I featured the Henley Royal Regatta scene from The Social Network back in October and at the time mentioned I was impressed by it, but felt it was “more of a commercial break than anything else.” In the comments some agreed with me, but many didn’t and offered up their interpretation of the scene from a narrative and filmmaking standpoint. It made for good conversation and reinforced why we take the time to talk about films at all.
That said, having started to explore the upcoming January 11, Social Network Blu-ray release I thought you may be interested in reading David Fincher’s comments on the scene from his commentary included on the first of two discs.
Check it out directly below and watch the scene again after that.
“The Henley Royal Regatta were incredibly good to us and they allowed us to actually shoot the race at Henley. I had no idea how huge the Henley Royal Regatta was. I’d only seen photographs and a lot of them are telephoto so you don’t get the idea of this mile-and-a-half of grandstands and corporate sponsors. I mean, it’s a huge thing and we originally thought we would shoot a bunch of inserts on the Charles [River] and then use that footage to intercut with wide shots we’d shot at Henley.
“The trick of this scene, and the thing that made it so difficult was, it’s not like the fight in Rocky where it’s been talked about forever and it’s importance has been established and you know what it means to the Winklevosses. You get dropped into the middle of this race, and I joked with Aaron [Sorkin] about it a lot, ‘How do I make people care about whether or not these guys win or lose a race that we don’t know where it is, we don’t know what it means?’ And he was like, ‘Well that’s your problem.’ [laughing]
“He was using it as a way of saying, ‘You miss by that much.’ Then to have the Winklevosses miss by that much with Mark Zuckerberg, they missed by that much with Larry Summers, they’re missing by that much at Henley and it’s the final straw.
“But it is a tricky thing to design a sequence around missing by that much when you literally get dropped into the middle of it. You really don’t know where you are, it requires a subtitle to tell you you’re now in Henley for the Henley Royal Regatta, which you probably don’t know is the Super Bowl of boat racing.
“So this was one of those sequences where the only time we could shoot it was July 4, 2010. It was literally five to six weeks before we had to finish the movie. The movie had to be done so we could get it in theaters, and they were incredibly helpful to us and made it all possible.
“We’d shot the post-Henley scene where they hear about Facebook, but the actual race itself was literally a one-minute-and-forty-second slug. I think when we showed the film to the New York Film Festival, where we showed the film to a lot of long-lead press it had a card that just said, ‘Incredibly involving and thrilling sequence at Henley Royal Regatta,’ that was it just a black card with white type on it. So when we finally got to shoot the scene it was a mad scramble to finish it.
“One of the reasons it was done in this faux, swing and tilt– tilting lens board style was because all of the close-ups of the Winklevosses and the Dutch rowing were done in Eton on a man made lake that doesn’t look anything like Henley. Doesn’t have any– just has green grass, but we would shoot the close-ups of all the people and then we had to matte in still photographs that we’d shot at Henley.
“There was a team of 20-35 artists who toiled around the clock to finish that sequence so we could get it out and get the movie done. And they did a great job.”
While The Social Network didn’t make my list of top ten films of 2010, I still respect the filmmaking immensely, and this scene, as much as I don’t think it fit into this film whatsoever, is one example of that and this bit of commentary is a good example of what the rest of this rather extensive Blu-ray includes… but more on that in a few days after I’ve explored the second disc. I can only assume there’s more to be found and I can’t wait to explore the Ruby Skye scene featurette on the second disc, that scene was filmmaking magic.
For now, here’s that Henley scene again and if you want to you can pre-order the Blu-ray right here.