Mank is nominated for 10 Academy awards in this year’s 93rd Oscars in categories such as Best Picture, Lead Actor, and Best Director. It is also nominated for the VES award for Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature. The film follows screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz’s tumultuous development of Orson Welles’ iconic masterpiece Citizen Kane (1941).
There were several VFX supervisors nominated, Simon Carr (Territory Studio), Wei Zheng (Artemple), James Pastorius (Savage VFX), along with Peter Mavromates. In many respects, director David Fincher could have also been nominated for VFX. The director is himself an expert in visual effects and was a very active contributor to the film’s effect work. Peter Mavromates is a long-time collaborator with David Fincher and was officially the Co-producer, Post Supervisor and VFX Producer on the film. Additionally, Pablo Helman at ILM was key in creating the CG animals at the San Simeon zoo.
The film had its roots going back over 20 years. “We had a false start about 20 years ago, around 1999. The script had been written at that time but it never happened for a number of reasons,” Mavromates comments. “Probably a contributing factor was that it was black and white and if you weren’t Woody Allen in the 90s, you couldn’t shoot black and white. Even Mel Brooks had to change producers for Young Frankenstein because the studio wouldn’t let him shoot black and white and he had to find another studio.”
The movie finished filming about 2 weeks before the W.H.O. declared the COVID pandemic in Feb 2020. This meant nearly all the VFX was done using remote protocols at each of the VFX vendors.
Mank visual effects supervisor Simon Carr walks you through his team’s subtle work in David Fincher‘s award-winning film and the use of time-tested techniques like rear projection to bring Hollywood’s Golden Age to life on screen.
Take a look behind the invisible visual effects of ‘Mank’. ILM contributed a series of shots to the film including the various animals housed at the Hearst Castle private zoo. We created a host of photo-real CG animals to complete the scenes featuring capuchin monkeys, giraffe, elephants, and their environs such as the ornate wrought-iron victorian-era monkey’s enclosure and the gated grass area housing the roaming elephants and giraffe.
Director: David Fincher ILM Visual Effects Supervisor: Pablo Helman ILM Animation Supervisor: Mathew Cowie ILM Associate Visual Effects Supervisor: Sherry Hitch ILM Executive Visual Effects Producer: Erin Dusseault ILM Visual Effects Producer: Flannery Huntley ILM Associate Vfx Producer: Andrew Poole ILM Studios: San Francisco, Vancouver
Shot in black and white, David Fincher’s Mank transports audiences through the sights and scenery of Golden Age Hollywood and 1930s and 40s California. With the help of soundstages, matte paintings, and a lot of research, the team behind Mank’s locations communicates the glamour and history of an epic era of moviemaking.
The brief was to recreate a section of 1930s Wilshire Boulevard to play on an LED rear projection behind Mank and his wife Sara. Authenticity was key, we wanted to ensure this recreation blended into the background seamlessly and convincingly. The final sequence feels very much as David described in our initial brief: “We’re making a 1930s style film with rear projection, but with the very latest digital technology we’ve been able to improve upon it and transport the audience back to Hollywood’s golden era.”
Simon Carr, VFX Supervisor at Territory Studio:
“It was a great privilege to work on such a visually stunning movie for an eminent director, and to be able to dive into recreating the period details of 1930’s Wilshire Boulevard. To see the sequence come together in-camera as a perfect blend of old style and new technique is the essence of how VFX should be used.”
It is arguably the most famous word ever spoken on film: Rosebud. And it comes from what many consider the greatest movie ever made. “Citizen Kane,” Orson Welles‘ 1941 masterpiece on the rise and fall of Charles Foster Kane, a ruthless capitalist mostly based on newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst.
With its deep focus camerawork and bold lighting techniques that use shadows to direct the audience’s attention, “Citizen Kane” is a cinematic landmark.
So it’s only fitting that the story behind it is equally compelling.
And that’s the story director David Fincher tells in his new Netflix film. I spoke to Fincher on Stage 19 at Paramount Studios, where Welles made Citizen Kane 80 years ago.
“When you look at a movie that is cohesive, as ‘Kane’ was, from the authorship standpoint, it fires on all cylinders,” Fincher told me.
Fincher’s film is called “Mank.” Oscar winner Gary Oldman stars as Herman Mankiewicz, who Welles hired to write the screenplay for “Kane.”
Full disclosure, Herman Mankiewicz was my grandfather.
If you’ve watched David Fincher’s Mindhunter series about the development of the FBI’s Behavioural Science Unit from the late 1970’s through to 1980s, then you’ll already know there’s a certain kind of meticulousness to the Netflix show in each episode.
Well, that same kind of detail was added even to this promo for season 2 of series that got shown on social media. And it all revolved around…a microphone.
Tasked with creating a mic in between agents Ford and Tench in a police interrogation cell was Territory Studio, which also handled a few other clean-ups in the push-in shot.
Here’s the story, step-by-step, of how Territory – led by VFX Supervisor Simon Carr and VFX Producer Robin D’Arcy – researched the prop itself (even taking a used version apart), modeled it in CG and finished the shot.