Christopher Nolan: Self-Taught Filmmaker


I find it fascinating that the bulk of the greatest filmmakers are all people who made it by teaching themselves film, rather than going to a school for it. Now there’s obviously many great filmmakers who did go through a formal training, such as John McTiernan, Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis, and there are indeed many variables and forces that play a role in success in this field; aka – networking – but I’m more fascinated by someone who just has too much passion for the craft and will make it their mission to learn it on their “own”. With the advent of social media sites like Vimeo and Youtube, it becomes much easier to get oneself recognized. With a little bit, or A LOT of education and talent – it can happen.

Nolan actually never went to film school, however his formal training of literature is what makes him a great storyteller. Once again, an illustration of the idea that being well versed in the language is what’s important in filmmaking

Here’s a little promo video from Criterion

I think it’s important to realize that film education itself does not have to be formal – you can learn it all yourself if you have enough love, passion, and drive for it. Take a note from how John McTiernan went about it all.

 I went about it like it was reverse engineering. I knew that I had to go and learn what a movie was, not just my experience of going and watching a movie. So I went and sat in Truffaut’s Day for Night (1972), watched it for three days straight, eight hours at a time and memorized it shot-for-shot. I got past the story, all the original and secondary experience, so I could study what it was that I was really watching. Film is really sort of a chain that’s really linear. Yet when it’s all strung together, it just sort of feels like an experience. It takes quite a while to be able to deconstruct that experience to figure out what you really saw.


It’s the same thing of how you get to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice. (laughs) Also, I’d say get a hold of a video camera and just shoot as much as you can, of anything. If you have a script, get a couple actors together and shoot two pages from the script, then edit the footage on a really basic video editing program. It takes as long to develop a prose style on film as it does a prose style in writing, so it’s crucial to practice whenever and however you can.


6 thoughts on “Christopher Nolan: Self-Taught Filmmaker

  1. Pingback: Christopher Nolan on filmmaking – part I | filmschoolthrucommentaries

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