October 2, 2014

'What Does David Fincher NOT Do?' A Look Inside the Director's Techniques

Seven
Filmmaking is just as much about what you don't put into a movie as it is what you do. This is a concept David Fincher used to describe his own directorial approach, and something Tony Zhou examines in yet another excellent video essay. Check out this intriguing piece that answers the question, "What does David Fincher not do?"

We spend so much time scouring the internet to find out what history's greatest filmmakers did to make their most iconic films, but perhaps it might be a beneficial change of pace to find out what they didn't do so you can potentially use what you learn in your own work. Obviously, we're not talking about chucking your ALEXA off of a bluff, or anything like that, but knowing when and when not to use certain camera movements (why don't you move your camera) and shot sizes (why don't you cut to a close-up) is supremely important for directors. 

Many times we want it all when we're offered all of the bountiful cinematographic possibilities: going handheld with a Dutch-angled two-shot while circling around both subjects who are themselves twirling in the opposite direction and cutting between them and two GoPro-wearing dolphins that are breaching in unison, coming up from the depths of the South Pacific to reveal a Fijian visage. However, many times restraint is just what your film needs from its director, and discovering what you won't do will make all the more brilliant what you do do.      

Your Comment

26 Comments

Restraint and Purpose. Too many directors just throw a bunch of cameras on a scene, get a bunch of coverage, and want to figure it out in post. Guys like Fincher know exactly what they want to get, and Why those choices are the right ones for the scene, and it's usually invisible.

October 2, 2014 at 7:39PM, Edited October 2, 7:39PM

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Peter Lipay
Director/Producer/Writer
184

Totally agree. He's a true auter and I'm excited for his latest flick. This was a great article and video on his style. I'd love to see more of these so that we can compare different director's styles.

October 3, 2014 at 5:04PM

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PinZ
Director / Writer / Producer
234

Haha but dude Fincher does do that… Here's a video of himself saying exactly what you said he doesn't. https://vimeo.com/65506197 Obviously his shots are chosen carefully, but still.

October 6, 2014 at 9:35AM

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Lewis McGregor
Content Creator
110

great video

October 2, 2014 at 7:50PM

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matt
922

Absolutely astounding article in my humble opinion. I have always been a prodigious fan of David Fincher, especially what he has done with House of Cards. Very informative.

October 2, 2014 at 8:08PM, Edited October 2, 8:08PM

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Connor Day
Director of Photography
426

He's a cool guy! And yeah, we're just a bunch of perverts ;) haha

October 2, 2014 at 9:43PM

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Jesús J. Borges
Storyteller
168

Tony Zhou has some great content, everyone should check out his videos for some great analysis.

October 2, 2014 at 10:09PM

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Gvickie Xiong
Editor/Cinematographer/Director
824

What a great video. Thank you for sharing.

October 2, 2014 at 10:10PM

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Geoffrey Young Haney
writer & director
100

What's wrong with GoPro-wearing dolphins? I think they're awesome.

October 2, 2014 at 10:11PM

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Vincent Allard
Director of Photography
96

This here was like a semester in a film school!

Love you, NFS111!!!

<3

October 2, 2014 at 10:44PM

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Alex Zakrividoroga
Director
3810

Great video, but its more like a taste of a single hour.

October 3, 2014 at 9:35PM

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Indie Guy
1291

fincher is a master of the subtle. such a great director.

October 2, 2014 at 11:05PM

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Alex Keerma
Writer & Director
98

Our mistakes teach us how we can grow. ;D

October 3, 2014 at 3:46AM

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Ragüel Cremades
Film producer and director
7641

It's funny ALEXA was mentioned in the article about David Fincher. He shoots Red since The Social Network.

October 3, 2014 at 6:14AM

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Terma Louis
Photographer / Cinematographer / Editor
1367

Fincher has the same opinion of us as Michael Bay does.

October 3, 2014 at 10:23AM

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Josh Paul
Most often DP, Direct or Gaff
1259

Too true

October 3, 2014 at 10:57AM

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Jason Kaiser
I own a camera
77

insightful video essay!

i think a useful follow-up would be a piece on editors. directors cover scenes from multiple angles and, the three people scene for instance, is shot as a wide (or even several different wides), in two-shots from various angles, and as singles. the ultimate magic happens in the editing room - i'd love to hear more about the collaboration between director and editor (think walter murch or thelma schoonmaker).

also, look at michael haneke, two time golden palm winner. he leaves you with minutes and minutes of a medium wide shot of two people talking DESPITE a completely and utterly dramatic shift in the conversation between two people, defying our expectations. while i love, love, love fincher's films, i think he actually fulfills our expectations (hence being so successful). he makes it easy - i like it a bit harder.

thoughts?

October 3, 2014 at 11:36AM

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michael freund
director, editor
74

I agree! I feel like there should definitely be more said on the Director + Editor colab...I feel like that's the meat of the film making process right there.

October 3, 2014 at 2:24PM

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Christopher Evans
Video Artist
383

That's a great documentary One of the most intersting about filming techniques I've saw. If the narrator could speak a little bit slower, the non-English speakers would apreciate it.

October 5, 2014 at 7:16AM

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Fincher is a Boss.

October 8, 2014 at 10:11AM

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Dre Kahmeyer
Director
312

So is whoever makes the "Every Frame a Painting" series. I enjoy them a lot.

October 8, 2014 at 10:11AM

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Dre Kahmeyer
Director
312

Love his no BS approach. This article helped explain to me why I like David Fincher's work so much. Keeping it rare and not over done.

October 14, 2014 at 4:10PM, Edited October 14, 4:10PM

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morgan ghan
Film Maker/Creative Director
81

Incredible and informative video essay. I could learn about Fincher all day long.

February 22, 2015 at 2:17PM

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Kevin Pybus
Director Of Photography, Writer & Editor
161

This is a great video and the article introduces a vivid point without overstating (but I will) that what you don't do is tell a story without seriously thinking the damn thing through. This isn't novel, what Fincher is doing. A plan of attack is at the heart of masterful filmmaking since it became an art form and I believe part of the reason we can be astounded today is that tech has made it easier to tell a story without crafting one. And I'm not relegating his achievements by saying the man seems to be doing his job. Rather I'm implying a larger margin hardly are. I believe it helps to appreciate really great directors as obsessive. That last comment, likely the most telling, says it all. He knows you want to watch, he knows you need to know and he's going to play with you.

February 23, 2015 at 1:25AM

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This is a great video and the article introduces a vivid point without overstating (but I will) that what you don't do is tell a story without seriously thinking the damn thing through. This isn't novel, what Fincher is doing. A plan of attack is at the heart of masterful filmmaking since it became an artform and I believe part of the reason we can be astounded today is that tech and industrial reliance on efficiency has made it easier to tell a story without crafting one. And I'm not relegating his achievement when I say he's doing the job. Rather that a greater margin of directors propel his talent forward when they hardly can. I believe it helps to appreciate really great directors as obsessive with the rest longing to earn that right. That last comment, likely the most telling, says it all. He knows you want to watch, he knows you need to know and he's going to play with you. That's a pretty cool place to be.

February 23, 2015 at 1:35AM

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I like this analysis. It's a good study!

February 23, 2015 at 8:16AM

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Ronak Kamat
Writer, Filmmaker, Photographer, Film reviewer
81