The Secrets of Christopher Nolan's Director's Work

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Table of contents

  1. Director’s work
  2. Director’s work(working process)
  3. Conclusion

Christopher Nolan is a great director. There are so many successful science fiction films that he has already created. However, most of these science fiction films didn’t use much CG effect but shoot at the real scene. There are many scenes and objects in Nolan’s films that are real, not created by CG effect. He always insists that the real scene and real things can create better visual effect, no matter how complicated the image is synthesized by the computer, if you don’t take a picture, you will feel like an animation, not a science fiction film.

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Director’s work

In order to shoot in the real scene, Nolan will find a real place that you can’t imagine. For example, the scene on the alien planet in his film Interstellar was actually shot in Iceland. When we sit in the cinema to watch the film, we believe that it must be special effect, we can’t believe that the scene on the alien planet in a real scene on earth. Also, the scene in a capsule was shot in a real capsule not in a green screen. Except shooting in the real scene, Nolan also would like to use the real object to shoot. Such as the Batmobile in his film The Dark Knight, the batmobile is not created by computer, it is real. What’s more, the spaceship and robot in Interstellar are all real. The robot named TARS was controlled by a remote control, it is crazy to see such a real robot moving on the set.

Director’s work(working process)

Nolan has tried his best to create more real visual effect that we can’t believe. In the explosion scene outside the cafe in Inception. Nolan used a set of air cannons to create a blast in front of the actor and shot a slow motion with the camera. There is a scene of sandstorm in Interstellar. In general, the filmmaker will use the animation to create the sandstorm. However, Nolan used the real sand. He used artificial sand fall, and there were many large fans in addition to a lot of sand on the set. Male starring Matthew McConaughey said he could find sand on him after a few weeks. “There is too much sand.” (Matthew, 2014). What’s more, the corn field in Interstellar is real too, Nolan spent half years planting the corn in order to shoot this scene. Whether he chooses to use a real plane when shooting the air combat lens of Dunkirk, or the stunning special effects in the series of Batman, Interstellar and Inception, Nolan never abandoned the visual effect on the screen in order to save costs. (Campor, 2019). At very beginning, Nolan’s films were low-budget such as Tarantella and Following. After he got prizes and earned much money, he had enough budget, but he preferred spending money on creating real scenes and objects rather than spend money on making special effect, which create better visual effect.

Compared to the Marvel studio, Nolan’s films allow the audience to believe that what happened in the films are all real. The Marvel films are mostly shot in the green screen; the scenes are created by CG special effect. The new film Spider-Man: Far From Home that made by Marvel studio are full of CG special effect. The whole scene that in the Venice was shot in the green screen. The same is a big-budget movie, Nolan’s film is better and more real.


Nolan does use special effect, but he doesn’t use so much of that in his film. The real scene and real object combine with some simple special effect can make the audience feel like they are actually in this film when watching it. “CG have two functions. One is that the visually deceives the audience seamlessly, that is, what I am trying to do. The other is purely spending money making wonders. I am not interested in this.” (Nolan, 2012)

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