Influences: Directors….

Posted: December 19, 2010 in Media

When it comes down to naming directors who’ve made an impact on me in my work, there are quite a few…but I managed to narrow in down in terms of my work and which director I though influenced me the most in this area.For me it was David Fincher- creator of brilliant and shocking thrillers such as ‘Se7en’ and more recently, ‘The Social Network’… so in this post I’m going to do the following:

Give a bit of background information about Fincher, like his background, career, filmography etc…

Afterwards I’ll point out some of the most notable films Fincher has directed and explain why I picked them as the most influential

Explain his ‘trademarks’ and what they mean to me

Explore quotes and interviews from Fincher himself and explore what they mean to me personally

And finally, why a brief response in how/why I find Fincher so influential to me in my work.

David Fincher

Full Name: David Leo Fincher

D.O.B: 28th August 1962

Birth place: Denver, Colorado, USA

Background: Fincher began making movies at the young age of just eight years. He avoided the film school route by getting a practical job loading cameras and doing other hands-on work for John Korty’s ‘Korty Films’. Later on though, in the 1980s, he was hired by ‘Industrial Light & Magic’ where he worked on various productions for major films such as ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Indiana Jones’.  In 1984, Fincher left the establishment to direct an advert for the ‘American Cancer Society’– the striking images he used in this advert proved to spark off his career as an influential film director as this quickly brought Fincher to the attention of producers in Los Angeles. Here he was given the chance to direct a documentary entitled ‘The Beat of the Live Drum’ which featured Rick Springfield (1985). Despite this kind of ‘break-through’ Fincher still continued to direct adverts for big and successful companies such as  Converse, Nike, Pepsi, Sony, and Levi’s (which overall gained him an award for ‘Outstanding directial achievement in Commercials’).

(Above you can see an advert Fincher directed for the well-known clothing brand ‘Levi’ and even though it is just a short advert I think it expresses Fincher’s style rather well- such as the shots constantly back and forth from the pack of dogs, to the person being chased, which done quickly not only gives the audience a better idea of what is happening but adds to the tension of the advert. Thus this makes the viewers want to see what is really going on and therefore grabs their full attention, which is what succesful adverts are really supposed to do. It also kind of reminded me of the chase between Detective Mills, Somerset and the killer, John Doe in Fincher’s film ‘Se7en’)

From this Fincher soon discovered music videos and went on to direct many of them for very successful and well-known pop stars such as Madonna, The Rolling Stones, George Michael, Sting and Michael Jackson. More recently he has found world-wide fame in his film directing skills, especially with ‘Se7en’ (1995) ‘Fight Club’ (1999) and most recently ‘The Social Network’ (2010).

His most notable films

Se7en (1995)

Brief synopsis on the film:

Stars: Morgan Freeman (Detective William Somerset), Kevin Spacey (John Doe) & Brad Pitt (Detective David Mills).

Genre: Crime/thriller/drama

Summary: Two detectives, one new, the other retiring, are drawn into the plan of a criminal mastermind who bases his murders on the seven deadly sins.

Trivia: Originally the producers of the film intended that Kevin Spacey should receive top billing at the start of the film, but he insisted that his name not appear in the opening credits, so as to surprise the audience with the identity of the killer. To compensate for this, he is listed twice in the closing credits: once before the credits start rolling, and once in the rolling credits in cast- order of appearance. Another advantage from Spacey’s point of view, as he saw it, was that he was excluded from the film’s marketing during its release, meaning he didn’t have to make any public appearances or do any interviews as nobody knew he was starring in it.

All of John Doe’s diaries and notes were in fact real, written entirely for the film. They took two months to complete and cost $15,000.

It is raining every day in the film except for the last day.

An interesting idea that John Doe only kills one of the sinners himself, and even that one is by accident (kicking Gluttony to wake him up, which makes his stomach burst). All of his other victims either kill themselves (Greed & Pride) or are killed by other people (Lust & Envy) or survive (Sloth & Wrath). The only murder John Doe actually commits intentionally by his own hand is Tracy Mills. (this links to Jack in my film, who does not kill his victims but rather drives them to su*cide)

Fight Club-1999

Brief Synopsis on the film:

Stars: Brad Pitt (Tyler Durden), Edward Norton (Narrator) & Helena Bonham Carter (Marla Singer)

Genre: Thriller/drama/mystery

Summary: The narrator is sick of his life- he has insomnia, he is addicted to buying stuff he doesn’t want/need, hates his job and generally gets no enjoyment out of his life. And then his life is changed totally when he meets the eccentric Tyler Durden, a character who could not be more of a complete opposite when compared to him if he tried….

Trivia: The film’s title sequence is from the fear center of The Narrator’s brain, and is supposed to represent the thought processes initiated by The Narrator’s fear impulse.

The cave scene early in the film where The Narrator meets a penguin  intended by Fincher as a ‘warning’ to the audience as to how surreal the film was going to become.

Tyler appears in the film five times before we clearly see him on the moving walkway at the airport. In the first four appearances, he flashes on-screen for a single frame (1/24 of a second) and only when the Narrator has insomnia: – at the photocopier at work; – in the corridor outside the doctor’s office, – at that support group’s meeting; – as the Narrator sees Marla leaving a meeting but doesn’t follow her. He can also be seen as a waiter in the presentation video of the hotel (he is the furthest waiter on the right).

When the narrator gets on the bus with Tyler, he only pays the fare for one person.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button-2008

Brief Synopsis on the film:

Stars: Brad Pitt (Benjamin Button) & Cate Blanchett (Daisy)

Genre: Mystery/ Drama /Fantasy

Summary: The strange tale of man who ages backwards- beginning life as an elderly man and ending it as a child…

Trivia: Fincher’s first PG-13 rated film.

The hummingbird is the only bird in the world that can fly backwards. Hurricanes spin counter-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. These, among other ‘backward’ motifs involving clocks and so on, tie in with the major thematic elements related to Benjamin Button living life in reverse.

The short story was based on a remark by author Mark Twain. Twain famously remarked that ‘the best part of life was from the beginning and the worst part was the end’.

The one that influenced me the most…

Se7en

Basic Summary: Made 1995, this magnificent yet harrowing thriller stars Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt as detectives William Somerset and David Mills who are caught up in a complex game set up by a serial killer, played by Kevin Spacey, who is obsessed by the seven deadly sins.

Equilibrium: The film opens by introducing Somerset, one of the protagonists (if not the protagonist) of the film,  and reveals his time as a detective to nearly be up. He’s retiring, only to be replaced by new and fresh-faced detective David Mills. The pair, overall, don’t really get along. Somerset is sensitive, patient, experienced and very intelligent. But Mills is more straight-forward, cocky, confident and energetic, and it is this clash of personalities and outlooks on life that means the two characters, despite being on the same side, rarely see eye to eye to begin with.

My thoughts: Overall this is a sub plot that makes the film very interesting as the audience sees two very different people, Somerset and Mills, go on a journey together and their relationship does develop over the course of the film and due to various obstacles and problems each character comes across. This allows the audience from the start, go on a journey with each protagonist and thus, by the end of the film, they will be connected to each of them. I have attempted to do this in my own work through the characters of Alice and Jack: two very different characters but in the trailer I’m going to hint to the fact that in the film they will perhaps alter due to their relationship with each other and the problems they face (such as Alice starting out as very naive and quite ignorant and by the end of the film, develops into an intelligent and level-headed character who sees the world as it really is because of Jack’s tendency to see the harsh realities of the world). 

Disruption of the equilibrium: But more stressing matters than this little upset begin to unravel- starting with the murder of a morbidly obese man who was apparently forced to eat himself to death. While Somerset thinks there is more at hand here, others dismiss it as a simple hate crime. After doing some research and another body of a victim is found, this time of a hot-shot lawyer (with the word ‘greed’ written on the floor of the crime scene) Somerset cleverly explains that these murders are linked (as on closer inspection he found the word ‘gluttony’ scratched on the wall behind the fridge of the first victim’s house) and that they can expect five more murders.

My thoughts: I like this set-up because the audience begins to really connect with Somerset, as he clearly feels that there is something different about these crimes and we can feel, somehow, that he is right. He just has to prove it. So when he goes back to the crime scene to try and prove his accusations it shows him having a personal battle with all of the other characters: and the audience connect to him further because they sympathize with him due to the fact that no one will believe him or his assumptions. To an extent this would be similar in my trailer as I want to hint to the fact that Alice, being quite intelligent, is the first to suspect that Kitty’s su*cide was actually murder. And like Somerset, I want the audience to sympathize with her as she appears to be right but when she voices her assumptions to others of a higher power, they ignore her. So like Somerset, she goes to Kitty’s house (the crime scene) and tries to find more evidence for herself and figure out what really happened to her.

More problems/attempts to restore equilibrium: Distancing himself from the crimes, Somerset hands this all over to Mills, who struggles to understand the mind of this killer and his motives. Feeling he should help, Somerset gives Mills plenty of sources to read from so as to get into the criminals mind (like religious references about hell, heaven, the seven deadly sins, the virtues etc) but Mills finds this difficult to understand no matter how hard he tries. Realising Mills needs his help Somerset helps him go to the greed victim’s wife, who looks at photos of the crime scenes and reveals one of the paintings in her husband’s office is upside down. The pair examine this, and Mills almost looks past it, claiming the killer is messing with them, but Somerset cleverly discovers that there are fingerprints underneath the picture, planted by the killer spelling out ‘Help me’. (Which can be viewed below…)

My thoughts: Well Alice appears similar to Somerset as despite all of the odds set against her, she doesn’t give up and carries on in her journey to discover or prove who the killer is. I also think this scene is interesting as it is obvious that the killer is very clever: and he enjoys having the police and the heroes of the film, in his absolute control (everything that happens happens because John Doe planned it that way and to an extent this occurs all the way through the film). My killer though, is quite different to this as he is not playing or leading the heroes of the film in his plan like John Does is (which is why he plants the fingerprints behind the painting and gives deliberate clues to lead them to the next victim) but Jack gets rather irritated by Alice and her suspicions of him and tries to get rid of her several times (which I may include in the trailer to try and mislead audiences in thinking she is a victim when in truth, she is the hero of the film). 

More problems/attempts to restore equilibrium:  After running through the fingerprints, the police find a match and the SWAT team, with Somerset and Mills, go off quickly to the address. While most believe this is where they’ll find their killer, Somerset wisely comments that he feels a killer who is as clever and exacting as this one clearly is, would never give away his fingerprints and lead them directly to him if it were not for a purpose. Indeed Somerset is right as this leads them to another Victim’s house, this time the Sloth victim. A man tied to a bed for a year, his hand cut off to plant the fingerprints at the greed victim’s office. The man is alive, but later it is revealed that he will not last long and has since bitten off his own tongue.

My thoughts: Overall this links to me as I have a killer which is similar to John Doe in his methods (though I have to say, my killer’s methods aren’t as extreme or shocking) in the fact they both kill their victims in very cruel and personal ways. John Doe takes whatever sin the victim is most guilty of and turns it against them so it ends their life. Jack does something similar to this, as he picks out the youth club owners and taunts them with his knowledge of their weaknesses and what they each did to him personally (such as Kitty used to bribe Jack to do things by promising she’d be his ‘best friend’ in return for the things he did for her. So I was thinking, in my trailer, to include messages hidden around Kitty’s house saying ‘I’ll be your best friend’ which the audience won’t know the meaning of, but will know they are important as they scare Kitty and drive her to take her own life).

More problems/attempts to restore equilibrium: Later, Somerset has a meeting with Mills’ wife, a distraught  Tracy, in private, who reveals she is pregnant. After Somerset gives her some advice,  we’re left unsure of what she’ll do with the child and whether she will tell David about it. After a brain wave, Somerset uses somewhat illegal methods to get the addresses of people who have taken out certain books from the library that he feels the killer would use to get the research he would need to carry out murders such as those we have already witnessed. Although Mills doesn’t like this idea, it is their only chance of catching him and it leads them both to a flat. After knocking on the door a figure approaches them in the hallway. Suddenly the figure starts to shoot at them and at this point it is obvious that they have found the right place. The killer runs off and Somerset/Mills are fast on his heels, and so a glorious yet tense chase scene breaks out. Although the killer does get away, he does make the decision not to kill Mills although he has the opportunity to…(the great chase scene can be viewed below)

My thoughts: I think this is where the pair of heroes really begin to get somewhere and realise the serious nature of what they have been led into. Although they’re using methods which are looked down upon, they’re determined to do whatever it takes to catch the killer, which is what a true hero would do. My protagonist, Alice, is similar in this way as she, if I were to make my film, regularly takes risks (especially of her own life) to try and catch the killer she thinks is targeting her friends who run the youth club. Like Somerset/Mills she does also come into contact with the killer through this unstoppable determination to defeat them, and very similar to how John Doe could have chosen to kill Mills but didn’t, a similar thing was planned in the plot for my own film, where Jack knocks out Alice on his way to get rid of Pete. He would see her, knocked out and go to shoot her in fear that she’ll turn him into the police. But he hesitates, and decides against it for an untold reason, which, like in ‘Se7en’ leaves the audience tense in the wonder of why the killer is showing apparent empathy for someone they would have before, just killed without a second thought.

More problems/attempts to restore equilibrium: Mills breaks into the killer’s flat quite ignorantly since there is no evidence to suggest they should suspect the owner of it. Despite this they gain access to all of the killers weapons, get more information on his motives and more importantly, information and hints to his identity. After getting a phone call from the killer, he explains that he ‘admires them’ for managing to find him and apologizes for hurting Mills, he then hangs up. After finding a photo of what the pair believe to be a prostit*te in the killer’s flat as well as receipt for a strange yet lethal device, they predict the next victim will be that of lust. Later they get a call and it is revealed that the killer forced a man at gunpoint to r*pe the prostit*te with the device, thus killing her and scarring him for life.

My thoughts: In any film, there needs to be a point where everything is seeming to start to fall apart for our protagonists. And for Mills/Somerset, I think it is from the point where they break into Doe’s flat. After this there is an immense amount of problems and struggles occurring for them- such the fact they are too late to save the lust victim and do not know where the killer will strike next. This gets the audience sympathizing with the protagonists as they are trying their best but getting nowhere. This would be apparent in my own film as in my plot I planned for Alice to get frustrated as Dom appears to have committed su*cude too, but she cannot prove anything. She almost catches Jack red-handed, but loses him and has no evidence to prove he’s the killer. After approaching his house and trying to break in and save Ray, Jack threatens her to keep away from his house or he’ll kill her. This threat scares Alice and it is at this point the audience is supposed to sympathize with her as like Mills/Somerset she is trying her best to restore the equilibrium, but is getting nowhere.

More problems/attempts to restore equilibrium: The pair then get a call revealing that the pride victim has been found. A female model had her face slashed and her nose cut off, and then was given two choices by the killer: she had a phone glued to one hand, so she could call the emergency services and live, but live forever disfigured. A bottle of sleeping pills was then glued to her other hand, giving her the option of killing herself and not having to go through the pain. The victim chose death. Somerset reveals he is going to stay to help Mills as everything is getting out of hand. John Doe arrives in the station covered in blood. He screams for their attention and simply hands himself in. The protagonists’ appear to have the restoration of the equilibrium in their sights at last. (The pride victim and John Doe’s brilliant and actually first real scene in the film can be viewed below)



My thoughts: I think this part is very sinister as it confuses the audience in a dark way- as it appears, on the outside, that our notorious killer has revealed himself at last to us, and the protagonists’ of the film. He throws his hands in the air (which ironically are covered in blood) and surrenders, totally at ease. Although it may first appear that our protagonists’ have won as they have the killer in their custody, the way Doe surrenders so easily leaves the audience wondering about whether he has something else in store for them, or if this is all part of his plan…either way they can tell this is certainly not the end. I’d want to do something similar to this in my film: have a point where Jack has realised he is not going to get rid of Alice and hasn’t got the strength or evil in him to kill her. So when she breaks in and he takes her hostage, he takes this opportunity to admit she was right and reveals all of the horrible things he did– that he was guilty of the crimes she accused him of. But he doesn’t say why. Afterwards he unties her and tells her to check on Ray, and then leaves, but locks her inside. She is confused about this and decides to get Ray out before she goes to the police. It is here that she finds Ray’s bedroom empty and fearing the worst, runs after Jack to find out what he has done to the boy…(which is similar to John’s surrender as Jack is appearing to plead guilty but in a quite sinister and mysterious way…) 

More problems/attempts to restore equilibrium: John Doe is in custody, but Somerset knows he must have only turned himself in because he wanted and intended to all along. It’s part of his plan. For once Mills agrees with him. Doe’s lawyer reveals there are apparently two more bodies of victims he previously hid up, and Doe will only reveal where they are if Somerset and Mills (and only them)accompany him to the location. In return Doe will plead guilty to all charges held against him. If they refuse his wishes he’ll plead insanity. Unable to refuse, Mills and Somerset go along with him. In the car the pair talk to John about his ‘work’, his victims and his motives for killing them. It is here that the audience begin to really somehow understand why John did what he did….which is strange for such an evil character (the iconic car scene can be viewed below).

My thoughts: Now I think this (especially the scene in the car) is the most compelling and brilliant part of the film. Where the protagonist’s get to learn exactly why John did what he did from the man himself. And his explanation, that the victims were not ‘innocent’ people at all, and his descriptions of the motives he had for killing each one of them let the protagonist’s and the audience realise that to some extent, John did have some good reasons for what he did…it just depends on which way you look at it, but personally I can’t help agreeing with him on some points he makes:

 ‘ Innocent? Is that supposed to be funny? An obese man… a disgusting man who could barely stand up; a man who if you saw him on the street, you’d point him out to your friends so that they could join you in mocking him; a man, who if you saw him while you were eating, you wouldn’t be able to finish your meal (Gluttony victim). After him, I picked the lawyer and I know you both must have been secretly thanking me for that one. This is a man who dedicated his life to making money by lying with every breath that he could muster to keeping murderers and r*pists on the streets! (Greed victim) …A woman… so ugly on the inside she couldn’t bear to go on living if she couldn’t be beautiful on the outside (Pride victim). A dr*g dealer, a dr*g dealing p*derast, actually! (Sloth victim) And let’s not forget the d*sease-spreading wh*re! (Lust victim) Only in a world this sh*tty could you even try to say these were innocent people and keep a straight face. But that’s the point. We see a deadly sin on every street corner, in every home, and we tolerate it. We tolerate it because it’s common, it’s trivial. We tolerate it morning, noon, and night. Well, not anymore. I’m setting the example.

And this, to an extent, is similar to in my own plot for my film, where I wanted Jack to finally reveal to Alice why he did what he did. Explains his past- says how the youth club owners took him in and treated him like a friend (like they were doing to Alice also) and then they turned on him, and did terrible, unspeakable things to him (messing with his mind, beating him, forcing him into dr*gs etc) things which he could not forget and therefore had to get revenge for. He also explains that Ray is him. Ray never existed. He’s a part of him that was stolen from him by the youth club owners– his innocence. His childhood self. So when he kills Pete finally he is in a way, killing Ray also, or saying goodbye to him (which is what the shot of two hands holding onto each other- a adult’s and a child’s- in the trailer signifies). The only difference with my reveal is that my protagonist, Alice, sympathizes with the killer and actually understands why he did what he did, whereas Mills and Somerset still view John as a criminal. Mills even ignorantly still dismissing him as a lunatic which will prove to lead to his downfall.

The climax of the film: John apparently will take Mills/Somerset to the location of the two bodies on foot. But as begins to walk and Mills/Somerset follow, a delivery van pulls up on the road. Leaving Mills in charge of keeping Doe where he is, Sommerset goes to see what is going on. Startled by Somerset’s reaction, the delivery man says he got paid a lot of money to deliver a package to this secluded spot at this exact time but it was ordered by an anon. person. Very wary, Somerset opens the package as Doe and Mills look on. Doe constantly tells Mills he ‘admires’ him, but Mills ignores him and tries to see what Somerset is doing. Somerset recoils in horror as he opens the box. Although we don’t know what is in it, there is blood on the lid of the box and Somerset quickly looks at Mills and Doe with a distraught/startled look. He tells the helicopters watching them from above to back off as John Doe apparently has the ‘upper hand’. He then runs to Mills, and shouts at him, warning him. Mills tries to listen to Somerset but is distracted by John, who starts talking about Mills’ wife, Tracy, and this catches Mills‘ attention. He reveals he paid Tracy a visit when Mills had left for work and tried to ‘play husband’, but this didn’t work out, so he took her ‘pretty head’ as a souvenir. Mills doesn’t believe it, but Somerset’s reactions to what was in the box reveal John’s words to be true. This reveals Envy to be John Doe’s sin. He then wishes for David to become Wrath, he taunts him endlessly as Somerset desperately tries to calm Mills down and get him to throw down his gun. Although Mills is understandably full of rage, Somerset reminds him that if he kills Doe, he will hence become the sin of Wrath and Doe’s series of Seven will be complete. He will win. But after hearing that Tracy was carrying his unborn child at the time of her death, David is pushed too far by Doe and shoots him multiple times in the head. The film ends with Mills being driven away in a police car– probably to prison or an asylum- and Somerset reveals he may not be retiring after all and he’ll ‘be around’. (The shocking climax of the film can be seen here…)

My thoughts: Well I think this big twist and ‘unhappy’ ending is one of the best aspects of the film. The way John manipulates the last two sins into revealing he is guilty of one himself (Envy) and then wishing him to be punished for this through David’s sin (Wrath) makes a more interesting ending than simply finding two bodies ever would be. In a way, my film is similar as it doesn’t have a happy ending (well not for Jack anyway, as he’s imprisoned) but is not as similar because the big twist in my film has already been revealed by this point and it is just a question of what will happen to Jack and Alice. And as if I were to make my film, Alice would watch Jack being dragged into the back of a police car, she is quite similar to Somerset, as she is free at the end of the film, and is not ignorant of the horrors of what go on in the world (though Somerset never really was ignorant of this) and now realises, due to the events in the film, the world can be a horrible place, but she has the duty to fight off this evil and protect the innocent (though this is more Somerset’s duty as he is an authority figure and more Alice’s sense of good/bad and how she should uphold these morals).

His Trademarks

 The following so-called ‘trademarks’ of Fincher’s directing skills are the following (mostly taken from www.IMDB.com) and I have also put in a bit about my own personal opinion and how his trademarks have influenced me and my work:

Trademark: 

His films are often said to feature several single frames that flash on the screen in the middle of a scene ( such as what is usually mistaken for subliminal messages in Fincher’s film ‘Fight Club’ – where Tyler Durden flashes onto the screen about four times in scenes before he’s even introduced within the film…most of these pictured below…).

Influential?:

Well I haven’t done this as such in my own filming yet and I wasn’t really planning on it either. The thing is I think this idea is brilliant– the flashes of Tyler Durden in ‘Fight Club’ get the audience questioning what is going on as well as adding a deeply mysterious tone to the film, which gets them interested in seeing more. It also, when the ending is revealed to us, shows how the narrator was beginning to conjure up the idea of Tyler in his mind, and he was steadily evolving another side of his personality, he just doesn’t know it yet. But I’m not making a film. I’m making a trailer for a film that exists only in my head. And although I love this technique of Fincher’s I don’t think it’d be relevant for my work personally. It’s something to consider doing as my character (Jack) is similar to the narrator in ‘Fight Club’ in that he does create another person in his mind that only he can see, but my idea is a little different as Jack knows the little boy (Ray) doesn’t exist whereas the narrator in ‘Fight Club’ only realises this in the final scenes…so I’m not sure if it’d work quite as well…

Trademark:

Uses what is refered to be a ‘fluid tracking camera’ which can access almost anywhere– a digital age innovation in camera movement pioneered by David Fincher and various other directors (thought to be inspired by the earlier developments of Max Ophuls and Stanley Kubrick). An example of this I think can be shown in the shot below, which is a POV shot from the narrator in ‘Fight Club’ watching his hand burn while it is held out in front of him by Tyler Durden.

Influential?:

 Well considering I don’t have this kind of technology in my hands, I’d say not so much. But I am trying, while filming, to get more imaginative and creative camera shots than just the usual shots audiences are given day in day out. I think this is not only a  good way to get audience’s interested but also breaks the boundaries a little bit for certain shot types/angles, which in the long run makes your work, obviously, stand out from all the rest.

Trademark:

Frequently has some of his characters (depending on their role in the film) in the shadows where you cannot make out their face.  This can be seen in his films ‘Se7en’ with the character of John Doe and ‘Fight Club’ with Tyler Durden. Both times used to conceal the character’s identity as this is one of the biggest twists in each film (both can be evidently seen below, though I argue it is more affective in the still from ‘Se7en’ which is on the left)

Influential?:

 I would say so yes. Like Fincher, one of the biggest twists in my film, or my film’s plot, is that Jack is revealed to be the one killing all the youth club owners. So while the audience sees and witnesses the youth club owners being pushed to su*cide by the killer, his identity is still concealed and left to be one of the biggest mysteries of the film  (similar to  John Doe’s identity in Fincher’s film ‘Se7en’). So if I was to show shots of Jack carrying out the killings without giving away his identity in the trailer, I’d do it similar to Fincher– where the audience can see a character is doing something bad or the killer is present in the scene, but the nature of the shot (whether it be extreme close up or unfocused or dark or whatever) means the audience is still left unsure of who he/she is. As I’m unsure of how to get a shot to ‘unfocus’ I have done this more in my trailer with the use of extreme close-ups.

Trademark:

His films are seen to often end in a su*cide, either attempted or successful. This links to another apparent trademark of Fincher to have ‘downbeat endings’.

Influential?: Yes, I think so. My film’s ending I think is mostly influenced by ‘Se7en’s ending, which I though was  very influential and undeniably iconic as well as shocking. It was the fact Fincher didn’t want a conventional ‘happy ending’ that really influenced me not to have such a nice ending for my own film. I wanted Jack to succeed in getting his revenge, and I wanted Alice to discover the truth about what Jack did/his motives, but I didn’t want it all to end nicely. So by having the youth club burnt to the ground, Jack arrested and both Jack/Alice nearly killed in the flames I thought this would be my way of showing how much Fincher’s choice of a ‘downbeat ending’, especially in ‘Se7en’, influenced me.  Fincher’s ideas of su*cide also influenced me as I thought it’s be interesting to reveal that the youth club owners do not, as Alice thinks, get murdered by Jack. But they kill themselves because of their own guilt of what they did to Jack when he was younger, as well as having Jack torture them and push them to it. Which I thought was a nice twist to add as simply murdering others to get revenge on them I thought was a little conventional after looking at other revenge/thrillers and how they deal with revenge.

Trademark:

 Noted to use quite a lot of wide / long shots and low angles.

Influential?:

 Although I feel I have not put a lot of these in my trailer (or haven’t planned on it in my storyboard) I don’t think it has been that much of an influence to me. I think it is more interesting for a film to contain shots such as these rather than a trailer, as a trailer has a limited amount of time to convey the information so extreme long and wide shots may not be the answer. Though I do think they are very chilling and help to convey mystery as I have found often in Fincher’s films the shots are so long that the viewer cannot make out what is going on/character’s identities etc. So, I may want to consider including shots such as these in my own work if I re-storyboard…which I was thinking of doing

Trademark:

Breaking conventions of the traditional upward scroll of credits at the end of a film, Fincher often displays the end credits of his own films as slide shows (‘Fight Club’, ‘Zodiac’,’ The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’) or simply scrolling downward instead (‘Se7en‘- which you can see some stills of below) .

Influential?:

 Hmmm….Although I think this is a good idea– another way Fincher breaks the boundaries other films set and makes himself influential and unique in the film-making business- I don’t think it applies much to me considering I’m making a trailer and not a full-length movie. Although it could I suppose have an impact on me as I am including titles in my trailer (just not credits) and I was, like Fincher, thinking of ways to make my titles stand out when compared to other trailers’ titles. So maybe I could take a leaf out of Fincher’s book and put the titles in a different format/composition or try crazy fonts/colours? It’s worth a try and if experimented with, could make my trailer look overall more creative and thus make the audience more interested in it ( which is important as effectively with this trailer I’m supposed to be aiming to try to ‘sell’ my film and thus make audiences want to see it).

Trademark:

Having characters with backstories that are filled with flashbacks.( Such as the narrator in Fincher’s film ‘Fight Club’ which can be seen below)

Influential?:

Yes, as I intended for my protagonist, Jack, to have constant flashbacks about his past and childhood throughout the film (or he would do if I actually made the entire film). And the fact Jack’s past is so important to the film (it’s his motives for revenge and reveals the truth about who Ray really is) it makes my character quite similar to the narrator in Fincher’s ‘Fight Club’. Because it is through the narrator’s past and recollection of previous events that the film is created, much similar to would happen in my own film…if I made one that is. But it’s similar to the plot anyway. And a lot of these flashbacks to Jack’s past are going to be shown also in the trailer to give the audience an idea of what the film will be like (showing them that it’ll be told to them mostly through flashbacks into the protagonist’s past).

Personal Quotes

And finally we have some quotes from the man himself, which I felt really could show the kind of director he is…and perhaps I may agree with what he says, or his words will give me some inspiration to help me in my own work…

Quote:

‘I don’t know how much movies should entertain. To me, I’m always interested in movies that scar. The thing I love about ‘Jaws’ (1975) is the fact that I’ve never gone swimming in the ocean again.’

My Thoughts:

Well to be honest I really do agree with this quote. To me personally, I feel the same way as Fincher does when it comes to films- I tend to be more interested in films that are shocking, powerful and, as Fincher beautifully puts it, ‘scar’ the viewer. Some films can be completely unforgettable and I think it is these that are truly the best and most iconic films in the whole history of film itself. When thinking about this personally, I’d say it was probably Fincher’s film ‘Se7en’ that really left it’s mark on me, as for days I could not keep the film and it’s harrowing nature out of my head. Because I find how film’s can affect viewers a very interesting subject and something I think directors can easy play around with, in my own work I feel the plot for my film tells a tale that would be equally scarring for an audience to watch- just because it is not entertaining, but brutal and shocking and is more likely to leave a mark as Fincher described than entertain them. And this is the kind of reaction I would want given that I whole-heartedly agree with what Fincher said. 

Quote:

‘People will say, ‘There are a million ways to shoot a scene,’ but I don’t think so. I think there’re two, maybe. And the other one is wrong.’

My Thoughts:

Well actually I found myself firstly disagreeing with this quote. But after a little thinking I found myself changing my mind and agreeing the argument he’s displaying here. I mean most of the time, while filming my own work, I will often shoot pieces more than 3 times, just because I want to get it exactly right. But most of the time I find myself deleting a lot of the shots because they just don’t work. So I think what Fincher is saying is right: that there may be many ways to shoot a scene but if you want to get it right and perfect for the mood/atmosphere you want to create there is only one way of doing it. The trick is you’ve just got to find that one way. And then you’ll be fine.

Quote:

‘As a director, film is about how you dole out the information so that the audience stays with you when they’re supposed to stay with you, behind you when they’re supposed to stay behind you, and ahead of you when they’re supposed to stay ahead of you.’

My Thoughts:

Well I agree with this a lot, as I am aware that films go through tonnes of gruelling processes where it is analysed by various audiences before it can make it anywhere in the real world. Scripts and screenplays are read by various people before the film can even get the go ahead, ideas are pitched to producers, screenings are shown to select audiences and so on and so forth to make sure that the film is as good as it can be. So as I go through a similar (but I have to say, not as demanding) process for feedback in the making of my own work, I know how important audiences and their responses are. I agree with Fincher’s comment, as I think audiences have to be 100 % connected with your work (whether it be a film or TV programme or whatever) for it to be a success. After all- everything is made purposefully for us (the audience) and without us, there is no product. So to say we’re important is a bit of an understatement. But I think also what Fincher is trying to say is that directors can somewhat predict and shape what audience’s will feel/think when they’re making their film and therefore they will have an intended response ready in their minds. Like for example, Fincher probably intended for the audience to be shocked when in his film ‘Fight Club’ it is revealed that Tyler Durden (Pitt) is actually just another side of the narrator’s (Norton) personality, as he has schizophrenia. And it is through his directing methods he does this- he has the power to control what the audience feels and thinks so therefore he can lead them into thinking something is true and then at the end of the film, reveal it actually isn’t. To an extent I’m using my power as director (in choice of shots, sound etc) , similar to this in my own work, as I am trying to reveal (in my trailer) a character to be real and mislead the audience into thinking (through various methods) that Ray is a young boy who lives with Jack and does really exist. Therefore I have the power to shock audiences when they go to watch my film and realise, at the end, Ray was never real and furthermore, that Jack knew he wasn’t real all along (in the theory that if I made my planned film, that’s what I think would happen).

Some snippets I found from an Interview from a newspaper article in ‘The Guardian’…

Quote:

‘But we had a lot of people insisting they’d seen more than they did. I almost had a fist-fight with a woman at a Beverly Hills cocktail party because she said, “There is no need to make a stand in of Gwyneth Paltrow’s head to find in the box. You don’t need to see that.” And I said, “Well, we didn’t.” And she said, “Oh yes, you did.”…So, the imagination, if properly primed, can do more than any army of makeup artists. That was always my thing: get people to fear it, get them to see it in their heads.’

My Thoughts:

I think this is a very interesting point. To be honest I think that Fincher’s argument that leaving it to the imagination of the viewer can make a much scarier and shocking film than simply letting make-up artists and special FX do that job for you. Afterall, most things are much scarier if they are real. And if a viewer sees it in their head it appears far more real than any job a computerised monster or actor with fake blood all over them will do in a film. Especially with Fincher’s ‘Se7en‘ I think this is true, as with a lot of the murders and victims you don’t need, as an audience, to physically see what has happened because the explanations and reactions of other characters is enough to scare you and tells you the absolute darkness of what has happened. I think this is what ultimately leads for audiences to be ‘scarred’ by films, as leaving all the horrible aspects of the film to their imaginations means it is a lot more personal, as we will each see it differently in our own minds. This allows the film to stick in our minds and creates an shocked reaction among us. Personally I think leaving parts of films to the viewer’s imagination is also far more creative: any big shot Hollywood director can summon a team of special make-up artists or Special FX crew and say ‘I want a headless body or some huge scary monster…something scary that looks kind of real except doesn’t because it would never look that way in reality’ and so on and then it’ll be done. OK, I’ll admit, at the end of the day all of this stuff will probably look pretty good. But as I said, anyone with enough money can do that. No, it takes creativity and intelligence to not take the easy option out and say ‘no…we’ll reel the audience in, get them guessing themselves as to what happened and what such and such looks like…their ideas will be more shocking and life-like than anything we could possibly create.’ So the audience thus is more connected to the film as it requires them to use their minds and imagination, leading brilliance such as this: A box is delivered from the killer, John Doe. After pondering for a while, Somerset opens it. We can see that it has specks of blood on the side. He looks inside. He instantly recoils in horror and looks straight at Mills and Doe, who are in the distance and watching Somerset. A chilling wind blows in the grass as Somerset’s eyes dart quickly from the box to Mills and Doe. He calls off the helicopters, warning them to stay back as he runs desperately to the others. This is all evidently more compelling and chilling than simply having: here’s Gwyneth Paltrow’s head. In a box. Scary huh? To an extent I’m trying to do this also in my own trailer: more with the torture and su*cides of the youth club owners by the killer (Jack) than anything else. Rather than taking the easy option out of it: Here’s a masked killer attacking some victims and torturing them…and Oh… now they’re dead. I thought I’d go down a bit more creative route and allow the audience to use their imaginations a littleSo I decided that there is going to be no actual shots of ANY of the owners committing su*cide (and there wouldn’t be if I made the film as I want their deaths to seem mysterious and suspicious). But instead I was going to give hints at their suspicion that someone is watching/threatening them or trying to send them messages (through letters, writing, noises, objects moving etc) and then their reaction shots at various stages of the torture Jack puts them through and also extreme close up of Jack’s ‘weapons’ that he uses to make them want to commit su*cide (which I think is enough to give away in the trailer as I don’t really want to hint to any actual deaths in the film- it’d give away too much). But nothing more. If I made the film it’d cut quickly to black just as everything was appearing to go downhill for the ‘victim’, then it would flash forward into the next day, and their body (whomever it may be) would be found. And this would leave the audience trying to imagine how they were killed and tense at what happened as they haven’t actually been shown the full picture.

Quote:

Interviewer- Sound is always amazing in your films. I think you’ve said that you have a psychotic attention to detail when it comes to sound.’

David Fincher: ‘ When you take $12 or however much it costs to go to a movie here, and you’re going to require their attention for two hours, and you’re responsible for everything they’re going to see and hear, it seems to me it’s an opportunity to use those 15 speakers to either do something intentional or do something accidental. I’d just rather do the intentional. …from a technical standpoint: you have an entire movie taking place in one space. To have that space evolve in some kind of way over the course of two hours, part of the thing (we) did was … (we) would record all the foley, all the footsteps, all the doorknob turns, all the hard effects of everything, in the actual set that we were shooting in at the weekends. So we would shoot, and then he would come in on Saturday and Sunday and (we) would open the windows and shut them, jiggle the glass. (we’re) insane about this, but it sounds so much better than the fake stuff. It’s all just a lot of work. If you want to work really hard, stuff can sound good.’

My Thoughts:

Well I agree and know fully well from experience that soundtracks as well as sound effects are equally important, and that it can really add that extra special something to a film. I agree with what Fincher says about having a film as a big space that requires to be filled up by sound also and running at the same time. I also think that real, man-made sounds are much more effective than ones made by computers. As they’re real, they get the viewer more compelled and taken in by the film, as it appears more realistic and therefore, to some extent, scarier (if that is the initial intended reaction) and easier to connect with. I think it’d be a good idea for me to start filming some of the specific sounds I want in my own trailer, such as knocking on doors and footsteps in the distance, as although, as Fincher rightly says,it is  more hard work to do it all myself rather than just downloading it, it’ll be a lot more effective in the long run done this way.

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