When people think of David Fincher, they usually think of his attention grabbing psychological thrillers and his meticulous and often obsessive eye for detail. His films have a perfectionist quality and total accuracy to them that oftentimes comes with countless takes and demanding reshoots from actors. But because of Fincher’s obsessive need for perfectionism, he has turned to all digital cinematography to help him craft the extremely intricate and accurate details in his movies, and has been known to use VFX and CGI to satisfy this need.
But with his latest feature, “Mank,” Fincher was faced with the challenge of making new filmmaking technology look old. Set in the 1940s, during the construction of “Citizen Kane,” one of Hollywood’s most acclaimed films, “Mank” is an ode to old Hollywood. The film is inspired by the scathing life of Herman Mankiewicz (played by Gary Oldman), MGM contract writer and the screenwriter for “Citizen Kane.”
Everything about the description of this film screams old Hollywood, but if you know anything about old movies, you’ll know that before 1987, movies were shot on film stock. And if you’ve seen enough or read about older movies shot on film, you’ll know that sometimes it’s inevitable for small imperfections to show up on screen, and oftentimes those imperfections have to be embraced. But Fincher is known to shoot on digital which erases all the nostalgic qualities of old film stock. So what did this perfectionist director do?
He faked it.
Fincher wanted to make “Mank” seem as if it was really made from the 1940s. The film’s production designer, Donald Graham Burt said, “He wanted the movie to be like you were in a vault and came across ‘Citizen Kane’ and next to it was ‘Mank.” So Fincher digitally altered everything in “Mank,” from the intricate crackles in the sound designing to angled shots inspired directly from “Citizen Kane,” Fincher emulated that vintage film look and old Hollywood atmosphere.
Watch Danny Boyd’s video above to learn more about the specific details of how David Fincher and his team managed to fake not only the vintage movie look but also incorporate old school techniques and styles into his 2020 film “Mank.”