April 12, 2012
Los Angeles – In a candid and controversial interview in the spring issue of the DGA Quarterly, Batman director Christopher Nolan talks about why he prefers film to digital, shoots with only one camera, and doesn’t believe in 3-D. The interview took place as Nolan (Inception, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight) was editing the eagerly anticipated The Dark Knight Rises. Here are some excerpts from the DGA Quarterly interview with this cinematic master. The whole interview can be accessed at www.dgaquarterly.org.
- Why Nolan shoots only on film: “For the last 10 years, I've felt increasing pressure to stop shooting film and start shooting video, but I've never understood why. It's cheaper to work on film, it's far better looking, it's the technology that's been known and understood for a hundred years, and it's extremely reliable. I think, truthfully, it boils down to the economic interest of manufacturers and [a production] industry that makes more money through change rather than through maintaining the status quo. . . . I've just carried on making films in the way that works best and waiting until there's a good reason to change. But I haven't seen that reason yet.”
- The problem with 3-D: “I find [3-D] stereoscopic imaging too small scale and intimate in its effect. It’s well suited to video games and other immersive technologies, but if you’re looking for an audience experience, stereoscopic is hard to embrace. I prefer the big canvas, looking up at an enormous screen and at an image that feels larger than life.” … I feel that in the initial wave to embrace [3-D], that wasn’t considered in the slightest.”
- Why IMAX is the best format: “[Right] before Christmas I brought some filmmakers together and showed them the prologue for The Dark Knight Rises that we shot on IMAX film…. I wanted to give them a chance to see the potential, because I think IMAX is the best film format that was ever invented. It's the gold standard and what any other technology has to match up to, but none have, in my opinion.”
- How Nolan uses special effects: “There are usually two different goals in a visual effects movie. One is to fool the audience into seeing something seamless, and that's how I try to use it. The other is to impress the audience with the amount of money spent on the spectacle of the visual effect, and that, I have no interest in.”
- On the limitations of CGI: “However sophisticated your computer-generated imagery is, if it’s been created from no physical elements and you haven’t shot anything, it’s going to feel like animation…. The problem for me is if you don't first shoot something with the camera on which to base the shot, the visual effect is going to stick out. I prefer films that feel more like real life.”
- Creating the tumbling hallway in Inception: “I grew up as a huge fan of Kubrick's 2001, and I was fascinated by the way in which he built that centrifugal set so that the astronauts could jog all around and upside down. I found his illusions completely convincing and mind-blowing. . . . So I've always wanted to do something like that, and with Inception I had the opportunity and resources to do it within an action context. . . . that large-scale physical effect was still the best way to do the sequence, and it was really fun.”
- A threat to filmmakers: “Copyright theft is a very important issue. . . if you're going to be paid and make a living, and if you employ talented craftspeople who need to make a living, it's always going to be an expensive form. The only way to ever get paid for it is by controlling the sale and distribution of the copyrighted material. Anyone who profits through theft, and certainly anyone getting advertising revenue off of somebody else's copyrights, should be prosecuted, shut down, and held accountable.”
Other highlights from the spring issue of the DGA Quarterly:
The directors of Modern Family – Working at a breakneck pace in a documentary style, directors on Modern Family have managed to capture the rhythms of everyday life – only funnier.
Freeing the West Memphis Three – For almost 20 years, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky followed the trial, conviction, and ultimate freeing of the West Memphis Three in an epic documentary trilogy.
Will UltraViolet change the world? – Mitch Singer, the leader of an industry-wide digital consortium, talks about how the UltraViolet cloud could revolutionize home entertainment.
The hectic life of an episodic director – How TV director Millicent Shelton moves around a lot without losing her bearings.
The Ten Commandments of directing comedy – David Dobkin, the director of Wedding Crashers, explains what makes a movie funny.
New York stories – With hundreds of background actors and numerous locations, the directorial team on the cop show Blue Bloods has a lot to think about.