Doodlebug (film)

Doodlebug is a 1997 short psychological thriller film written and directed by Christopher Nolan.[2] It follows the story of a man anxiously trying to kill a bug-like creature in his flat. Nolan created the film during his university days using 16 mm film. The film was met with a generally positive critical response.

Doodlebug film screenshot.jpg
Official logo
Directed byChristopher Nolan
Written byChristopher Nolan
Produced byEmma Thomas
Christopher Nolan
Steve Street[citation needed]
StarringJeremy Theobald
CinematographyChristopher Nolan
Edited byChristopher Nolan
Music byDavid Julyan
Distributed byAlliance Atlantis[1]
Release date
  • 1997 (1997)
Running time
3 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom


The story concerns a dishevelled man in a filthy flat. 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.


Doodlebug was written, directed, shot and edited by Christopher Nolan. He had written the script while studying English literature at University College London (UCL).[3] The three-minute short was filmed on a negligible budget in 1997 using black-and-white 16mm film.[4] Nolan shot the film over a weekend, a technique he used the following year with his first full-length release Following, with two or three-minute excerpts being shot over the two days.[5] He co-produced the short film with his future wife and collaborator Emma Thomas,[6] while Jeremy Theobald, his friend from university who would also star in Following, was cast as the paranoid man.[7][8] It was scored by David Julyan, a friend of Nolan's from the UCL's student film society, who would go on to compose the soundtrack a number of the director's later films.[9] Nolan explored the idea of multiple dimensions in its plot: in an interview with The Daily Beast, he opined that "films are uniquely suited towards addressing paradox, recursiveness, and worlds-within-worlds," and further cited the works M. C. Escher and Jorge Borges as influences in this domain.[10] The film has been described as Kafkaesque psychological thriller.[3][11]


Doodlebug was met with generally positive reviews. Christopher Hooton of The Independent deemed it "a fairly unremarkable student film," but considered this to be a "great" thing since "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".[3] Sammy Nickalls, writing for Esquire, expressed the same sentiment, further adding that while "it's certainly no Interstellar, it's filled with Nolan's flair, from his gravitation toward black and white to his abstract imagery."[12] PopMatters' Jose Solis characterised the short film as "playful" and Following's "most charming bonus feature."[13] Simon Reynolds of Digital Spy listed it among nine "incredible" short films by renowned directors.[7] Film School Rejects' H. Perry Horton claimed that Nolan "has been one of the most intriguing and intelligent filmmakers working since the first frame of Doodlebug."[14] The Daily Telegraph opined that it "displayed Christopher Nolan's talent for constructing unsettling narratives early on".[8]


  1. ^ "Doodle Bug (1999)". BBFC. Retrieved 14 September 2021.
  2. ^ Sciretta, Peter (11 October 2008). "Big Directors Small Films: Christopher Nolan's Doodlebug". /Film. Archived from the original on 13 November 2018. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
  3. ^ a b c Hooton, Christopher (10 April 2017). "Christopher Nolan's student short film Doodlebug shows the Dunkirk director's humble beginnings". The Independent. Archived from the original on 22 July 2019. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  4. ^ Nordine, Michael (17 July 2016). "Christopher Nolan's First Released Short Film 'Doodlebug': Watch His Twisted 1997 Debut". IndieWire. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  5. ^ Vice (24 August 2014). "Christopher Nolan on "Following" – Conversations Inside The Criterion Collection". Archived from the original on 10 January 2021. Retrieved 23 July 2019 – via YouTube.
  6. ^ Banks, Alec (5 May 2017). "Coffee Break | Watch Christopher Nolan's First Short Film "Doodlebug"". Highsnobiety. Archived from the original on 10 January 2021. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  7. ^ a b Reynolds, Simon (9 November 2017). "9 incredible short films from Hollywood directors: Nolan, Spielberg, more". Digital Spy. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  8. ^ a b "Doodlebug (1997) – Christopher Nolan: a career in pictures". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 10 January 2021. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  9. ^ Tiedemann, Garrett (5 May 2015). "The music of Christopher Nolan: From atmospheric to aggressive". Classical MPR. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  10. ^ Stern, Marlow (10 November 2014). "Christopher Nolan Uncut: On 'Interstellar,' Ben Affleck's Batman, and the Future of Mankind". The Daily Beast. Archived from the original on 7 May 2017. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  11. ^ Karkare, Aakash (6 June 2016). "The short film where it all began for Christopher Nolan". Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  12. ^ Nickalls, Sammy (11 April 2017). "Watch This Wild Short Film That Christopher Nolan Made as a Student". Esquire. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  13. ^ Solis, Jose (9 January 2013). "Christopher Nolan Was Never as Playful or Energetic as in 'Following'". PopMatters. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  14. ^ Horton, H. Perry (18 July 2017). "Syncopy: The Perfect Shots of Christopher Nolan". Film School Rejects. Retrieved 23 July 2019.

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