Donald Graham Burt on his profession in manufacturing design
The Oscar-winning production designer talks about his journey from night attendant to one of David Fincher's most trusted collaborators, as well as his work on director Mank's latest film
In a career spanning more than three decades, Donald Graham Burt has built a reputation as one of Hollywood's most sought-after production designers. He's used his talent on everything from '90s crime drama Donnie Brasco to Netflix's historic action film Outlaw King, but is arguably best known for his partnership with David Fincher. In their decades of collaboration, Burt has created impressive sets for instant classics like The Social Network and Gone Girl.
Despite his impressive résumé of critically acclaimed films, the production designer's place in the film business has not always been so secure. "I never planned to become a production designer," he told CR. "In fact, I didn't even know what it was growing up. I grew up in a small town in the Midwest and haven't really seen that many movies."
Burt eventually attended art school in Arizona, where an experimental fine arts degree taught him the value of lateral thinking and creative collaboration. "It was throughout the conceptual area when it was more about how to think and be inventive and break the rules than it was about sitting down and drawing a vase," he says.
Above: Still from Burt's most recent collaboration with David Fincher at Mank. Above: A scene from the historic Netflix action film Outlaw King
Upon graduation, Burt took on what he calls one of the best experiences of his life as a night attendant. The 12 months he'd spent at night cleaning shops alone gave him plenty of time to search for his soul before the opportunity arose for some of his college friends to open a small landscaping shop in Arizona.
Creative process film & TV