David Fincher movies are precious gems that are evocative of a slow-burn style. A director who chooses everything carefully, rehearses incessantly, and always gets what he wants. There are lots of incredible lessons we can learn from Fincher, but today I want to focus on the ones he talked about while making Gone Girl.
Gone Girl was a book that lit the town on fire upon its initial publish. When Fincher boarded to direct, everyone went nuts for the IP again. He took lots of chances in the movie, got creative with his casting, and ultimately delivered something that was mean, sweet, and super dark -- even for him.
So let's dig into the movie, the man, and his methods.
Check out this video from The Director's Cut and let's talk more after the jump!
1. Directors don't make pictures, they make things that deliver emotional hits
Fincher doesn't think about making movies, he thinks about eliciting emotions from people.
I think this is great advice, mostly because people's butts hit movie theater seats because they want to be transported. Our movies need to always take the audience and their experience into account. We want them asking for more, being curious about the ride, and unsure where it's going.
Every scene needs to have intention behind it. What will the audience get out of this? Is there another layer?
What will these reveals or exposition get us?
Is there a better way to deliver it? To make us care?
2. Definitively say "Here's what we're going to do..."
Directors are hired to be in charge of multimillion-dollar investments. They have to be the voice of reason, the commander in chief, and the fearless leader. That means spending time with prep, in walkthroughs, and location scouts. Fincher espouses the importance of prep.
You have to be the authority on everything on your set. Where is the light coming from? Where are the actors moving? How is the camera set and where do we find our marks?
They also have to know how much time is allotted and which takes they liked. They also have to keep track of the notes everyone gets so they can hopefully get exactly what they want and need to enable their vision for the story.
More than all of this, you want thew crew and cast to feel comfortable.
And you want the studio to keep giving you more work.
3. Know everything about your characters, make sure the actors are willing to go there
When Fincher was casting the film, everyone wanted a part.
He had to make sure people like star Ben Affleck were up to the task. It wasn't about talent, it was about the trust to let Fincher take both himself and his cast to places neither have been to before in their careers. To let him Affleck and his character be the butt of jokes, to be in the dark, and to look stupid at times.
The same goes for the role performed by Rosamund Pike. Was she ready to be evil? To be convincing at it?
To be scary? To be a murderer?
In the video, Pike talks about Fincher's process and her desire to prove it over and over. To go places other directors never let her go.
Film is collaborative, and Fincher spent time picking the right people who fit his vision and his plan. And that would put up with all the takes he wanted.
4. It's okay to do a ton of takes
Come on, you know the Fincher legends. Doing takes in the twenties, thirties, and forties (if not more). But there's a true method to that madness. He wants to rev people up. To get them feeling natural in the scene and not worry about what their next line is going to be. Fincher is okay with a ton of takes because he's shooting digital and he preps so much that he need only make small adjustments as he goes.
He also allocates more shooting days to cover his butt.
While more days means more money, there's wisdom in making sure you get what you want. Fincher wants all this to add up to something special and unique. Take your time and let the scene come to you. If you've picked the right actors and process, then the payoff is grand.
What's next? 4 Directing Tips from Denis Villeneuve on Arrival!
Arrival is a visual and storytelling masterpiece about how humanity finds itself through an encounter with aliens. So how did Villeneuve do it?
Click the link to learn more.