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Why is David Fincher a Genius? — Directing Styles Explained

Do you recognize a filmmakerswork from a single frame? [Gunshot sounds] What makes this shot, so iconic? Today, we're going to look at theformal techniques and directing style of David Fincher movies.

My philosophy isshot seven takes.


Now let's start.

It takes, titanium andaluminum and steel and glass that you do one thing, impart feeling to everyone in theaudience at the exact same time, and that's the magic of cinema.

And how those techniquesused in combination, creates such memorableand striking films.

[Intro Music: “David Fincher Movies”] Before we get started, make sure you subscribeto our channel and click the bell formore filmmaking techniques.

Let's get into it.

David Fincher movies dealwith dark subject matter and this video containsexamples of graphic content.

You've been warned.

Fincher goes out of his way toprovide an immersive experience, and he builds his worldsone detail at a time.

We're going to show youseven key areas of focus, so that you can see, how every little decisionmakes up the entire picture.

Let's break down Fincher'scinematic language.

“The first rule of Fight Club is:You do not talk about Fight Club.

” First, let's talk about — Story.

Fincher`s power is deception.

But how deep doesthis deception go? And what effect does thishave on the audience? Our narrator in Fight Club isso successful at deception, he's deceivedhimself completely.

-Say it.

-Because we're the same person.

-That's right.

In House of Cards, are we objective spectators toFrank Underwood rise to power, or are we also susceptibleto his manipulation? I chose money over power.

In this town a mistakenearly everyone makes.

Money is the McMansion in Sarasota thatstarts falling apart after 10 years.

Power is the old stone buildingthat stands for centuries.

I can not respect someone whodoesn't see the difference.

Gone Girl is the ultimateexample of “he said she said.

” The ocean of lies and deceptionis impossible to navigate.

For Fincher, there is absolutelya dark side to humanity and sometimes thatdarkness wins.

“If you kill him.

He will win.

” Next, let's talk aboutProduction Design.

Production design is allabout the look of a film and there are few better-lookingfilms than Fincher`s.

[Music] The locations, wardrobe, props, his attention to detail isrumored to border on obsessive.

For example, Fight Club tells the story of a manunsatisfied with the life he's living.

And the seduction ofa very different life where rules andexpectations disappear.

Fincher presents these contrastingworld views within the sets.

Witness the lifeless monotonyof the narrator's home and his workspace.

Then our hero meets.



-Tyler Durden -the antidote to his misery.

Tyler has transcendedthe prison of conformity and embraced purepersonal freedom.

-Fuck off with you.

Sophie units and stringgreen stripe patterns.

I say, stop being perfect.

And this lawlessness isembodied in Tyler's decrepit and discarded houseon Paper Street.

It's a rotting place, with walls shedding their skins and leaking ceilingsgripping rusty water.

This is the furthest thing from the Ikea model home thatnarrator thought he wanted.

And it is the perfect birthplacefor the new man he will become.

Remember, that a character isdefined by their environment.

Fincher and his art departmentare meticulous about it.

Next — Color.

David Fincher is nota colorful director.

Locations are typically colorgraded to a uniform shade, either Green, Blue or Red.

But without question, Fincher`s favoritecolor is yellow.

There are dozens of instances when he tints aninterior nighttime scene with yellow light.

This is so consistent, in fact, that when Fincher doesinclude a contrasting color, it stands out that much more.

It means something.

Let`s look at thisscene from “Gone Girl.

” -Because you know, my wife disappeared from our home on themorning of July 5th.

-Notice, how color can drawour eyes and our attention.

All eyes are on Nick.

Amy's parents are bothin brown a neutral tones as is the background.

Amy's parents representa united front, dedicated fightingtheir daughter.

Nick's blue shirt standsout like a sore thumb, and the suspicionaround him is instant.

-If anyone out therehas any information, please come forward.

Thank you.

-Nick is not visually connectedto them or their cause.

He is alone, and remains the primary suspect.

If you're interested inapplying color theory, like Fincher does toyour own projects, check the descriptionfor a free ebook that provides film color palettesfrom some of your favorite films.

Let's move on.


[Music] Fincher accomplishes a lot ofstorytelling with his camera.

A rack focus to capture acharacter's realisation.

-Mark! -He turns to live-actionplay out in wide frames, cutting to inserts andclose-ups, only when necessary.

Fincher doesn't movethe camera very often, but when he does thereis always a purpose.

A tiny pan here, and ever so slight tilt there.

It is all about identifyingwith the character.

If they move, we move.

What is mastery of thecamera goes a step further.

How does Fincher move the camera tosuggest a character's mental state? In “Panic Room”, we have two shots that illustrate a very specificmental state – claustrophobia.

In these early scenes, Meg is taking atour of a new house.

-We like to call it a”town stone” built-in 1879.

-When the realtor showsMeg the Panic Room.

-It's called a Panic Room.

-And closes the door.

It is here that we learn aboutMeg`s fear of compact spaces.

The camera pans around her whilezooming in, compressing space.

You could feel the air beingsucked out of the room.

-Oh my god.

Old Sydneydidn`t miss a trick, did he? -Open it, please.

-And with kids like he's apparently got, no wonder he wanted a place to hide.

-Please open the door.

-That is highly inappropriate.

-Open the door, please.

-We get a reversal of this shotat the very end of the film.

Now that Megan haddaughter have survived their harrowing home invasion.

They are free of the PanicRoom, and the house altogether.

The camera executes a dolly zoom by pushing forwardwhile zooming out.

The character staythe same size, but the world aroundthem opens up.

All of the tension andclaustrophobia is now released.

It breathes.

The effect is subtle, but meaningful.

Fincher often uses cameramovements to align us with his charactersinternal states.

His camera movementstend to be a subtle, or as grand as hischaracters behavior.

Next, let's talk about Editing.

Fincher edits withthe audience in mind.

If the characternotices something, we see what they see.

When a character makesconnections in their head, we are able to followtheir train of thought through purposeful shotcomposition and editing.

Here is a great example ofhow to construct a scene using a combination offraming, blocking and editing.

Arthur Leу Allen is suspectedto be the Zodiac Killer when he is brought to aroom to answer questions.

This scene is all about thedetective's suspicions of Allen.

He is the focus.

We begin with a POV shot of what Alan seeswalking into the room.


Allen, I'm inspector Bill Armstrong, it`s inspector Dave Toski and Sergeant Jack Mulanax.

We're investigating the Zodiacmurders in San Francisco in Vallejo.

-When the men sit, they are positioned purposefully creating two opposing sides here and here.

-Have you ever read or heardanything about the Zodiac? -When it was first in paper, but I didn't follow thatto those first reports.

-The scene is edited throughvarious perspectives.

-I told all this tothe other officer.

-Which other officer? -Depending on who is talking and who is listening.

-I told him that I'd goneto Salt Point that weekend.

-When Allen crosses his legs, we cut to a low angle shot in the same frame we can see detectiveMulanax notice the boot.

We know what kind ofboots the Zodiac wears and when he notices the boot, we notice the boot.

A similar moment happenswhen detective Taski notices Allen's zodiac watch.

We have a close-up of Task`sattention being drawn to Alan's wrist.

Followed immediately by aPOV insert of the watch.

Again, we see these moments through the eyes of a detective.

It engages our imagination and we become the detectives.

-I guess, I was there around that time.

I used to go down there a lot.

-We are given a quicklypaced series of shots.

This creates a controlledlogical momentum that keeps the audience engaged and propels the story forward.

We've created a breakdown, shot-by-shot, spec by spec.

The link is in the description.

Moving on.


This is an area where David Finchertypically has a light touch.

Beyond the necessary sounds, like a door closing or someone walking.

David Fincher chooses more expressivesound design moments carefully.

A great example, is this scene from “Panic Room.

” -Go.

-As Make makes a daring attempt to retrieve her cell phone whilethe intruders are distracted, the entire momentis tensely drawn out with abstract anddelayed droning sounds.

[Abstract sounds] In “Fight Club, ” when the narratorfirst encounters Marla Singer, a presence in hisworld is disruptive.

As he tries tolisten to the group, the narrator hears a loud click.

When her lighter catches flame, we hear an exaggeratedsound effect, almost like a flamethrower.

Marla has become a threatto the narrator's world.

She is an invader.

And we hear this throughthe sound design.

Perhaps Fincher's best and mostexpressive use of sound design can be found in “Gone Girl.

” When Amy and Desiare making love, make sure the youngones are out of the room because the scene gets messy.

We begin to hear aslow rhythmic pulse.

The sound and image combinationmimics this experience.

Each parts likea bleeding heart.

And when the bleeding slows, the sound slows with it.

Fincher uses soundto creatively align with a character's experience.

If you want to use sounddesign like David Fincher, keep these strategies in mind.

Our final stop.

Let us take a listen toDavid Fincher`s Music.

Music is yet another element thatFincher uses with great purpose.

Their inclusion is eitherthematic or ironic.

For irony, we have the hauntingsubversion of Donovan's “Hurdy Gurdy Man” in “Zodiac.

” -Man, you really creeped us out.

[Donovan – Hurdy Gurdy Man] Or Enya`s peaceful andinnocent “Orinoco Flow” during a torture scene.

[Enya – Orinoco Flow] But he also likes toselect songs with lyrics that echo thethemes of his films.

[Pixies – Where is My Mind?] But let's look at a scene that uses music to suggestcharacter setting and theme.

The Henley Royal Regattain “The Social Network.

” This sequence standsout in Fincher`s work because it is craftedcompletely around the music.

In this case, we have a rendition of “Inthe Hall of the Mountain King” by Edvard Grieg.

The music is a classicalpiece written in 1875, and matches the rich traditionof the regatta itself, which has beenrunning since 1839.

But this scene takesplace in the mid-2000s, and our story involvesthe tech world.

The composer's – TrentReznor and Atticus Ross took the classical, and recreated it with a mix ofacoustic and electronic instruments.

[Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross -In the Hall of the Mountain King] It is a clash of old and new, classical and modern.

The purpose is to conveythe Winklevoss twins upper-class pedigree, and their competitivepersonalities.

But the Winklevosstwins lose their race.

Just like they are losingtheir battle with Zuckerberg.

[Music] David Fincher is in completecommand of his medium.

“Cut it.

Moving on.



” -He understands how techniques, like a moving camera and editing can engage an audience on an emotional andintellectual level.

There are many lessonsto learn from Fincher, and what we've touchedupon here in this video is just the beginning.

Are you inspiredby David Fincher movies? Do you want to continue yourexploration of his techniques? The studio behind a blog, offers numerous articles and videos about filmmaking, and voters like Fincher.

Click the bell icon tosubscribe to our channel and stay up-to-datewith videos like these.

Which filmmakershould we cover next? Share your suggestionsin the comments.

It's important to takeyour filmmaking seriously, just don't take itas far as John Doe.

“What I've done is goingto be puzzled over, and studied and followed forever.

” “Yeah.

Delusions of grandeur.

” “You should be thanking me.

” “Why is that, John?” “Because you're going tobe remembered after this.


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