Monday Prescriptions – How to be Christopher Nolan…

Hi Film Folk!

In anticipation of the worldwide release of The Dark Knight RisesThe Film Doctor Team  feel that this week’s Monday Prescription should pay tribute to its director Christopher Nolan.

We shall be ignoring the elements that are decided by nature and nurture such as the potential upbringing Nolan had. Born rich or poor, it is up to the individual to pursue their dreams and so let us begin with the efforts the young director made towards his.

Picture of British movie director Christopher Nolan [ Zoso Jade]
Picture of British movie director Christopher Nolan [ Zoso Jade]

Make shorts

Like so many before him, Nolan cut his teeth on,  and found his style with, shorts.

He made 3, in public knowledge, Doodlebug, Tarantella, Larceny.

Watch Doodlebug below:

Incrementally Increase Budgets

As you will hear continually from The Film Doctor Team (and from many others) you have to start within your reach. You can throw a lycra-donning Christian Bale off a Gotham City skyscraper while being shot at by a man on fire or have Leonardo DiCaprio step into a collapsible dream-city AFTER you’ve made something a little more humble and affordable.

His first film, FOLLOWING,  reportedly cost just £3, 000 and was shot over the course of a year.

Following - Film Doctor

“At the time I did Following (1998), I was looking at the American ultra-low-budget model that didn’t really exist in the UK. A low-budget film in England tended to be about £500,000 to £600,000. In America, there was a tradition of guys like Robert Rodriguez and Kevin Smith making films for thousands, and that’s what we’d been doing for short films. So it was really just a case of using that knowledge and expanding it to feature length. I hear of people doing it in the UK now and I think that’s a great thing.”

‘Following’ won the Silver Hitchcock Award at Dinard, the Tiger Award at Rotterdam International Festival, Best Director at Newport International Festival as well as a BIFA nomination.


Film Festivals

We all know (or should know!) what great buzz and notice film festivals can get you and your film.

“The procedure is basically to try to get into film festivals. I’m half American, so I was able to come over to America and live here and start battering the American film festivals. There are a lot of great festivals, not just Sundance. So the key is to get it screened at a festival and start interesting people there.”


Ask and You May Receive

So when you’re at a Festival (or any other platform for you and your film) what more can you do?

Nolan reportedly gained major funding during the 1999 Hong Kong Film Festival by showing his film Following (1998) and then asking the audience to donate money to his next film Memento (2000).

Memento - Film Doctor

“(On Memento (2000)) The budget was about £3million, which is low for an independent film – but yes, it was a huge leap of faith. “Memento” was clearly on a bigger scale than Following (1998) but, at the same time, there were very strong stylistic connections. People want to see something that shows them you can do what you say. That’s the trick.”


The People Around You

We do not know the full extent of the Nolan clan’s working habits…but we do know that Christopher Nolan’s success is not strictly attributed to him.

His brother Jonathan Nolan wrote the short story “Memento Mori” which would later become Memento and has worked on the screenplays of most of Christopher’s films.

His wife Emma Thomas has produced almost all of his projects from his earliest shorts right up to the present day.

There must be something about this collective arrangement that fuels the director’s success.

Inception - Film Doctor

Go to America (or stay there!)

“There’s a very limited pool of finance in the UK. To be honest, it’s a very clubby kind of place. In Hollywood there’s a great openness, almost a voracious appetite for new people. In England there’s a great suspicion of the new. In cultural terms, that can be a good thing, but when you’re trying to break into the film industry, it’s definitely a bad thing. I never had any luck with interesting people in small projects when I was doing Following. Never had any support whatsoever from the British film industry, other than Working Title, the company that [producer] Emma Thomas was working for at the time. They let me use their photocopier, stuff like that, which is not to be underestimated.”


Don’t Copy Other People

This whole post has been about how to achieve Mr. Nolan’s career so far but obviously you are not Christopher Nolan. You are you. You may end up more or less successful but either way you will always be you.


The man himself agrees:

“The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized that everybody’s situation is unique, and the one thing I’ve learned is that instead of copying someone else’s model for a low-budget film, you really have to look at what you’ve got available and see how you can tell the story you want to tell, using the things that you have around you. “

 The Dark Knight Rises - Film Doctor

The Dark Knight Rises is released on the 20th July.


‘MONDAY PRESCRIPTION’ No. 22 – Don’t try and be anybody else but do analyse, with prejudice, the exact ways that your favourites reached their status.

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Have a great week!
The Film Doctor Team
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