''Panic Room'' director David Fincher talks shop. The ''Fight Club'' helmer says aspiring filmmakers can learn the right -- and wrong -- ways to make a movie by watching DVDs

By Erin Richter
Updated April 15, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT
Jodie Foster, Panic Room
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David Fincher went from directing music videos (Madonna, Aerosmith) to feature films (”Alien 3,” ”Seven”), and you can too. If you watch DVDs and take note, the auteur believes there are lessons on filmmaking at your fingertips. He talked to EW about what to look for in his recently released ”Panic Room” DVD, and gives a few extra tips to director wannabes.

Did you go to film school?
No, I couldn’t afford it.

What can aspiring filmmakers learn from the ”Panic Room” DVD?
Maybe it’s a good opportunity to see ALL of the kinds of decisions that are going to go into the making of a movie. I certainly never had an idea as a kid. I wanted to be a director when I was 8 years old — I think [something like this] would have been a valuable thing to see as a teenager.
Ultimately the most valuable thing about DVDs is that you can kinda see what [the directors] were trying to say, what they ended up saying to you, and what the discrepancy is. It’s a great, no-holds barred kind of way to investigate that process.

One of the documentaries says that by the end of the shoot two or three people needed to be escorted to their cars because they were at their wit’s end. Was that because of the nature of this film, that it was shot on one location?
It’s not just [that it’s] one location. They shot a lot of ”Heaven Can Wait” at the L.A. Coliseum, but I don’t think it drove anybody berserk. A lot of people just didn’t respond well to the close quarters. Don’t shoot for 100 days in one place, that’s what’s to be learned from that. Figure out ways not to. They probably had that same kind of problem on ”The Shining” — that’s all in one house. [But] at least they get out, they get to run through a maze.

What did you learn from making this movie?
[Laughs.] I learned that you can’t make a movie just because it’ll be hard [laughs]. My agent sent me this script and said, ”You’re not going to want to read this because it all takes place in one house, and it’s a logistical nightmare,” and I was just, ”I might be interested in that!” I’m a little bit of a contrarian. I kind of like challenges and then you end up TWO YEARS into the challenge that you’ve made for yourself and you just go ”Nothing’s worth this.”

What other advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers?
Never invest your own money in your films.

What about Mel Gibson?
Okay, let me correct that, unless you’re Mel Gibson, don’t ever invest your own money in films. It’s a good rule of thumb.

Panic Room

  • Movie
  • R
  • 108 minutes
  • David Fincher