A few years back, I think it was at the 2011 Santa Barbara film festival, I asked Christopher Nolan (then making the rounds for “Inception”) if he could ever see himself heading back to the Independent Spirit Awards with a modest piece of work. After all, the director got his start at Slamdance in Park City, with the 1999 entry “Following,” and again a couple years later with “Memento,” which would later be recognized at the Spirits.
“It depends on the story,” he told me at the time, before saying, tellingly, “I tend to think that if you have the chance to do a big film, you should do it while you can. I”m always worried maybe I won”t be able to do a big film again.”
And indeed, November’s “Interstellar” promises to be the biggest one yet. But as much of a fan of Nolan’s large-scale work that I am, I’m actually very, very eager to see him scale it back again. His best output, in my opinion, is still “Memento,” followed by “The Prestige,” though the latter showed the signs of ungainly structure that has plagued some of his bigger efforts (particularly “The Dark Knight Rises”). It would be a good exercise, if nothing else.
Then again, it’s not like the process has changed drastically as Nolan segued to bigger productions. As “Interstellar” star Matthew McConaughey told me in a recent interview, “Chris is a great mind. This is a big movie, so there’s a lot of things that have to be coordinated to make a scene work, which is different than something like [‘Dallas Buyers Club’]: 25 days, one camera, no lights, it’s about performance, follow this guy’s life, ‘go.’ There’s no time to be ‘considerate.’ So there’s a lot of things to ‘consider’ with a larger-scope movie like this where also the director is doing many things with the story. But when we’re shooting the scenes, it’s like you’re on an independent. It’s, ‘Get after it,’ a couple of takes, ‘We got it; move on.’ It’s not overly precious.”
Maybe Nolan will catch the spark and try his hand at something smaller coming off a recently announced honor that he’ll be receiving at the upcoming Slamdance fest, a tandem circuit focused on the most indie of indie productions. The organization has chosen Nolan as the inaugural recipient of the Founder’s Award.
“Throughout his incredible successes, Christopher Nolan has stood firmly behind the Slamdance filmmaking community,” Slamdance president and co-founder Peter Baxter said via press release. “We are honored to present him with Slamdance’s inaugural Founder’s Award.”
Added Nolan, “Slamdance continues to provide an important forum for emerging filmmakers and I’m proud to be part of their history.”
The 2014 Slamdance Film Festival runs Jan. 17th – 23.