Monday, October 27, 2014
Editor's note: Director Christopher Nolan shares his thoughts about education and the science behind science fiction to commemorate the upcoming release of INTERSTELLAR lesson plans. Read on for the interview.
Great art pushes our thinking in new directions. Robert J. Goddard became fascinated with space flight after reading War of the Worlds. Martin Cooper’s ideas for the cell phone were inspired by Captain Kirk’s Star Trek communicator.
Starting on November 5, the new film INTERSTELLAR from director Christopher Nolan will spark the imaginations of millions of future scientists. That’s why Google Play for Education is teaming up with Paramount Pictures and Google Certified Teachers to help middle and high school classrooms explore the mathematical, scientific, and literary concepts discussed in the film.
Schools can plan field trips now to see INTERSTELLAR, with group tickets available for screenings starting as early as November 3. When the film is released on November 5, we’ll introduce an INTERSTELLAR webpage for educators containing lesson plans related to the movie (tied to educational standards, of course).
We asked Christopher about his experiences at school and the research that went into the film.
- - - -What was school like for you growing up? Where did you naturally excel and where did you have to put in the most work?
I was a pretty good student as a kid, but my areas of strength definitely shifted over time: in elementary school my best subject was mathematics, but a couple of years into high school I had fallen behind in math and started to do better in English and Art.
Which parts of your education have been the most valuable in your career as a filmmaker?
My degree was in English Literature, and has been invaluable to my understanding of storytelling at a fundamental level. As I make more and more films I find various aspects of my earlier education useful, sometimes in surprising ways. For example, my elementary understanding of geometry and mathematics was vital to the structure of Inception. Interstellar has taxed my early lessons in physics and astronomy. It all comes in handy, generally in ways I could never have foreseen.
INTERSTELLAR largely focuses on space travel. What drew you to choose this subject matter, and what were you hoping to explore?
Space travel has always been the largest subject to take on visually. My hope with Interstellar is to bring a human perspective to cosmic elements that are often spoken of in purely abstract, theoretical terms.
What kind of research did you and your brother Jonathan do while writing INTERSTELLAR? Did any of the scientific findings you encountered along the way alter your approach?
Jonah and I had access to a tremendous resource on Interstellar- renowned theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, who is an executive producer on the project. Kip was the focus of most of our research, and many of the things he was able to open our eyes to, such as the relationship between gravity and dimensionality, and the true nature of black holes and wormholes were vital to developing the finished screenplay.
How did you come to collaborate with Kip? What surprised you about his perspective on the universe?
Kip was involved in Interstellar before I was. I had regular, brainstretching conversations with Kip as I rewrote the script and started planning the actual production. I would send him narrative challenges in terms of what I felt the story needed, and he would always do his best to see if there was a scientific method whereby the story could take these turns. His truly scientific approach surprised me in its purity- he would take nothing for granted- even ideas that I threw at him from his own writings! Everything had to be examined afresh in the light of current scientific thinking.
What do you want students to get out of INTERSTELLAR? What are your hopes for INTERSTELLAR Lesson Plans?
I hope that Interstellar will interest some of the audience in exploring the actual science behind some of the extraordinary events seen in the film. Ideally, the Interstellar Lesson Plans will communicate the fascination I found for much of the science that we got to explore.
What advice do you have for students interested in a career in film?
Some filmmakers pursue an education specific to filmmaking. This was not my path, and I have found that a broader education has been important to the way I've worked (see answer above). If you love something, you'll learn about it on your own time- formal education is about being taught things you never would have known to seek out yourself.
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