The streaming debut of Gillian Flynn’s Amazon series “Utopia” this weekend marks a long time coming for the project, an adaptation of the 2013 British series of the same name. Flynn originally developed the project with her “Gone Girl” director David Fincher for HBO, but Fincher walked away after HBO balked at giving him his desired budget. Unfortunately, “Utopia” is far from the only lost Fincher-HBO project. Around the same time, Fincher was developing “Videosyncrazy,” a comedy series based on his experience in the music video world. The show followed a novice production assistant thrust into the chaos that was the dawn of the music video age in the 1980s.
In a new interview with The Ringer, Fincher’s “Videosyncrazy” co-writer Rich Wilkes reflects on the HBO comedy series that never was. The show, which went by the working titles “Living on Video” and “Video Synchronicity,” filmed episodes in the early part of 2015. Fincher had assembled a cast that included Paz Vega, Charlie Rowe, Sam Page, Kerry Condon, and Corbin Bernsen. The first season began with the making of Berlin’s “The Metro” and was written to culminate in the production of Michael Jackson’s iconic “Thriller” music video.
“The beauty of working on that with [Fincher] was, one, he had the inside knowledge of how things worked,” Wilkes said. “But he [also] had the relationships to be able to call up David Geffen and say, ‘Hey, can we use this song?’ Once you get one person to say yes, the next people are like, ‘Ok. I’d like to be involved with that too.’”
By June, HBO had pulled the plug on the series over creative differences and Fincher’s busy schedule (which also included “Utopia”). The network’s programming president at the time was Michael Lombardo, who told THR, “When we both saw the third and fourth [episodes], we realized we needed to go back and do some work on the scripts. David’s attention at that point — he is someone who likes to be hands on, on everything — got diverted by another project.”
Wilkes first met Fincher in the early 2000s when the director became interested in helming Wilkes’ script for “The Dirt,” a biographical drama about the band “Mötley Crüe.” The project got “blown apart” and never happened, Wilkes said (Netflix would pick it back up years later), but the writer left enough of an impression on Fincher that he was handpicked by the “Seven” and “Fight Club” director to work on “Videosyncrazy” decades later.
Wilkes told The Ringer he got a message from Fincher that read: “How would you like to work on this TV show and have no one tell you what you have to do?” The writer was convinced Fincher was mistaken so he responded by saying, “I don’t know if you know who this is, I’m the guy who wrote ‘The Dirt.’ I think maybe you contacted the wrong person.’ And [Fincher] said, ‘No, no, I know who you are. Do you want to work on this show?’”
The show was “Videosyncrazy,” which Wilkes described as being so far from the David Fincher tone that moviegoers have come to love in films like “Seven,” “Gone Girl,” and more. The writer added, “It was a half-hour show in the vein of something like ‘Entourage’ or ‘Veep.’ A completely different tone for David. And that’s what made it really, really interesting.”
Alas, “Videosyncrazy” joined the dozens of other David Fincher projects that never materialized. As for Wilkes, he has a theory why so many Fincher projects get lost.
“He puts a strong differentiation between the creative and the financial,” Wilkes said. “One of the things that he told me about one of his projects that had blown up was that the studio said, ‘We need to talk about the movie before we start shooting it.’ David said, ‘All right, you have a choice. You can either talk to me about the script, or you can talk to me about the budget. But you can’t talk to me about both. Because if you have creative notes on the script, fine. We’ll deal with those. But you can’t nitpick on both ends. And if you want to talk budget, then fine. We’ll figure out a way to bring it down.’”
Head over to The Ringer to read more about the lost projects of David Fincher.