Watch ‘Doodlebug’, Christopher Nolan’s first major short film
In 1997, while studying English literature at the University College London, Christopher Nolan wrote the script for Doodlebug, his first major short film.
Nolan, who had been obsessed about cinema from the moment he was old enough to hold a camera, began making films at the age of seven when he and his brother would shoot short films using their father’s Super 8 camera and action figures.
After years of playing around with a Super 8, Nolan was into his teenage years and had decided that filmmaking was a career he wanted to pursue professionally. Despite that, Nolan chose to read an unrelated film topic at university because he wanted “a degree in something unrelated… because it gives a different take on things.” While English ended up being his final choice, Nolan made sure that his university of choice still had suitable filmmaking facilities and, of course, UCL enjoyed a Steenbeck editing suite and 16 mm film cameras.
During his time studying, Nolan had created the screenplay for his psychological thriller film Doodlebug, a story that tells the tale of a man anxiously trying to kill a bug-like creature in his apartment. The film was shot using 16mm film and made on a shoestring budget, to say the very least.
“The story concerns a dishevelled man in a filthy apartment,” the film’s synopsis reads. “He is anxious and paranoid, trying to kill a small bug-like creature that is scurrying on the floor. It is revealed that the bug resembles a miniature version of himself, with every movement it makes being later matched by the man himself. He crushes the bug with his shoe, but is subsequently squashed by a larger version of himself.”
Having shot the three-minute film over one weekend, Nolan recruited his future wife, Emma Thomas, who co-produced the film before it was later released in 1997. Elsewhere, Jeremy Theobald, a close friend from university who would also go on to work with Nolan in his first feature film, was cast as the paranoid man in Doodlebug.