From House of Cards to Mindhunter to Mank and now a new documentary film series about cinema, Fincher is once again proving himself to be one of the most progressive directors working today. I’m not in the least bit surprised. This man, one of my favorites, has always been at the forefront of filmmaking. His brilliant 2007 film, Zodiac, was one of the first feature films to be captured almost exclusively with a digital video camera, the Thomson Viper FilmStream Camera.1 This was at least a good six years before films shot with digital cameras started to outnumber those shot on film.2
The man likes trying new things.
Contrast this behavior with that of other directors, like Steven Spielberg. In an interview with ITV News, he expressed his distaste for movies made for streaming services being given the same reverence and accolades that movies made first for theatrical screening can receive. He said,
Once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie. You certainly, if it’s a good show, deserve an Emmy, but not an Oscar. I don’t believe films that are just given token qualifications in a couple of theaters for less than a week should qualify for the Academy Award nomination.
I’m not necessarily saying this venerated, incredible director is wrong. He’s expressing his own opinions, many of which I share. I love seeing a complex, moving film in a dark cinema. There’s something unique and special about that experience. Furthermore, he’s certainly earned the right to comment on and criticize the way corporations have minimized the spectacle of theatrical premieres. Goodness knows that I’m not a legendary filmmaker and a household name.
I would suggest that he’s also showing a fair amount of famous person privilege. He shouldn’t forget that he came from nothing. He should also recognize that extremely talented filmmakers, whether they be known now or up and coming, may never achieve the sort of clout necessary to have a film released in theaters. Some of the most brilliant films to ever be made will debut and live only on streaming platforms. It would be a shame if those films didn’t receive the recognition they deserve from the Academy just because they don’t fit Spielberg’s idea of what a “real” film should be. The world would be lesser for it.
I don’t think theaters will ever disappear completely, but it’s clear that the filmmaking business and viewers around the world are more interested in streaming their media outside of a theater. Therefore, it’s more exciting for me to watch a director “skate to where the puck is going,” so to speak. Fincher is not someone who has ever shied away from being at the vanguard of new techniques or experiences. Instead of fighting the growth of streaming services—a futile battle—he welcomes them. He’s diving into this new world headfirst. No one will ever be able to accuse him of being stuck in the past. He might still make films that premiere in theaters, but he won’t do that out of stubbornness and inertia.
I’m excited to see Voir when it’s released. It will surely be the product of much attention, talent, and love. That will help further legitimize filmmaking in all its forms, whether it be released in cinemas or on a streaming service.