When it comes to the debate over film vs. television, one man firmly in the corner of the big screen theatrical experience is filmmaker Christopher Nolan. Even with this adoration of cinema, he’s not afraid to call out the film industry for its perceived shortcomings.
In an interview with The Los Angeles Times the other day, Nolan discussed his concern over studios becoming too reliant on franchise tentpoles, pre-planned cinematic universes and hitting release dates – in the process avoiding offering films that are either bold or original:
“What’s interesting about that whole paradigm is, you can’t fault the studios for looking to likely hits, for looking for areas where people seem to want more of something. But Hollywood and the studios have also always understood that novelty, freshness, is one of the magical ingredients of movies. And I don’t think the studios ever want to risk losing that completely.
When they start dating films too far out, when a grand plan is unveiled for years into the future, there is a risk that that unexpected quality in movies could get lost. So I think the studios recognize that it’s very important within those tent poles that they need surprises in there.
They need things to come along that the audience isn’t expecting. Because that’s part of the excitement of why we go to the movies: What are we going to see that we haven’t seen before? It’s a balance between giving audiences things they’re familiar with but then giving them things that are new and fresh.”
Television is where much more storytelling risk taking has been going on over the past 15-20 years, even so – Nolan has no plans to direct television in the foreseeable future:
“As a kid, I loved watching ‘Miami Vice,’ but the relationship of what Michael Mann did in that to what he did in ‘Heat’ – they’re just completely different things. I think there are amazing things being done on television. I would point to my brother [Jonathan] and sister-in-law [Lisa Joy]’s show [HBO’s ‘Westworld’] as being one of them. I certainly don’t want to disparage TV. I think there are amazing things being done. But it’s very different to films.
Films are a particular type of storytelling. It’s not better than TV, it’s not worse – it’s just a completely different experience. And I think because they both consist of audiovisual information, people confuse the two. Obviously there’s a shared skill set and there are people like my brother or J.J. Abrams who can go back and forth with amazing facility. But at the end of the day, they’re different.”
Nolan’s “Dunkirk” is now playing in cinemas worldwide.