Social Status

Master storyteller David Fincher proves his penchant for the zeitgeist with his new film The Social Network. Fincher digs deep into the past of Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to examine how something that began between friends at college quickly descended into bitter acrimony and litigation once billions of dollars were at stake. The film is an acute examination of 21st-century culture, specifically the angst of society migrating from the real world over to the virtual sphere. With almost one in 12 people worldwide signed up to Facebook, the picture should pique the curiosity of a wide enough demographic come release time.

Fincher turned to cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, ASC (Down with Love, K-19: The Widowmaker), who came to the profession through his father Jordan—probably best remembered for his iconic work on such films as Blade Runner (1982) and Stop Making Sense (1984). From a young age, Cronenweth was introduced to the intricacies of cinematography and never looked back.

“I knew I wanted to be part of the business when I saw him as a kid,” admits Cronenweth. “I learned early on by watching him, and soon discovered that I wanted to do exactly what he did. I inadvertently absorbed and learned this craft through him.”

Cronenweth worked his way up the ladder as a loader and 2nd assistant before graduating high school. After graduation, he joined his father on set and met many skilled professionals such as John Toll, ASC, Dan Lerner, László Kovács, ASC, and John Schwartzman, ASC. He soon became 1st assistant and worked on eight pictures with veteran cinematographer Sven Nykvist, including Chaplin, Sleepless in Seattle and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.

“As you go through the journey—as you call the lab, take light readings and all that—you become more educated on how it all happens,” says Cronenweth. “You’re learning because it’s not by virtue of trying to learn an art form, rather you’re fulfilling the obligations of a team. It’s less about ego and more about collaboration.”

Fincher and Cronenweth had previously teamed up on another era-defining feature called Fight Club back in 1999. They crossed paths again last year on an international iPhone commercial and discussed the possibility of partnering on another feature in the near future.

“I think that job rekindled the notion of working together again,” recalls Cronenweth, who notes Fincher’s remarkable acumen in choosing partners on projects. “I’m sure David went through all the incarnations of who would best serve The Social Network before coming to me. He’s very shrewd at matching style and subject matter to the cinematographer.”

The Social Network director David Fincher (middle) gives direction on the set.