Nolan’s first feature Following was a black-and-white mystery shot over the course of a year for around $6,000. It screened at Slamdance in 1999, and tonight the festival honored the director with its inaugural Founder’s Award. Nolan then sat down to talk to the audience of filmmakers and fans about the lessons he learned as an indie filmmaker, his frequent collaborations with brother Jonathan, and how Brad Pitt helped Memento get made.
BRAD PITT AND ‘MEMENTO’
Christopher Nolan: Truthfully he did read the script, I mean that’s where the story [about Pitt being the first choice for the lead role] comes from, is he read the script and he met with me about it when he didn’t have any reason to know who I was or anything about it. And nothing came of it. Other than him being interested in it, I think within the sort of [talent] agency world where the script was circulating, just sort of perked up a bit of interest in what was a very obscure project, otherwise. And I think really that’s how it came to Guy Pearce’s attention, and you know, he sort of got the ball rolling. … It was a very nice thing that he liked it.
WRITING WITH JONATHAN NOLAN
CN: Jonah’s my brother, as most people probably know, so we’ve worked together on a lot of different projects for a long time. Really the process has been different on different films. Sometimes we’ve written completely separately. You know, he’s done a first draft, and then given it to me and I’ve done a second draft and given it back to him, and he’s done a third draft. Sometimes we’ve been a little more together in that process.
“WE DON’T TEND TO SORT OF WRITE TOGETHER IN THE TRADITIONAL SENSE.”
Generally the way it works is we’ll get in a room together, throw a bunch of ideas around — a lot of arguments, a lot of fights, that kind of thing — and then he’ll go off and write something and then I’ll take it and write. We don’t tend to sort of write together in the traditional sense, and that’s been a very productive way of working for us. Particularly because it allows both of us to work on other things at the same time. But you know, he just gets busier and more expensive so it gets harder to get his attention, but it’s really been terrific having a brother to work with on these projects. It’s been an important part of why they’ve been any good, if they’ve been any good.