MINDHUNTER SHOOT STORY
Definition: Mindhunter seems to be a show that has some very strict guidelines for shooting (similar to House of Cards ). I’m not sure if these disciplines are true but perhaps ‘no zooms’, ‘no steadicams’, ‘no handheld’, ‘no filtration’. Could you talk about the regime of shooting Mindhunter in these terms and why the practices are adhered to? Erik Messerschmidt: I wouldn’t say that we necessarily approached Mindhunter in terms of what we wouldn’t do with the camera, but more in terms of what camera choices would support the story and themes of the show. It’s true (with the exception of two shots in Episode 10) that we didn’t use any handheld or Steadicam; most of the drama in Mindhunter comes from the characters’ experiences in very long and complex interview scenes. The content of those scenes is extremely measured and nuanced and I think a moving or shaking camera would have been a very distracting way to tell such a complex story. David Fincher likes a very specific type of operating; it harks back to the earlier days of classic cinema when the actors, dolly grip and operator are working together in concert to execute the shot. It’s a beautiful thing to watch. I feel like Steadicam, while an amazing and versatile tool, is often misused, or chosen because it’s a faster way to cover a scene. Def: Could you tell us about the lens choices and how they translate to the action in the various sets and locations? The way you shoot is obviously linked to the talk- heavy nature of the series – very careful camera movement, careful jump focusing and so on. The lens choice doesn’t seem to be too fast nor the other way: it’s nice glass. Again, regimented use of a T-stop and a sweet spot of a focal length. If you use zooms, are they for specific reasons?
EM: We shot with Leica Summilux-C lenses living mostly on the 29mm, 40mm and 65mm focal lengths. Working with prime lenses is great because it requires a little more discipline than zooms. In the past I’ve found it very difficult to resist the temptation to push in a bit on the zoom instead of moving the camera when the shot isn’t perfect. Prime lenses force you to always keep the camera in the right place from the start, and restricting our lens choices keeps the storytelling very consistent, which I think is important on a show like this. I shot most of Mindhunter , at least the interiors, at a T2-2.8. The exteriors were typically around a T4 or T5.6. I like the way the Leicas look at a T2.3, it’s where I think they are their best. We tried to limit the audience’s awareness of the camera as much as possible, so if we did move it we only did so in very specific dramatic moments or when other things in the frame were also moving. I did use the Fujinon 24-180 and 75-400 zooms a couple of times on the show for specific shots, but never for zooming. Def: Tell us more about the control that you have on set and locations, specifically the lighting in both. Is it a case of having more control in established sets, such as the Quantico office, and a particular shooting regime to handle new locations where control of windows and outside is less easy? EM: I was fortunate on Mindhunter to have prep time with each director so we had lots of conversations about our location work before the shooting day. I was also incredibly blessed to be working with the amazing Steve Arnold, our production designer. Steve and I had a constant dialogue about practical lights, window treatments and wall colours. We were also blessed to have amazing locations department staff who deserve tremendous credit for their
FORCE YOU TO ALWAYS KEEP THE CAMERA IN THE RIGHT PLACE
BELOW The marvels of a modern studio set-up help create the authentic 1970s feel of the show. ABOVE Using classic shooting principles calls for a disciplined approach.
JANUARY 2018 DEFINITION
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