The iconic director David Fincher thrilled NFTS students with a Masterclass - discussing his new Netflix TV series, Mindhunter, and his films such as Fight Club, The Social Network, Se7en and Zodiac.
The Q&A, full of laughter as well as inspiration and advice, was hosted by director, screenwriter and contributing editor to Empire Magazine, Nev Pierce.
Nev began by asking David about what drew him to make Mindhunter, which is on Netflix from 13th October. “I wanted to explore the passing of the baton from J Edgar Hoover’s FBI to the modern FBI. When they began to reconsider how they would interface with this new serial killer type – that they could try and learn from them. The FBI was invented to allow them to cross jurisdictional lines. Without that flow of information between states people had literally been getting away with murder.” David explained. “Mindhunter talks about the mundanity of evil. It lives down the street.”
Discussing the choice to explore this in a TV series, rather than a film, David said he loved the way complex characters could develop over the length of time a series allows. “Watching Tony Soprano in The Sopranos, I realised that on TV an audience will go for a flawed human character, if you show them enough facets. And you need time to do that. I love the idea of hearing the stories of people who should be beneath our contempt. The wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
Asked by one of the students about how he creates tension, David described it as “the building of elements to set questions in an audience’s mind. It starts with the script, and then it’s how the cake is dressed. How many layers of discomfort does the protagonist have to wade through? It’s how you feel it.” Continuing, “In Zodiac there’s a scene with a projectionist in a basement – it’s a total red herring, but on an enjoyment factor – it’s what you go to the movies for.”
Talking about how he chooses who to work with, David praised the value of flexibility; the people who don’t just present an idea ‘this is how it’s going to be’, but are open to working with all the departments, adaptable and ready to try something new in the moment. “The people who can step back and look at the broader picture.”
Asked about whether he is given more freedom in TV or in film, David laughed “I don’t get given any freedom – I take it!” He urged the students “you have to have rules and, you personally, have to abide by them. In the end the only power you have is to walk away. And if you do not avail yourself of it, you’re powerless. Have your rules and hold other people accountable. And hold yourself accountable.”