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Elisabeth Bartlett is blogging the festival scene from Cannes to Los Angeles.
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Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas at Produced by 2012

Christopher Nolan & Emma Thomas were humble and introspective in front of the eager audience at as they opened Produced by 2012 last weekend. Nolan and Thomas worked together in England before bringing their first film Following to the US in 1998, at a time in the US when there was a "movement of cheap films that secured distribution through the festival circuit." They submitted it to the Sundance Film Festival, didn't make it, but there met a programmer from the San Francisco International Film Fest who thought Following would be a good there. Nolan and Thomas have never gotten into a film festival through an application, but instead just by meeting people (connections are everything).

They say trying to get your film out through the festival circuit is tricky. It takes a few years of getting to know people, and it's lots of effort.  It was a smart move that while shopping Following they had the script for a similar, non-linear structure film that used some of the same narrative devices, Memento, already done. "It's a good combination to show people a film, then have them read a script," says Nolan.  "If you're lucky enough to have that moment where someone says, 'I like this, what are you doing next?'' Then you are ready, says Nolan. It's a huge disadvantage to have to say, "I'll contact you in six months."

The moderator asked Nolan and Thomas about the divying up of responsibibilties between a producer and director. "As a director, it's really about the creative relationship. Finding a degree of trust creatively," says Nolan.

"Producers have to try to preserve the director's relationship -- preserve that trust, preserve that very close bond," said Thomas. Thomas says she will be the one to ask actors to be to set on time, etc. and leave the more creative stuff to the directors.

Nolan and Thomas made Following with $6,000.00.  Memento was made with 3.5 million, and Insomnia, the next film, was made with 45 million. The moderator pointed out how Nolan's films tend to have a nonlinear style, but with a continual thread so no one gets lost. "I can think like that very easily," says Nolan, who speaks more often than not with a producer's head too. "My feeling is that all production is non-linear." When you have a production you make a schedule, but, "That schedule is complete nonsense. You have to creatively turn on a dime."

The moderator asked the pair what it must feel like to go from such small budget films to large ones. "Large
scale films are just about getting used to the territory -- confidence.
But the experience that comes with working on small budget films is incredible. There's not enough money, but you have a certain production value to get on
screen. That tension is so valuable," says Nolan. 

"Isn't it crazy to get that huge check?" Asked the moderator.

"It's never just one check," said Nolan to a laugh from the crowd. 

Producing tips?  "Always be
entirely honest about the effort something is going to take."

The moderator asked Nolan
about his
advocacy of film, rather than digital, which he is quite known for. "The
reason I think it's the best format is because it's
the best format," Nolan said to a chuckle from the audience.  "What I want is to use the best
quality... Film is the "oldest, most reliable, the highest
quality. I dont want to be the research and development department on
digital...The problem with digital is it's been given a consumer aspect.
Econimically, and with quality,  it's not there yet. Change is being
forced in a comsumer way."

Nolan talked about the duality of dream life and real life in his movies. "It's
more finding the duality in narrative," said Nolan. I'm a huge fan of
film noir/crime story... What's going on beneath that? Hovering within
character is a
maze, you're not above it, you're down there in the maze [with the
character]. So you wind up with questions of duality, questions of
people and things are not what they seem." 

Director /writer of mindblowing movies such as Memento and Inception, I wanted Nolan's perspective more to see inside his brain but since it is a Producer's conference the focus stayed towards that. This was the most I got: "The structure of Inception in some ways is analogous to the
branches of the Ipod...I'm interested in that," says Nolan.

Inevitably some of the reason Nolan has been so successful is how his
team has remained together. He and wife Thomas have been working together since
1998. Power couple! They must be twice as capable together. Nolan commented
on keeping the caliber of their movies high by involving the most
experienced people. If they need visual effects, they'll find the most
experienced visual effects person. But that's not all. "We are really good at finding the
most experienced person in
the world. We find an experienced person but we then have challenge them. Because, is a really
experienced person going to need it in the same way?" Nolan talked about keeping the workers challenged. "That way they are a little
afraid, challenged. This keeps it fresh," he said.

Nolan is used to finishing editing in 10 weeks, and showing what the film will be
when it's finished at 10 weeks. At least that's how he thinks of it.
Then they show it to people and make changes. With Inception, it
ended up being one day to edit
every day of the shoot. He's known for his good memory, which inevitably
speeds up his editing pace. Nolan said he always projects dailies at the
end of
every day, so he remembers stuff
that way. 

On working with writers, Nolan says it's largely about
establishing relationships of trust. Developing relationships with writers, he said, is "certainly
about not wasting their time."

Nolan didn't speak much about the next Batman movie, but he
did say that while he's making them he never thinks of them as a trilogy.
"We put everything we can into making a great movie. I can't think
of it in terms of a trilogy..I didn't want to hold anything back. Any
ideas, we put them all into the film. Then you learn so much from the
about what you've made. You're not sure what you've made until you
it with the audience."

"We make movies we'd like to see. There's no conscious
‘brand strategy'" says Thomas.

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About Elisabeth

Bartlett Elisabeth
Blogging about the festival scene from Los Angeles

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