Doodlebug, Christopher Nolan’s First Short: What Came Before The Dark Night, Memento & Inception (1997)

We know British film­mak­er Christo­pher Nolan best today for direct­ing the lat­est tril­o­gy of Bat­man films, Bat­man BeginsThe Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Ris­es. His recent high-pro­file non-super­hero hit Incep­tion made an impres­sive, if brief, splash as a main­stream brain­ben­der, which, for me, faint­ly echoed the thrill he sent through the world of crossover inde­pen­dent film with 2000’s back­ward-told Memen­to. Yet, if this does­n’t make me too much of an I‑liked-the-ear­ly-stuff-cliché, I still think of him most fond­ly for direct­ing his 1998 fea­ture debut Fol­low­ing, a 16-mil­lime­ter, black-and-white, $6000-bud­get tale of theft, imper­son­ation, and iden­ti­ty shot on the streets of Lon­don. (One of the char­ac­ters breaks into an apart­ment with a now-strik­ing Bat­man logo on its door.) But even a project as small-scale as Fol­low­ing has a pre­de­ces­sor, Doo­dle­bug, which you can watch above.

“The depths of insan­i­ty are explored by a man chas­ing some­thing in his apart­ment with a shoe,” promis­es the video descrip­tion of the three-minute Doo­dle­bug. In the cen­ter of this shad­owy, para­noid tale we have Jere­my Theobald, who would go on to star in Fol­low­ing (and appear as a Gotham Water Board Tech­ni­cian in Bat­man Begins). Nolan shot it back in his days study­ing Eng­lish lit­er­a­ture at Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Lon­don, a school whose film soci­ety he led and which he chose express­ly for the avail­abil­i­ty of its cam­eras and edit­ing gear. His ear­ly, hand­made pic­tures have become even more fas­ci­nat­ing to watch in light of his dec­la­ra­tions in DGA Quar­ter­ly inter­view that he far prefers shoot­ing in film to shoot­ing dig­i­tal­ly, and that 3D tech­nol­o­gy has­n’t much impressed him. But he hard­ly dis­dains spec­ta­cle, and the arti­cle con­tains a good deal of talk about how he uses CGI and crafts action sequences. Over the years, Nolan’s core enthu­si­asms seem­ing­ly haven’t changed; even Doo­dle­bug, espe­cial­ly by stu­dent-film stan­dards, has some pret­ty cool spe­cial effects.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Dark Knight: Anato­my of a Flawed Action Scene

Slavoj Žižek’s Pervert’s Guide to Ide­ol­o­gy Decodes The Dark Knight and They Live

The First Films of Great Direc­tors: Kubrick, Cop­po­la, Scors­ese, Taran­ti­no & Truf­faut

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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