Netflix’s Mank is leading the 2021 Oscar hunt with 10 nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, so some backstory on the production of Mank may be of interest. Adobe recorded a panel discussion with editor Kirk Baxter, first assistant editor Ben Insler, and assistant editor Jennifer Chung to discuss their remote workflow with Premiere Pro and After Effects and some creative choices they made alongside director David Fincher.
You can view the full panel discussion on YouTube at A Conversation with the Editors of David Fincher’s Motion Picture MANK.
For years, Fincher and his team has worked to bring more and more of the post production in-house, and expanding integrated feature sets has allowed faster adjustments and feedback as the team moved from Avid to Final Cut Pro to Premiere Pro and After Effects. The panel discussion video is on the general side, but contains interesting highlights, as does a good short article on Adobe’s website, Netflix feature film Mank takes editorial workflows to a new level. Here’s a couple of teasers from both sources:
“Productions took efficiency to a new level for the team. The Productions panel acted as a hub for managing multi-project workflows. Rather than having to navigate to different folders, all Premiere Pro project files were saved to a single Production folder. The team divided the complex workflow into manageable projects, and each team member could see what others were working on. Assets were easily shared between projects within the Production, with changes synced and reflected in the Production folder.”
[The “Fincherized” Chung adds:] “One of the things that gives us the flexibility and efficiency within visual effects is using Dynamic Link [between Premiere Pro and After Effects] and that’s a huge part of our workflow because of the volume of the temp work that we’re doing. That allows us to seamlessly go into After Effects and do whatever work we need to do, whether that’s splits or stabilization or rotoscoping or removing any equipment, and then we can jump right back into Premiere and render that and have that in the timeline.”
The discussions hosted by Adobe can be buttressed with two meaty expert interviews here on ProVideo Coalition, ART OF THE CUT with Kirk Baxter, ACE on editing Fincher’s “Mank” by Steve Hullfish and Art Of The Cut Podcast Eps. 77 (“Mank” First Assistant Editor Ben Insler) by Steve Hullfish for Filmtools.
Fincher and his teams have been at this awhile, and some techniques used in previous movies are assumed to be known in the Mank interviews, but aren’t necessarily, for example the routine use of hundreds of split-screen comps in After Effects and Premiere Pro. Here’s Ben Gill from 2015 in Invisible Split-Screen Tutorial (The David Fincher Technique) to explain:
You can find additional details behind Fincher’s “invisible visual effects” especially from outside artists in‘Mank’ Vfx: ‘Body-And-Fender’ Work And So Much More by Ian Failes. Typical effects from the movie can be seen in a Mank VFX Breakdown from Artemple, below:
Are you familiar with the parable of the organ grinder’s monkey? 😀
Mank is a retelling of the life of screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz and the creation of Citizen Kane. There’s long been controversy over historical details and authorship of the script. Ben Mankiewicz, grandson of the main character, spoke to director Fincher for CBS News several months ago, but the segment was short. Viewers will likely have questions over why the Fincher chose to present the picture in various black & white stylizations despite fantastic colors seen in set pictures and clips. Other questions over the meanings of scenes, characters, historical detail, and authorship of Citizen Kane might leave you in the Playland hall of mirrors of The Lady from Shanghai, rather than a flashback to Citizen Kane.
Three videos, all shown below, explain background well: Mank | Why David Fincher Embraced Old Hollywood Artifice from The Discarded Image, the controversy behind David Fincher’s MANK by Andrew Saladino, and Everything You Need to Know About Mank from Be Kind Rewind. At the least they’ll provide a context akin to the fuzzy grays of Mank itself.