Steven Soderbergh and Christopher Nolan have been friends for nearly two decades, so neither director has any problem mocking the other when it comes to personal filmmaking preferences. Soderbergh was in attendance at the 2019 Slamdance Film Festival, where he world premiered his new Netflix movie “High Flying Bird” and was honored with the festival’s Founders Award, but it was Nolan who stole the spotlight.
Prior to a screening of “High Flying Bird,” Soderbergh took part in a Q&A in which directors had pre-submitted questions for the filmmaker to answer. Nolan’s question lovingly mocked Soderbergh for his love of digital filmmaking, as he asked the director when he would come back from “the dark side and shoot on celluloid again.” Soderbergh had a quick comeback to put Nolan in his place: “Around the time Chris starts writing scripts in pencil.”
Nolan has long been an advocate for shooting on celluloid over digital, but Soderbergh has fully embraced the age of digital filmmaking. Both “High Flying Bird” and Soderbergh’s last directorial effort, the psychological thriller “Unsane,” were shot using iPhone cameras. Soderbergh’s love for digital allows him to shoot and edit his movies simultaneously, which is not something Nolan can do when shooting on film.
While the two directors love to grill one another about the celluloid vs. digital debate, they truly are champions of each other’s work. Their friendship started because Soderbergh fell in love with Nolan’s breakthrough directorial effort “Memento” in 2000. In a recent interview with Deadline, Soderbergh remembered loving “Memento” so much that he ended up being the crucial figure in bringing Nolan over to the world of Hollywood studios.
“When Nolan became interested in ‘Insomnia’ and word got back to me from [agent] Dan Aloni that he couldn’t get a meeting at Warner Bros. and that they wouldn’t meet with him to talk about it, I said that’s ridiculous,” Soderbergh said. “I called the person who wouldn’t meet with him and said you need to sit down with this guy. Whether it’s this project or something else, you need to meet this guy. You need to talk to him. Turns out he has the meeting, and it was a total love fest. He goes and makes ‘Insomnia’ and begins his relationship with Warner Bros. So the only thing I did was get him in the room.”
“Insomnia” was the start of an incredibly successful critical and commercial relationship between Nolan and Warner Bros., which includes the director’s Batman movies, “Inception,” “Interstellar,” and “Dunkirk.” Warner Bros. recently announced it will once again be backing Nolan’s next event picture, which has a July 17, 2020 release date.
“This is a no-brainer,” Soderbergh remembered about pushing for Warner Bros. to consider Nolan. “This guy’s ridiculously talented. Why wouldn’t you want to meet with him? That was certainly my sensation when I saw ‘Memento.'”
Soderbergh’s “High Flying Bird” will be available to stream on Netflix starting February 8.