His early days in the creative industry

David Fincher was born on 28 August 1962 in the USA. As a teenager, he was an Industrial Light & Magic assistant cameraman. In the mid-1980s, he started Directing commercials for brands like Nike, Budweiser, and Coca-Cola. He has worked on many music videos for most of his career. These include Notorious (Loverboy) in 1987, Johnny B (The Hooters) in 1987, and She Comes On (Wire Train) in 1987.

Techniques in early work

In his early work, he focused more on using a tripod for his filming work, allowing him to have the camera in the set position. Having the camera in the specified place has allowed the subject movement to evolve in front of the frame. This gives the feeling that the audience is a voyeur of the action. His storytelling is more focused and accessible. Using this technique, he allows the audience to follow the video’s narrative.

In “Say You Will,” Foreigner (1987) uses black & white photography to create an atmosphere of 1930s romantic films. The feeling it gives is gloss and glamour as he does extreme closeup shots of the main subject in the frame, which shows a deeper meaning of love in the song. In this video, he pays attention to the details of the issues and what is in the frame. He uses the background to create a clear focus for the audience, indicating the frame’s priority.  It also allows the audience to follow the narrative of the video’s storyline, giving a sense of voyeurism.  The music video had many static frames on the subject, which he focused on in the music video. 

In contrast, In “Love Will Rise Again,” Loverboy (1987) Fincher created raw energy across the music video by having lots of movement in the shot, creating a buzz of energy for the audience. He filmed many close-ups of the leading singer and the flashing lights, making more power for the performance. He also had a close-up of the woman’s love interest, giving more profound meaning to the song. The music video was filmed in colour, which showed lots of background in the shot, which helped to sell the video well.

In “Fight Club”, he uses a similar storytelling technique to his early deployment in the industry. He uses extreme closeup and minuscule detail to inform the audience which characters are essential to the scene, allowing the audience to follow the story’s action. He also used colour and texture in his cinemograph, which he had developed since his early video days. He uses camera angles to show the characters’ power relationships and how the characters might feel in the moment.

Themes

There are several different themes which Fincher has developed from early filmmaking days. These include; 

Colour

Fincher has been experimenting with different types of colour in these shots since his early days, which plays a massive role in his vision for more recent films like “Mank”. He uses black & white, which is grainy, to reflect how filmmaking was in the 1930s. This stylised black & white colour is used in “Say You Will,” Foreigner (1987).  When he uses colour, the films have a black tone with it. This follows through his colour movies from his early days to recent work like “Gone Girl”. This reflects the characters and storyline topics in the film.

Lighting

Fincher uses minimal lighting in all of his work from the early days, from advertising to current films like “The Killer”. He used shadows and lighting to create an atmosphere with a dark theme, which is a significant part of the film. This gives an element of mystery to the film. It communicates with the audience and shows the character’s dark side.

Camara movement

In Fincher’s films, he uses many movements to create different moods and meanings for the audience. He uses Steadicam and tracking shots, creating smooth and uninterrupted movement throughout his scenes. 

Action to detail

From his early days of filmmaking, Fincher has been keen on making sure every part of the frame is important. This can be seen across all his films and projects. In “Say You Will,” Foreigner (1987), there are many moments that focus on the finer details of the subjects. This theme can be seen in his later work.

Legacy in the creative industry

David Fincher started as a music video DOP (Director of Photography). This work has a huge part in young filmmakers, as his work is so iconic to the industry that it is referred to as a “must-see” project. His use of high-content lighting, with deep shadows and bright lights, gives the audience a theatrical effect. In this work, colour has texture, which has a different impact on the scenes and the mood it creates for the audience.