Fincher vs. Eastwood

If all choices lie on a continuum, then inevitably you have two examples that demarcate the extremes. Hold/Cold. Positive/Negative. Black/White. Experimental/Didactic. Fincher/Eastwood.


I'm speaking about two different approaches to directing actors. David Fincher is renowned for his ... enthusiasm for multitudinous takes. Clint Eastwood is known for reticence to do the same. Each one has their own way of justifying their choice.

Fincher likes to grind beyond the first thought, past the rehearsals, into the place where the actors aren't even consciously speaking their lines but just living out the moment beyond the point of thinking. 

Eastwood likes to keep the spontaneity of the first take. He believes in the power of the first moment, the fresh reaction of the actors to each other. 

In their own divergent ways each director is seeking the same thing- honesty. The place where life pokes through the artifice of movie making. Watch the results of both directors and I think you'll find they're both successful in getting what they want.

How can both guys be getting the same thing with seemingly mutually exclusive approaches?

I think they're both succeeding because they're both avoiding the same thing- the comfortable place. The place where the scene has been played often enough that the actors are comfortable in it. The place where the actors know their steps, their gestures, and their reactions. They're not negotiating the moment as the moment unfolds. At worst they'll be anticipating the moments, preparing for the next step in the machinery. Fincher wants to grind beyond the comfort, beyond the point of boredom, into the place where actors are not willing to do the same thing for the 50th time and they surprise each other with different choices. Eastwood gets them before they get comfortable, while they're still feeling things out, while they can still be awkward or genuinely surprised by each other. Each in their own way gets what they need- the honest reaction of people.

It's an old axiom that "Acting is reacting". These directors know this and work their systems to achieve it.

Bringing this around to my animation peeps- I think animators limit themselves if they seek to achieve merely the illusion of life. The best acting is not an illusion crafted in the comfortable space of time and certainty. On the contrary, the best acting is life itself, revealed in the unfolding reactions of the moment.