Christopher Nolan's student short film Doodlebug shows the Dunkirk director's humble beginnings

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The Independent Culture

It's always fascinating watching major directors' earliest work, and Doodlebug is no different, a no budget, 3-minute film Christopher Nolan wrote, directed, shot and edited in 1997 while he was studying English Literature at UCL in London.

It's intriguing not because it's some peer-destroying early masterpiece but quite the opposite. A Kafkaesque (aren't student films always?) psychological thriller, it is rough round the edges at every level: acting, editing, camerawork, lighting, sound editing, scoring.

It does bear Nolan hallmarks, be it his fondness for black and white (see: Memento) or interest in the metaphysical (Inception, Interstellar), but it's a fairly unremarkable student film - and that's great.

While lists of directors who made and broke through with their first film in their 40s can provide encouragement to those trying to get into the industry, so can this short in a very different way; it shows that Nolan was not a master from the second he first got his hands on a 16mm camera but, crucially, kept at it, kept learning and incrementally amassed an impressive set of cinematic skills that put him in command of huge budgets that allow him to fully achieve his vision.

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