It’s often said that filmmaking is a battle between art and commerce. In his career so far, British director Christopher Nolan has managed to strike a balance between the two better than just about any filmmaker currently working.
Look at how cleanly Nolan made the transition from independent moviemaking to the Hollywood mainstream. He shot his first film in 1998, the black-and-white thriller Following, on a budget of just $6,000. Its festival success led him to make Memento, a uniquely constructed, taut psychological thriller made for a lean $5 million. Despite Nolan’s initial difficulty in finding a distributor for the film – its style of editing was too confusing, they said – Memento became a hit, aided largely by strong reviews and positive word-of-mouth.
Memento’s success led to his first studio movie: Insomnia, produced by Alcon and Section Eight and distributed by Warner Bros. Many directors might have been tempted to treat this project, a remake of the 1997 Norwegian thriller of the same name, as a simple work-for-hire gig, but Nolan didn’t. He did a final rewrite of the script (which went uncredited) and forged the film in his own style, even bringing along cinematographer Wally Pfister and editor Dody Dorn along from Memento. The result was another creative success.
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