David Fincher

The Social Network might be David Fincher’s least visually show-offy film to date. But the one sequence that most everyone talks about coming out of the movie is the Henley Royal Regatta race, which Fincher employs a tiltshift-like focus effect.After I screened the film, I had a chance to e-mail Fincher a few questions. The resulting interview wasn’t too interesting (e-mail Q & As don’t usually turn out so great) but one of my questions was about the sequence.

Question: I’m interested to hear your thoughts in the tilt/shift isolated focus you employed in the boating sequence. It is unlike anything I’ve ever seen on the big screen before and would love to learn what inspired it.

Fincher: We could only shoot 3 races at the Henley Royal Regatta; We had to shoot 4 days of boat inserts in Eton. The only way to make the date for release was to make the backgrounds as soft as humanly possible. I decided it might be more “subjective” if the world around the races fell away in focus, leaving the rowers to move into and out of planes of focus to accentuate their piston-like effort.

While The Social Network won’t hit Blu-ray/DVD shelves until January 11th (preorder here), Columbia Pictures have already sent some critics and guild members the final release. Brad Brevet has posted a transcript of the entire audio commentary from the Henley Royal Regatta Scene, which gives us even more insight into Fincher’s unquie visual choices.

The sequence:

Here is an excerpt from Fincher’s commentary on the Regatta Race sequence:

“The Henley Royal Regatta were incredibly good to us and they allowed us to actually shoot the race at Henley. I had no idea how huge the Henley Royal Regatta was. I’d only seen photographs and a lot of them are telephoto so you don’t get the idea of this mile-and-a-half of grandstands and corporate sponsors.” … “But it is a tricky thing to design a sequence around missing by that much when you literally get dropped into the middle of it. You really don’t know where you are, it requires a subtitle to tell you you’re now in Henley for the Henley Royal Regatta, which you probably don’t know is the Super Bowl of boat racing. So this was one of those sequences where the only time we could shoot it was July 4, 2010. It was literally five to six weeks before we had to finish the movie. The movie had to be done so we could get it in theaters, and they were incredibly helpful to us and made it all possible.” … “One of the reasons it was done in this faux, swing and tilt– tilting lens board style was because all of the close-ups of the Winklevosses and the Dutch rowing were done in Eaton on a man made lake that doesn’t look anything like Henley. Doesn’t have any– just has green grass, but we would shoot the close-ups of all the people and then we had to matte in still photographs that we’d shot at Henley.”

Read the whole transcript on Ropes of Silicon.

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