David Fincher gave some film students an unexpected, but surely welcome, surprise this week when he offered up a masterclass via Zoom, an app seemingly everyone is using these days to stay connected while most institutions are shut down. The 450-plus students of the United Kingdom’s National Film and Television School were treated to Fincher’s insights via video conference, and I sure as hell hope someone managed to record this so it can eventually find its way online.
A Masterclass with the one and only directing legend David Fincher has 100% lifted the spirits of @NFTSFilmTV students! A huge thank you to David for being so generous with his time and knowledge today ? https://t.co/E7QxKRlASC
— National Film and Television School @NFTSFilmTV March 24, 2020
As you can see above, David Fincher did a very nice thing for some film students. “It’s been a tough week so we wanted to do something to lift the spirits of @NFTSFilmTV students,” wrote Jon Wardle, director of the United Kingdom’s National Film and Television School. “So this afternoon 450 x students sat down for a masterclass via @zoom_us with THE David Fincher.”
Finally: a good use for Zoom. Fincher has kept busy over the years, but he hasn’t directed a feature since 2014’s Gone Girl. That’ll change soon with Mank, a Netflix movie Fincher is directing, focused on Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz. Principal photography wrapped on the film in February, so thankfully the recent Netflix production shutdown due to coronavirus won’t affect the project. Fincher has maintained a good relationship with Netflix, working with them on TV shows like House of Cards, Mindhunter and Love, Death, & Robots.
Fincher doesn’t do many public appearances, so having him give a masterclass to several students is a big deal, and I sure hope there’s some sort of recording – or summary – of what the director said during the class. In the meantime, we’ll all have to make due with Fincher’s various commentary tracks, which are usually very insightful and droll. Here’s just on example.
“Succession” is one of HBO’s most acclaimed drama series and an Emmy frontrunner in 2020, and its popularity has been bolstered in part by its addicting opening credits sequence. The 90-second sequence is set to Nicholas Britell’s Emmy-winning original theme music and cuts together footage of the New York City skyline with home video footage of the Roy family. The grainy home videos remind viewers about the privilege and isolation of the Roy family at the start of each episode. It turns out this now-classic opening credits sequence owes a lot of credit David Fincher, who crafted virtually the same sequence to open his 1997 mystery thriller “The Game.” Both openings have been embedded in videos below.
An eagle-eyed Reddit user recently noticed the similarities between the “Succession” and “The Game” opening credits and brought it to the attention of viewers. Fincher’s 1997 movie begins with grainy home video footage that fills in the backstory of protagonist Nicholas Van Orton, played in the film by Michael Douglas. The clips show Nicholas as a child and his father at the latter’s 48th birthday party, the event where Nicholas’ father committed suicide. The editing, courtesy of James Haygood, cuts the father out of the home videos later in the sequence to reflect his death, similar to how the “Succession” credits removes the faces of the Roy parents to show their disconnection from their children.
“The Game” opened in between Fincher’s “Seven” and “Panic Room” and remains one of the director’s most underrated directorial efforts. Out of all of Fincher’s films, “The Game” is the one that gets talked about the least despite strong reviews and box office nearly $110 million on a $70 million production budget. Anticipation for “The Game” was high since Fincher was coming off “Seven,” so many at the time saw the film as a step down for the director. The plot follows Douglas’ Nicholas after he accepts an offer to compete in a life-changing game, but the game ends up destroying Nicholas’ sense of what’s real and what’s fake. The supporting cast includes Sean Penn, James Rebhorn, Deborah Kara Unger, and Carroll Baker.
Watch the openings of “Succession” and “The Game” in the videos below. It’s only a matter of time before a Fincher fan sets “The Game” opening to Britell’s “Succession” score.