UCL Logo
Skip to end of metadata
Go to start of metadata

Screenwriter and Director

The Man behind the Mask

In 1989 Nolan came to UCL to pursue a degree in English Language and Literature. He joined UCL Union's Film Society, one of the oldest and most well established film societies in the country. Nolan was then able to access a vast range of camera and editing equipment, enabling him to explore his film making aspirations. His first foray into the celluloid world was a short named Tarantella (1989), which was showcased in the United States on Image Union, an independent film and video showcase featured on PBS. By the mid-90s, he began working with actor Jeremy Theobold, who appeared in the shorts Larceny, which was shown during the 1996 Cambridge Film Festival, and another short named Doodlebug'.

In 1996 Nolan made his feature debut with Following, a 16mm black-and-white film noir he spent a year shooting, planning around friend's student and working schedules. The inspiration for the film came directly from his experience of living in London and having his flat broken into:

"There is an interesting connection between a stranger going through your possessions and the concept of following people at random through a crowd - both take you beyond the boundaries of ordinary social relations".

One of the key to Following's success, which Nolan claims as perhaps one of the cheapest films ever made, was the collective efforts of the FilmSoc alumni. The core group from college had kept in touch with the society's activities and since graduation had maintained excellent relations. It was through the FilmSoc that Nolan met Emma Thomas, who went on to become his wife and co-producer of his films, fellow director Andrew McCarthy and Davis Julyan who has composed the music for many of Nolan's films. Nolan explained:

"A lot of the exteriors were filmed as we walked from Bloomsbury to Convent Garden and back, we'd just grab shots here and there - if you look carefully, some of it is right outside UCL. Some parts were shot in FilmSoc's studio."

During a showing at the Toronto Film Festival Following caught the eye of Adrian Curry who had graduated from UCL in 1986 with a degree in English. He picked up the US distribution rights for his company Zeitgeist Films. The triumph of Following secured backing for Memento in 2002 which Nolan had written with his brother. This thought provoking mystery thriller starred Guy Pearce and was nominated for two Oscars in, including Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen. Memento won a total of 42 awards overall.

Since then, Nolan's career has escalated and he is now considered an accomplished film maker that delivers a slick, clever and original movie to his audiences. He went on to direct Insomnia with Robin Williams and Al Pacino and The Prestige with Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman both commercial and critical successes. His most recent accomplishment has been the resurrection of the Batman Franchise. He both wrote and directed the 2005 and 2008 Batman Begins and The Dark Knight both of which raked in more than a billion box office dollars across the globe.

"I give credit to Christopher Nolan" said Dan Fellman, Warner Bros.' President of Distribution. "With Batman Begins, he picked up on the last Batman, which was down to $107 million and started a new franchise."

It is clear that his talent as both a writer and director have earned him a secure place in the Hollywood Hall of Fame.

Interested in studying film at UCL? Click here
Want to join the Film Society at UCL? Click here