Circular Filmmaking — The Shape of Christopher Nolan’s Films


♪ ♪ Have you ever heard someone
say history repeats itself? ♪ ♪ This comes up quite frequently when researching
Christopher Nolan movies. “Are you watching closely?” They’re oddly heavy. You almost have to take
a day to let them sink in before you can move
on to the next film. But why is that? What makes them so unique? We will be using StudioBinder`s
production software to illustrate how Christopher
Nolan approaches filmmaking. Everything comes
back full circle. “And here we go.” Subscribe to our channel below and click the bell
icon for new videos. What makes Nolan film so unique, is that he disguises many clues inside an important
cinematic device motifs. A motif is a repeated pattern used to support the
theme of a film. Like the totems in “Inception”
that represent reality. “So a totem. You need a small object potentially heavy, something you
can have on you all the time.” Or the various
symbols of duplicity in the “Prestige.” “- Don’t forget your hat. – Which one is mine? – They’re all your
hat, Mr. Angier.” These items may seem symbolic, but Nolan takes
it a step further. He doesn’t merely use
motifs to support a theme what he actually does is dangled a clue right
in front of your face. “Look closer.” The effect is that
it both intrigues and confuses the viewer. And he does this by
presenting information with a veiled context. “I planted an idea. A simple little idea that would change everything.” Critical clues that Nolan
peppers in at optimal moments. “- So how does he do it? – He uses a double. – No, no, no, it’s too simple. This is a complex illusion.” He spreads them out enough
to disguise the revelation. And the second, third, and fourth time
you watch his films you pick up some new
detail along the way. “- I love you. – Some days it’s not true. And today you don’t mean it. Maybe today you’re more in love with
magic than me.” Like the scene in “Insomnia.” “- Clear cause of death was
herniation of the brainstem due to intracerebral hemorrhage. – Beaten to death” The protagonist,
detective Dormer inspects a murdered girl’s body. When Dorma finishes the
inspection, he says, “He crossed the line and
he didn’t even blink.” Why is this moment so important? Dormer takes off
his rubber gloves and describes someone who crossed the line and never came back. “You don’t come back from that.” The opening credits show
fibers drenched in blood. It drips until we see an unknown
person wearing latex gloves. It’s not until the end of the
film that we come full circle and realize the man
who crossed the line was Dorm himself. And those hands in the gloves
at the beginning of the film were Dormer`s. This is just one example, but Nolan frequently
layers clues like, motifs, flashbacks and key inserts
throughout his narratives. “It’s not Morse,
Murph, it`s binary. Thick is one. Thin is zero. Coordinates.” How can you do this
with your own script? It starts with your
script break down. A script breakdown is where you go through
each scene in your script and identify key
elements such as props, wardrobe, set dressing, anything really. These elements are
prime opportunities to define motifs, symbols, and as Nolan often does dangle plot points. “Edward Gammell. Scott told me his
name is Teddy.” When Nolan went through
his script in “Insomnia” he knew the gloves were not only
a requirement for the scene, but also a clue. All he needed to do
was tagged the prop, embed an image or video
in the scene notes, so that you can communicate
his plan with his team. If you want to learn
more about motif in film, check out our other video on
visual motifs of Americana in “Silence of the Lambs.” ♪ ♪ Christopher Nolan admits that when he writes a film he makes sure to write
in the same order that it will play on screen. “I approached the structure from very mathematical and
geometrical point of view. A lot of diagrams,
lot of careful planning, but then you sit down
and you write the script the way the audience is going to
be receiving that information. The hope is that in that way you’re actually creating a cohesive and all organic
rhythm and story movement.” “Dream within a dream. I’m impressed.” “And so the structure
I settled on is based on a musical structure
called the Shepard tone, which is a musical illusion. Whereby you can keep
climbing up the scale, but you never seem to go
out of reach if you like and I wanted to
try and apply that to screenwriting.” “Now!” If you were to
graph out a diagram that illustrates the
structure of a Nolan film, it would look
something like this. “Best way to draw it is, as I hat pan. That’s basically the
end of the movie.” “I’ve seen one before many many years ago.” And this reveals one
of the main devices he uses in his storytelling. Bookending. This is where a beginning and
end share something identical. It can be dialogue. “Are you watching closely? Are you watching closely?” Props. “- Time will
run differently for us? – Yeah – Nobody believed me. But I knew you’d come back.” Color schemes. “It’s just an anonymous room. It’s nothing in the drawers. It’s look anyway. Nothing except it`s
getting a Bib– Bible.” Or an entire scene. “- Now you want to
know who he was? – I know exactly who he was. He was the Batman. – No one’s ever going to know
who saved an entire city. – They know. It was the Batman.” Everything comes
back full circle. Remember, history repeats itself. ♪ ♪ What else does Christopher
Nolan do so well as a filmmaker? Tell us in the comments. “This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.” Check the description to
sign up for StudioBinder. It’s free to get started. Write as many
scripts as you like. No Limits. Then watch your
script synchronize across all of your StudioBinder
pre-production features to form script breakdowns, shotlists, storyboards, schedules call sheets and more. And collaborate on all of it, every step of the way. Subscribe to our channel below. Click the bell icon
for notifications. We’ve come full circle. Did history repeat itself? ♪ ♪ “Are you watching closely?”

75 Replies to “Circular Filmmaking — The Shape of Christopher Nolan’s Films”

  1. How come we are able to download other Studio Binder videos except the ones about Chris Nolan? Perhaps because the man is a legend or a film god. 🙏🏾

  2. Christopher Nolan's approches of filmmaking:

    1) Clues in motifs
    He uses symbolic motifs, such as objects, less to support a theme, than to dangle a clue right at the audiences face.

    2) Non linear stories
    Nolan structures his stories in a very mathematical & geometrical point of view, with lots of diagrams, and then writes it in the same order the audience is gonna watch it. He hopes to create a more cohesive and organic rythme of the story.

    3) Bookending
    Where the beginning and ending of the movie share something identical. It can be the same line of dialogue, the use of the same prop, or even an entire scene. History repeats itself.

    (I don't know for you, but writing that down help me to digest what it's all about, so i thought i'd share it…)

  3. Nolan is a unique director, he is a work hard guy with his wife… Thankz StudioBinder for explaining each scene's in his every film 👍👍👍👍

  4. What a fantastically informative video! Keep doing the great work Studiobinder for the filmmaking community!

  5. Nolan is a complete hack. He cares nothing about his audience and everything he does is based on contrivance and lazy writing.

  6. It's been a year and a half since I discovered this great channel on YouTube. Studio binder whenever I see a notification I m just so excited for the content you prepare.
    Great channel really. You people deserve more.

  7. Well i guess he’s a thought provoker who makes movies that makes you feel very small infront of life and certain things and provokes various emotions.

  8. What is your data policy? How do we know our scripts, documents and plans are safe and not being data mined or exploited? Thanks

  9. What makes Nolan special is his approach to every frame on the screen like his music, it's always an important set piece,the way music comes with a scene is mesmerizing,his long time collaborator hans zimmer understands his vision,he approaches his music like method acting,like in dunkirk nolan sent him only clock ticks and tocks he made music out of it.in inception hans did the same,by using edith piaaf song he made the soundtrack.soundtrack is also fhe key element

  10. Hey, studiobinder, I can't make a breakdown from the script I've written natively in your application. Only from imported ones. I contacted the support with no luck

  11. I'm big fan of Nolan and his movies, creativity, concept, writing. When you explained his story telling techniques, same feelings after his movie watched.

  12. Nolan gives us three climax in a movie. He starts to tell a story from the most mysterious moment to most fascinating; and between them, we see third climax. For example, The Prestige, in the first scene Michael Caine talks about the magic. We see the climax as a mysterious moment while he talks, because we dont know anything rightnow. Then film tells us a story of two magicians but in a way of Nolan. Its not straight, flat… It is piece by piece, like a small delicious a cake you eat. And we see the first scene again, but rightnow, we understand whats going on. We have to see more, we cant stop here… That is the second climax for us. Remember the last scene, we see a lot of Hugh Jackman in a full of water box. Do you realise that we never stop exploring the story from the beginning to end. Every f*ckin scene gives us a new information. A new piece of cake. And the last one is the third climax. Because we have to see more…

  13. What else does Nolan do good as a film maker: hire Hans Zimmer to score his films. Create paradox structures in his writing. Makes us question not only what we believe in life but how we believe it and why.

  14. Fav thing about Chris Nolan is how he makes us believe in magic each time. His imagination is beyond most people and he finds a way to share it.

  15. Thinking of the process you are using as a shape or even shapes within shapes is a good way to apply how to craft something less immediately visual to visual thinkers.

  16. Christopher Nolan uses Kodak film to make his films. He is a master at using huge IMAX 70mm film cameras as if they were tiny Go-Pro cameras. Film is what sets him apart from the majority of film makers. He is one of about a dozen film makers that use real film to make films. And those who do use real film for their movies are far more likely to win awards for their movies. I always see his movies on 70mm IMAX, they are awesome that way.

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