How David Fincher Faked an Old Movie

Danny Boyd
December 13, 2020
Danny Boyd (YouTube)

Today, let’s dive into the filmmaking mind of director David Fincher, and his 2020 film Mank.

David Fincher loves CGI and VFX, and that is on full display just as much in Mank (2020) as it is in all his past films. Only this time, for Mank, David Fincher had to use those tools, along with an old school cinematography and directing style, and smart editing, not only to create a convincing 1930’s Hollywood world, reminiscent of movies like Orson WellesCitizen Kane, but also a convincing golden age Hollywood movie. Let’s see how David Fincher faked Mank.

Video written & edited by Danny Boyd (Instagram, Twitter). Support me on Patreon

Music:
Marty Gots a Plan by Kevin MacLeod (license)
Deadly Roulette by Kevin MacLeod (license)

Sound effects:
Single Electric Typewriter Carriage Return by lonemonk (license)

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.

Read the full profile

How Territory Studio recreated 1930’s Hollywood for Fincher’s Mank

London-headquartered facility Territory Studio, has recreated the iconic LA street of Wilshire Boulevard for David Fincher’s 1930’s-set, Mank. The sequence using LED rear projection to evoke the traditional techniques used during the 1930s and 1940s which the movie pays homage to. Here’s how. 

Adrian Pennington
January 4, 2021
RedShark

Territory’s team led by VFX Supervisor Simon Carr and CG Supervisor Ashley Pay spent a considerable amount of time in LA in pre-production, working with Fincher and DP Erik Messerschmidt ASC. They used archival footage, maps and old photography coupled with their own research and black and white photographic references captured while driving on Wilshire Blvd to inform lighting and texture in the CG scene. They began to rebuild the famous street as it would have appeared when Herman J. Mankiewicz and Sara Mankiewicz drove down it in 1934. 

“We wanted to capture the imagery of a new city rising from the sand and dust, distinctly modern, yet with a sense of the Wild West,” Carr says.   

Territory was tasked with conveying the sense of lawlessness and neglect in a city without road markings or highway code. Scouting both on the ground in LA and via Google Maps, they drew out the ground plan: identifying shops, gas stations and cinemas from the archive footage along which to drive a virtual camera car.

Read the full article

The Cinematography Podcast: Erik Messerschmidt

Erik Messerschmidt, ASC: Mank, Mindhunter, Legion, Raised By Wolves, working with David Fincher.

Ben Rock & Illya Friedman
December 30, 2020
The Cinematography Podcast (Cam Noir)

Erik Messerschmidt, ASC believes that cinematographers get too much credit for how a movie looks and not enough for how the story is told. When you break a scene apart and assemble a sequence, the cinematographer has a huge part to play in the process of deciding when to move the camera, what lenses are used, how it flows and when it moves. Erik thinks when you look at it that way, cinematography has a lot more in common with editing rather than photography.

Erik’s most recent project, Mank– which is currently streaming on Netflix- was shot entirely in black and white. The look was the result of lots of conversations with director David Fincher. They both had a clear idea of what they wanted it to look like and also exactly what they did not want- too much heavy handed, contrast-heavy black and white cinematography in a film-noir style would take the viewers out of the experience, so it needed a lighter touch. Erik used fine art photography from the ’30’s to the mid ’40’s as a reference, and he and David Fincher wanted an homage to Citizen Kane without it actually looking like the film. Fincher was clear that he wished to transport the audience so they would lose their awareness of watching a black and white movie, and feel as though they are in the world of Herman J. Mankiewicz as he writes the script for Citizen Kane in the 1940’s.

Erik has worked with director David Fincher on several projects, first working as a gaffer on Gone Girl, then moving into the camera department on the series MindhunterErik and David have become very close collaborators, and he enjoys working with him. Fincher likes a sense of hyper reality to his movies, and Erik sees it as his job as the cinematographer to learn what the director responds to, figure out how best to support their process and bring something to the party.

Before moving into the camera department, Erik worked for several years as a gaffer. After working with David Fincher on two seasons of Mindhunter, Erik needed more work since he was a newly minted director of photography. He got the opportunity to shoot second unit on Sicario: Day of the Soldado with cinematographer Dariusz Wolski as the lead DP. He then worked on a few episodes of the TV series Legion with producer/director Noah Hawley and DP-turned-director Dana Gonzales, which was visually fun to work on. Legion’s look was whimsical yet dark, as it explored the main character’s mental illness and possible superpowers. He had the opportunity to work with Dana again on the finale of season four of Fargo. Erik also shot several episodes of the Ridley Scott series, Raised By Wolves, splitting the series with DP Ross Emery.

Listen to the podcast:

Cam Noir
Apple Podcasts
Spotify

Mank is available to watch right now on Netflix.
Find Erik Messerschmidt: Instagram

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Podcast Credits:

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras (Instagram)
Editor in Chief: Illya Friedman (Instagram)
Ben Rock (TwitterInstagram)
Producer: Alana Kode
Editor: Ben Katz
Composer: Kays Alatractchi

‘Mank’ VFX: ‘Body-and-Fender’ Work and So Much More

Behind Mank‘s Invisible Visual Effects

Ian Failes
December 14, 2020
befores & afters

I recently had the chance to ask Territory Studio about their visual effects work for Mank, which involved the re-creation of Wilshire Blvd from the 1930s. Like those shots, so much of Mank’s VFX work was invisible, involving subtle augmentations to tell the period story.

Overseeing these visual effects shots was director David Fincher himself, alongside co-producer Peter Mavromates, and the film’s art department. Fincher and Mavromates co-ordinated an outside effort, also, led by four VFX supervisors at different studios: Artemple (Wei Zheng), Territory Studio (Simon Carr), Savage (John Pastorious) and ILM (Pablo Helman).

In this befores & afters conversation, Mavromates discusses the various VFX work—from sky replacements to matte paintings, to CG animals and what he calls ‘body-and-fender’ shots—that helped tell Mank’s tale.

Read the full interview

Territory Studio: The LED Rear Projection VFX for Mank

Territory Studio travels back to the golden era of 1930s Hollywood, delving into the development of ‘Citizen Kane’ in David Fincher’s ‘Mank‘.

December 9, 2020
Territory Studio

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.”

Read the full case study

‘Mank’: Inside the World of a Synthetic LA and LED Screens

Ian Failes
December 10, 2020
befores & afters

Territory recreates Wilshire Boulevard for Mank

Jon Creamer
December 11, 2020
Televisual

Through The Frame: Re-Animating Camera Moves For Live Action

Jesse Korosi
May 7, 2020
Through The Frame (HPA)

Learn how the new movement toward reanimating camera movement, stabilizing, and reframing shots in post is taking shape! Chad Peter and Tai Logsdon have been on the forefront of this change and will discuss how it all began and how it’s being done today, with lots of details and examples from Mind Hunter, Bird Man, Homecoming & Mr. Robot.

Writer / Director (DGA) / VFX Supervisor originally from Colorado – Chad Peter has worked as VFX supervisor & additional director (inserts) on the final season of “Mr. Robot”, as well as VFX Super on Amazon’s “Homecoming” season 1.  Previously, Chad had served as an in-house VFX on “Mindhunter” s1 & s2, “House of Cards” s2 thru s4, “Gone Girl” and more.

Tai Logsdon grew up in the Central Valley of California, graduated from Chapman University in 2006, and has worked as in-House VFX Manager for shows such as Amazon’s “Homecoming” and USA’s “Mr.Robot” (the final season).

Listen to the podcast

When Only the “Right” Kind of Microphone Will Do

This ‘Mindhunter’ promo needed something very, very specific. Territory studio delivered.

Ian Failes
December 3, 2019
befores & afters

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.

Read the full article