Christopher Nolan: Why is he stuck in the 20th century?

Christopher Nolan is known for pushing boundaries through his movies. He narrates truly complex stories, elevates the tech, and gives us some amazing futuristic shots! 

But even though his movies may seem futuristic, Nolan himself shys away from tech. His movie Interstellar used CGI in just 850 frames. That may seem like a lot, but ask any expert and they would say a movie like that would require CGI in at least 1500 to 2000 frames!

But do you know what’s the most surprising thing about Nolan? That he does not have an email address or use a smartphone!

Isn’t that weird? How do people even contact him? Nolan’s assistant Andy Thompson receives his emails and prints them out if he wants Nolan to read it. 

As for the phone, Nolan says that while shooting a film, there are always a dozen people around him. A phone is never more than 2 feet away if he requires it!

Why does one of the most futuristic directors not use a smartphone?

If you have seen any of Christopher Nolan’s movies you know that he has a weird brain. He sees patterns and rhythms where we don’t. But to craft this rhythms on screen requires dedication. Focus. And that’s why Nolan uses nothing that brings distraction to his life.

If you have a phone and 10 free minutes, you are bound to spend those free minutes scrolling through a social media app or playing a dumb game. But it’s those in-between moments where magic happens. Creative ideas surge. Thinking becomes sharp and deep if you manage your in-between moments well. 

And its these in-between moments that help you connect different varied ideas.

As Nolan says: “I’m easily distractible so I don’t really want to have access to the internet every time when I’m bored. I do a lot of my best thinking in those kind of in-between moments that people now fill with online activity, so it benefits me.”

But is getting rid of your phone practical?

Not really. Not unless you have assistants to read your emails and drive you around town. But what is undebatable is that the in-between moments are important! You don’t want them to be mindless.

So what do you do? You do what Leslie Perlow recommends. Perlow is a faculty member and a researcher at Harvard Business School. She conducted a multi year research on thousands of employees who worked for the consulting firm BCG. 

BCG had a problem. People worked long hours there. And they were always on. They had to take client calls even if it were in the middle of the night. They had to respond fast. And as a result, the burnout rate was extremely high!

The way to climb up the ranks at BCG was to not be a slacker. And so the atmosphere was extremely competitive. People would not take vacations. In such an atmosphere, Perlow managed to convince them to try out her experiment: to let a small team unplug from their emails one day a week!

And do you know what problems this caused? None. Quality of work actually became better – making clients happier! And the employees loved it!

72% of employees were satisfied with their work in teams that scheduled time off from email and phone. Compared to just 49% employees being satisfied in other teams! Burnout reduced. Employee churn reduced.

As Perlow says, distraction is a sign of dysfunction. You can organize things and plan in advance so that you can build a distraction free day – at least one day a week!

And the best part of scheduling a “predictable time off” day is that it brings your team a lot closer. As the team starts relying on each other to have their back so everyone can get their distraction free day once a week, communication improves drastically!

Action Summary:

  • Make the most of your in-between moments. Don’t let distractions rule you.
  • Start with one day a week break from distraction devices.