The Color Timer Interview With David Fincher's Colorist - Eric Weidt

The Color Timer Interview With David Fincher's Colorist - Eric Weidt

Welcome to the Colour Timer Podcast.

I am your host Vincent Taylor.

This is the podcast where

we speak to professionals

who work with colour.

Today we are absolutely doing that.

We're speaking to Mr. Eric Weidt,

a colourist for film and television,

directly associated

with Mr. David Fincher,

of whom I'm a huge fan.

I can't wait to chat to Eric about

projects such as Mank.

We haven't really

talked about black and white

much in the show yet, so

I really wanna do that.

And also get under the

hood if we've got time

into the world of Mindhunter,

which is an amazing series and colourful.

Ah, I wanna jump into that.

Don't forget, we're

gonna use our colour timer,

our 15 minute sand timer,

just to keep the

conversation focused, but let's go.

Take your seats because the

hourglass is about to turn.

We are entering the

world of the micro podcast.

Explore the craft, creativity,

and science of

professionals who use colour

to tell stories.

Welcome to the colour

timer with Vincent Taylor.

Eric, welcome.

Thank you, Vincent.

It's nice to be here.

I'm very excited to talk to you.

A little bit nervous

because I'm a big fan.

No, not possible.

Oh, calm, just breathe, just breathe.

Nine times out of 10, I

forget to start my sand timer.

So I'm gonna be a good boy.

Here's my sand timer.

So we're gonna kick it off.

So it's like a game show,

you know, like under pressure.

Okay, I've got a great

warm up question for you.

You ready?

Your desert island film or TV series.

Oh, you're stuck on a, and I know,

I know there's no

electricity on the desert island,

but let's just--

Do you want to give them a standpoint of colour

or just enjoyment?

Not just enjoyment.

Oh man, that's a tough one.

I mean, the easy sort

of film that I would say

is one of my favourites is

Blade Runner, the original one.

But what got me into

film and cinematography

to begin with was

just, when I was a student,

was films like Fellini - Satyricon,

or The Conformist or whatnot.

You know, just things that look good.

Yeah, well you'll

have to watch it at night

on the desert island,

'cause it'll be too bright,

I guess, with a little sand.

All right, all right, let's,

I should stop mucking around,

'cause we haven't got much time.

Now, when I was researching,

your name, it's always

associated with David Fincher.

Of course.

And I know this is a, maybe diplomatic,

but does that ever get frustrating?

No, not at all.

I work, he keeps me busy, you know, so.

But to be perfectly honest, since I

arrived in Hollywood,

I've only been working for David Fincher.

I mean, yeah, colour-wise,

I've only worked for David.


And you spent a whole heap of years,

like 15 years or so, working in Paris

with filmmakers and photographers.


Tell me about that.

What was that like,

and then how does that inform

your role now as a colourist?

Well, I worked in the

fashion photography world,

starting in around 2000.

And it was all about

still capturing of stills.

And I was sort of a Photoshop guru

and a printing guru over there.

And so, I was working

for this digital company

that kind of evangelized digital capture

to still photographers who were used to

working in traditional film.

And the idea was to sell

them on this whole new process,

using film emulation LUTs.

And a lot of them had

their own universes and styles.

So we would create

custom LUTs for them to,

so that their universe

could sort of exist, you know,

live on a screen while

they're shooting, you know,

their medium format stills and whatnot.

And I would say that that

was my very big introduction

to photography.

And it's all, it's a

really fascinating world

with amazing talents

and it's pretty high end.




I feel like it's like

one of those talk shows

where you get a listener to call in,

because I was chatting to a director

friend of mine yesterday

and I mentioned that

I was speaking to you

and he goes, "Oh, can

you ask him this question?"

So this is for my

friend, what did he say?

All right, how do you

guide a first time director

into giving you actionable feedback,

especially if they haven't

developed a visual vocabulary?


That was his question.

Oh, I mean, that's part of the, you know,

you're providing a service to somebody

and when you're working

with artists, you know,

it's such a whole spectrum of people,

it's as wide a spectrum as

there are people, you know.

Some people aren't clear upfront,

they have this process

that it takes you a while

to figure out.

Others are extremely clear upfront,

they give you

references, that's always great.

Others aren't clear necessarily upfront,

but when they sit in front of us,

when you put something in front of them,

and David Fincher is one

of these kind of people,

he's extremely verbose and

clear about what you need to do

to that image to make it

look like he wants it, you know.

And in that sense, it's easy to just follow his direction,


When you begin working on a project,

be it film or television,

what stage do you get involved?

Well, with Fincher, I get

involved very, very early

because one thing, I'm

usually hired by the,

I'm not part of a

facility, I'm a freelancer,

so I am essentially

hired by the film itself,

like any other crew member.

And so I'm on from the start,

working with the DP in terms of,

in finding out what

the project's all about,

what they want, do they need show LUTs,

do you know what kind of

camera they're gonna shoot with,

and they do camera

testing a lot of times,

and it goes through my base light,

and they say they want

me to throw things up

right from the start.

Obviously, if I have time.

- Yeah, yeah, it's always the time thing.

In regards to working with Mr. Fincher,

I mean, have you noticed,

over the period of time

you've worked with him,

that there's been a change in aesthetic,

or is that not relevant because it

depends on the project?

- I wouldn't say there's

been a change in his aesthetics

since I've known him,

since I've been working for him,

so that's about eight years.

We had one project that was more,

well two actually, that were more

outliers than others,

but no, every project is

different, I have to say.

But I would say over time,

'cause I'm remastering some

of his old classics right now,

like I remastered The Social Network,

I'm in the process of

remastering Panic Room,

and I'm also just starting on Seven.

And I would say that

he's much more interested

in what he calls the suppleness

of sort of an Ansel

Adams type of zone range.

He's really interested in seeing details

in all ranges of the spectrum.

Seven, for example,

was very, very crushed

in terms of the final look,

not in terms of the cinematography.

The original negative has lots of detail,

mostly, but the final

look that was applied to it

was very chiaroscuro, you know,

it was very, very,

very moody and contrasty.

And I would say David's look and

aesthetic since then

has moved into something more

where I would say he

uses the word suppleness

and I would just say that

he's really into detail, yeah.

- That's interesting.

When you mentioned Seven,

I've just got this wonderful memory

of going to see that film with my dad

and driving home in the car

and we both just kind of like,

you're just silencing.

- Yeah, it's an intense one.

- Now, I'm such a

massive fan of black and white

and so I really wanna

talk to you about Mank

and your process of that.

Where do I start?

I guess the first question is,

was that always gonna be

a black and white film?

- Yes, yeah, because it was always

about the creators of Citizen Kane

and it was very much

talk about replicating 40s,

the feel of 40s and

the cinematic look of

black and white from the time.

It's like, let's make this

look like it was shot back then.

So of course,

the end result is obviously widescreen

and not four by three or whatever,

but all these other

elements went into degrading,

well, we call it degrading,

but aestheticizing the

image to look historical,

like vintage-y, yeah.

- Yeah, which it absolutely does.

I mean, I've watched it

three times now, I think,

and every time I go,

"Oh, look what they did

in that, you know, so."

I mean, where did you start?

Did you start just by

kind of studying older films?

I mean, I know that seems

like an obvious question,

but where the heck

did you start with that?

- Well, we started with testing cameras

and there was a question of

whether they wanted to shoot

with color cameras or a monochromatic Red

that doesn't capture color,

just capture straight black and white,

and that was the latter was the choice.

And so it was like,

"Wow, this is gonna be fun.

"No color keys

whatsoever, no cheating underneath."

You know? - Of course.

- And so it's all Luma keys,

and that's quite a task, you know?

When you're used to

somebody being able to tell you,

"See that tree back there?

"I want it more ominous or whatever,"

and you can't select

the color green, you know?

But you gotta find other ways.

But as far as the look of the film,

David and Eric Messerschmitt,

they really had clear ideas

of all the different elements

that make for an historical look,

that make for an historical look,

things like softer lenses

on the side and gate weave

and really heavy optical grain,

and this kind of, especially

this kind of blooming thing

that used to happen

on certain film stocks.

Yeah, and so we bloom

the blacks aesthetically

and even sometimes key framing them

depending on the shot

and even blooming the highlights as well

on Amanda Seifried,

sometimes to give that gauzy

and kind of look.

And his marching orders were usually

using the word silvery.

And I think that goes

back to what I was saying

about Anansol Adams kind of tonal range

is that the silvers are in

the middle of the spectrum,

and so he wants all the different,

from A to Z in terms of those zones

to be in conversation with each other.


I mean, how much, I guess

it varies on the project,

but how much prep time

do you get for a project?

Well, with David, I

mean, they, like I said,

I don't work for a

facility, so I'm hired by the films.

And so I, you know, the

only reason I'm not working

from day one until

it's actually delivered

is because I usually have several

projects I'm working on.

But otherwise, David's

happy with being able

to come down the hall and say,

throw this up on the

baseline, I wanna see this scene

and let's work on it together.

And then, you know,

he'll spend 20 minutes

and then he'll walk

away and I'll keep working

and he'll pop in anytime, you know?

And he just loves it.

He loves

post-production more than anything.


Do you, outside the world of a colorist,

I mean, what is your,

what keeps your heart going?

What's your inspiration?

You mean like art?

Art or, you know, just expression.

I like storytelling a lot.

I like all forms of expression from

poetry lines on a page

to I love going to any

museum either of contemporary art,

not so much contemporary,

but painters and photographers.

And I mean, I do mind

a little conceptual,

I don't mind a little conceptual art,

especially if it's funny, but,

and I don't know, you

know, things like that.

Whatever, even reading books,

I've gotten back into

reading books lately

and the sky's the limit.

In music, I'm a horrible music nerd

and I've just loved music

my whole life, you know?

Do you play?

I do not play.

I've dabbled, but I

mean, I've dabbled in drums

and in guitar and

keyboard synthesizer things,

but I've always been kind of a DJ

and one of those kind of, you know,

I love playing the

game of like, you know,

hey, let's name 10 songs

that you have the word yellow in it, go.

You know, and that kind of silly thing.

Yeah, that's amazing.

Do you have a different approach

for like television versus cinema?

Well, yeah, no,

because, you know, like I said,

I've only really worked for Fincher

in terms of a colorist in narrative.

I mean, I did tons of

fashion work in coloring

and back in Paris,

but here I've only

worked for Fincher in any,

so him, it's like any TV

show needs to look like

a film anyways.


But I have worked on

documentaries with him

and also on animation and yeah, I mean,

sometimes the genre itself, you know,

really does dictate because

if you're doing a, you know,

a documentary that has

historical films in it or whatnot,

you can't just go and grade

those films again, you know.

You know, I've done those

kinds of things with him,

but I've also done animation and yeah.

I had no idea he'd done animation.

I didn't realize that.

He did an episode of Love,

Death and Robots season two

or three.


And I graded that.


What's that like grading animation?

I mean, how, I've only done

it once about 10 years ago.

So what's it like?

Well, with, well, it's

surprisingly similar.

I mean, the great thing is

that you have all the alpha

channels you want because

it comes from, you know, 3D.

And so they get, they usually

give you the hero, you know,

as an alpha and

automatically, you know what I mean?

So that you can dial him

or her or they in correctly,

you know, things like that.

But other than that,

it's, it's just as, you know,

with Fincher it's just as

demanding as any other genre.

Cause he's very, very

particular about what he likes.



Is there, is there a genre that you

haven't been involved

with that you would like to work on?

I don't know.

I'd love to, I'd love to

do a high dynamic range

documentary on volcanoes.

Cause the imagery is

just unbelievable, you know?

Wow. That's so specific.

That's like, I don't know if

you've seen this documentary

that came out called the love, love

couple or something.

But I already thought

that before because I'm a big

Werner Herzog fan.

And I was thinking, cause I

saw one documentary he did

about volcanoes and I was

like, damn, if I run him into him

in the supermarket and

say, Werner, I want to,

I want to grade your next volcano movie.

Cause it's just like a fascinating thing.

That would be my ticket

to work for Werner Herzog.

That's fantastic.

If he's listening.

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

I'll give him a call.

That's it. My timer ran out.

We're done.

It goes so far.

And I've still got so

many other questions, but

Eric, thank you.

Thank you so much for taking time out.

It's not a problem at all.

Vincent, it was my pleasure.


Thank you so much,

Eric, for having a chat.

That was cool.

You the listener.

I was a bit nervous, right?

Yeah. It's hard.

You know, when there's

somebody you really respect

and you look up to like I've been

watching Eric's work

for years and yeah,

it's, it's hard to do that

to kind of control those

nerves, but I did my best.

Thank you so much to

they're my executive

producer and putting the show on

and also to my friend

of the show Filmlight

and my producer Kayla.

And look, thanks for listening.

Like subscribe to all that kind of stuff.

It does help.

It does make a difference.

I appreciate it.

All right.


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