Paths To Success: Five Career Lessons To Learn From Christopher Nolan

Director Christopher Nolan has taken moviegoers into wormholes, through the streets of Gotham, and into the deepest recesses of our dreams. In the process, he became one of the highest-grossing directors in history. Here are five career lessons that you can learn from the master of mind-bending cinema.

Join organizations that interest you in college, even if they don’t relate to your major.

Although Nolan studied English literature at University College London, he produced several small films by joining the college’s film society. By not allowing his major to restrict his interests, Nolan nurtured his love of film and began building his career.

Learn from your mistakes.

Nolan’s first attempt at creating a feature film was scrapped due to technical limitations. Before trying again, Nolan and his crew created several shorts to prepare themselves for any similar issues. Six months of rehearsal later, the team began shooting Following, Nolan’s successful directorial debut.

Work around your budget.

One of the reasons that Nolan decided to make Following a non-linear narrative was the film’s scant budget, which resulted in a lack of filming permits and a sporadic shooting schedule. However, the decision resulted in a more creatively unique product, revealing Nolan’s ability to turn a disadvantage into an opportunity.


Nolan presented Following at Slamdance, a film festival showcasing low-budget independent films and emerging artists. There, he viewed a movie shot by Walter Pfister, and was so impressed that he tracked Pfister down and engaged him in conversation. They subsequently collaborated on enormously successful films such as Memento, Inception, and the Dark Knight Trilogy.

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes.

Nolan attributes much of his directorial success to his strategy of imagining himself as an audience member. Rather than allowing his vision to be compromised by the technical difficulties of bringing it into fruition, Nolan puts the spectators first, resulting in a product that pleases audiences.

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