×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Christopher Nolan Says His Filmmaking Process a ‘Combination of Intuition and Geometry’

Christopher Nolan described his filmmaking process as “some combination of intuition and geometry” in one of the Tribeca Talks series of public conversations at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival.

“I don’t write a story outline,” he told a packed house of festivalgoers during the discussion with fellow director Bennett Miller (“Foxcatcher,” “Moneyball”). “Usually my answer right off the bat is that I work intuitively, but I draw a lot of diagrams when I work. I do a lot of thinking about etchings by Escher, for instance. That frees me, finding a mathematical model or a scientific model. I’ll draw pictures and diagrams that illustrate the movement or the rhythm than I’m after.”

Intuition, he noted, comes to the fore in his editing process. “I’ve always edited in a huge hurry, tried to catch that lightning in a bottle, just so the energy is there,” he said. “I always think of editing as instinctive or impressionist. Not to think too much, in a way, and feel it more.”

He always begins a film, he added, in an effort to find answers to interesting questions. “It’s only as I get into it that I realize they were questions hanging over from the last film.”

Led by the low-key Miller, the Tribeca Talk also touched on Nolan’s creative roots, stretching back to the Super 8 films of his toys that “Star Wars” inspired him to make. (“I was a little disappointed how bad they were,” he joked about a recent viewing of the juvenilia.) He first became aware of filmmaking as a career after seeing Ridley Scott’s two films, “Alien” and “Blade Runner.”

“There was a mind behind both of them, a feeling behind them, you could really identify,” he said.

As the discussion traced his career from first film “Following” to the recent “Interstellar,” the director pointed out that he could never make “Memento” today. “It’s the classic example of what you can do when you don’t know what you’re doing. If I tried to do that again now, it’d be a terrible failure. As you learn more and more, it becomes harder to forget the rules.”

Miller also asked Nolan about his efforts to preserve the medium of film in the face of the rising digital tide. “I care because film has the best imaging capabilities that exist,” he explained. “A lot of the threat to film is a little short-sighted, and finance-driven. I shoot film because it’s the best way of capturing an image and preserving it, and it’s important for filmmakers to always have the option to use it. My real push is to get us out of this area where the choice of imaging is given to the line producer or the studio. I want to put it back in the hands of the director,” he declared, earning a round of applause from the crowd.

Aspiring filmmakers could take away plenty of advice from the conversation. “If you can allow everything outside the frame to fall away, you can get creative fulfillment from whatever you’re doing,” he said. “If you’re lucky enough to be telling a story with a camera, appreciate it. Don’t wait for the ‘real film’ to come along, because this might be it.”

Toward the end of the talk, an audience member asked him to describe how he thinks about the audience during the process of creating a string of films that have had an astonishing track record of profitability and strong acclaim.

“Every stage in the process, I try to be the audience,” he answered. “I don’t think of the audience as someone else. We’re all a part of the audience.”

More Film

  • Roman Polanski extradition

    Academy Responds to Roman Polanski: 'Procedures Were Fair and Reasonable'

    UPDATE: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has responded to a lawsuit from director Roman Polanski that claimed he was unfairly expelled from the industry organizaton. “The procedures taken to expel Mr. Polanski were fair and reasonable. The Academy stands behind its decision as appropriate,” a spokesperson said. Polanski is suing the Academy [...]

  • Lorraine Warren dead

    Lorraine Warren, Paranormal Investigator Who Inspired 'The Conjuring,' Dies at 92

    Lorraine Warren, paranormal investigator and demonologist whose life inspired franchises like “The Conjuring” and “The Amityville Horror,” has died. She was 92. Warren’s son-in-law Tony Spera confirmed the news. Spera said on Facebook, “She died peacefully in her sleep at home.” He continued, “She was a remarkable, loving, compassionate and giving soul. To quote Will [...]

  • THE EXORCIST

    'Exorcist' Star Max Von Sydow Doesn't Let Age Define His Roles

    Max von Sydow turned 90 this month, which is a milestone for most people, but age has always seemed incidental to the actor. When he played the elderly, frail Father Merrin in “The Exorcist,” von Sydow was 44 — meaning he was the same age Bradley Cooper is today. In the 1950s, von Sydow had [...]

  • 'Changing the Game' Documentary

    Watch the First Trailer for Trans Documentary 'Changing the Game' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Another hurdle for trans rights could quite literally be the track and field hurdle. Transgender student athletes are put in the spotlight in the forthcoming documentary “Changing the Game,” set to premiere at 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. Variety has the world premiere of the doc’s first teaser trailer, which gives an in-depth look into the [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Box Office

    Box Office: 'Curse of La Llorona' Conjures $2.8 Million on Thursday Night

    “The Curse of La Llorona,” the latest entry in Warner Bros. and New Line’s “Conjuring” universe, conjured $2.75 million from Thursday preview showings, while “Breakthrough,” a faith-based offering from Fox-Disney, brought in $1.5 million from its second day of screenings. “La Llorona’s” haul tops recent horror counterparts “Pet Sematary” and “Escape Room,” which each took [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content