Why Does David Fincher Do So Many Retakes For A Single Shot?

“He’s looking for perfection.”

Netflix Mank lead, Gary Oldman tells the importance of retakes with David Fincher

Filmmaker David Fincher is so passionate about his storytelling that he has even made actors do up to a hundred takes for one perfect shot. This has even led to some actors having an issue with the director, most notably Jake Gyllenhaal on the sets of Zodiac. But on the other hand, some actors do understand David Fincher’s retake theory. Veteran actor, Gary Oldman explained the importance of re-takes with Fincher in a recent interview with IndieWire while shooting for Netflix’s Mank.

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“As an actor, you are contracted. You are work for hire. You have a 12-hour working day, you come in, and if the director wants to shoot it 10 to 60 to 250 times, I’m there to serve to the character, the story, and the director, and until I clock off, if that’s what someone wants to do, I’m happy to be there.”

“But [David is] meticulous. He’s looking for perfection, and that means the performance might be great in particular, but you didn’t move your head far enough around and the key light didn’t hit you,” said Gary.

He further explained that David Fincher doesn’t just capture the actor’s reaction while shooting, whereas he sees towards everything that is involved in the shot. He keeps his focus on all the surrounding elements as well as the actor’s performance.

“He wants all the elements to work so he has it in a master, in a medium close-up, and he has it in close. There’s a freedom in trying different things. Once the performance is there for David and he gives a thumbs up, he then comes in and gives notes between takes, and he’s looking for all the elements working. ‘We’re going again because this or this was great, but we need that to work now.’ He’s looking at the whole thing.”

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Netlfix’s Mank was David Fincher’s Father’s Script

Ben Affleck also reunited with David Fincher recently and asked him several questions about his new movie Mank. The movie is one of the top watched movies of 2021 where Fincher has brought the golden era back. In Variety’s Directors on Directors the pair met virtually for a conversation and talked about their journey in the industry. Mank is Fincher’s dad’s script and was framed by screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz to screen.

“My dad was somebody who was always looking for new challenges. When he decided he was no longer going to write magazine stories. He became interested in the idea of writing a screenplay. Because unlike Herman Mankiewicz, he really revered that form of writing when it was done really well. It was it was a real high watermark for terseness and drama,” Fincher said to Ben.

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“You don’t have the characters inner monologues, unless, you’re writing VO. He considered it to be, not only creatively really challenging, but also the kind of writing that was required real insight and deftness. He just said, “I want to try writing the screenplay. What should I write about?””

“He wrote it by himself. And when he came back, he gave it to me and I read it and it was a little bit more of WGA arbitration, posthumous arbitration that I was interested in. So I told him, and he was not upset, but he was certainly like, “Well, what more is there here?””

In the interview, David Fincher also discussed that how his father gave him a challenging script, and how the transformation happened to the current version of Mank.

Mank cast includes Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Arliss Howard, Tom Pelphrey, Sam Troughton, Ferdinand Kingsley, Tuppence Middleton, Tom Burke, Joseph Cross, Jamie McShane, Toby Leonard Moore, Monika Gossmann, and Charles Dance.

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