Wednesday, 12 November 2014

David Fincher on the art of being a conductor

These comments come from the DVD release of The Game, David Fincher's third feature film. He explains how he conceives the actor/director relationship and why, even though he respects actors, it is his job to say ‘no’ when their take on a scene won’t help the story move forward.


1 comment:

Kathy Smart said...

David Fincher considers his responsibility as director is to place your eyes in the best place. Usually there is one good place and one okay place.

He starts from third party omniscient place, where he can begin and show you what’s going on, and then works on always following the main actor. Filmmaking is not like strapping a steadycam onto an actor and pointing it at their face and following them through a movie. It’s not just the performance, it’s the psychology of the cinematic moment and the presentation of that. The director is taking your eye and placing it. Where is that window? What does the audience need to know? How does that fit into the style? His movie The Game was designed for actors to state their case.

He says he’s fairly rigid about how he tells the story. He has great respect for actors, they are incredible behavioural tools for storytelling. But actors are not the story. Characters are not the story. Characters are in the story. There are other things in addition to the characters. A director should be able to do a scene even if he has to do it with a different actor.

Where is the story? Where is the moment? Mr Fincher underlines in the text the moment where we see the character’s motivation.

Know the technology and its effects and why you are using them. Know what lenses to use in the medium shots to show the proper distance and put the characters on the edge of the frame.
For The Game, Mr Fincher used 3 sizes of lens, a wide over and a tight over in the tight scene
*75mm lens for close up
*40mm to get sliver of the other person and much more on the eyeline
*27mm to film the whole room

Shoot multiple takes in wide to allow actors to provide their unique interpretation of the character. Agree with the actors in advance what their character will do, don’t leave this open. You can’t tell the story over the actor’s shoulder. The actor is necessary to help the director tell the story. However the director is telling the story. The actor must do what the director asks him to.

It is great to work with an actor like Michael Douglas who sees the overview and does not get bogged down in minutiae like a director sometimes does and provides an inspired interpretation of character.