Fincher’s “Mindhunter” gets its release date on Netflix

Netflix has set the official premiere for the series “MINDHUNTER“, its second partnership with David Fincher and the director’s first finished project since the 2014’s devilishly brilliant “Gone Girl”. All 10 episodes of its first season will be available to stream on a very pertinent date: Friday, October 13th.

“Mindhunter” is based on the already influential book “Mind Hunter: Inside FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit” written by Mark Olshaker and John E. Douglas, founder of the FBI’s Criminal Profiling Program. It was first optioned and developed as a series for HBO by Charlize Theron, who teamed up with Fincher. They both executive produce the series written by the British playwright and screenwriter Joe Penhall.

Fincher has directed episodes 1.1, 1.2 and 1.10. Andrew Douglas, Asif Kapadia and Tobias Lindholm, the other seven.

Set in 1979, it follows two FBI agents, played by Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany (“Alien 3”, “Fight Club”), who interview convicted serial killers and other violent sex offenders in an effort to help them solve current murder cases. Anna Torv plays a psychologist.

Netflix has already manifested its confidence in the potential of the show by picking it up for a second season.

Here’s the teaser trailer released in March: