It’s All Practical: Christopher Nolan Didn’t Use Green Screens for ‘Tenet’

It’s All Practical: Christopher Nolan Didn’t Use Green Screens for ‘Tenet’

To those who understand the magic behind the movies, this sentence sounds like complete bullsh: “Christopher Nolan did not use a single green screen to make Tenet.

Let that sink in for a moment.

In these days of advanced CGI, Skywalker Sound, and mo-cap brilliance, not a single stunt in Tenet is placed in front of a green screen. Each treatment in the movie is practical. In fact, Nolan suggested in an interview with ICG, his latest film is about as basic as it gets in Hollywood.

The visual side of the film is huge in scale, but our VFX shot count is probably lower than most romantic comedies.

Christopher Nolan, ICG Magazine

Tenet: For All Practical Purposes

Tenet will be a masterpiece and it wasn't made with a single green screen.
Source: Syncopy/Warner Bros.

Eyeballs everywhere has been on Christopher Nolan’s latest project, Tenet. This was the movie considered to bring back the movie theater business. This was the singular tentpole event that would place butts back in seats and test the fear factor about COVID-19 getting on your popcorn butter.

Because of that anticipation, the ability to bring people back to the movie theater comes and goes with Tenet. Unfortunately, it’s been more of the latter lately.

Remember back in July when we thought that was the time to test the pleather seats and $15 soda? Those were the days. Of course, the Coronavirus got in the way and the film has been delayed several times. Today, Tenet will be seen internationally on August 26, then U.S. cities on September 3 for Labor Day weekend. China will get the movie a day later on September 4.

So, how did this news get out about practical effects? Go back a decade to Inception. No, really.

Inverting Time from Tenet

Tenet and Inception: Both masterpieces
Sources: Syncopy/Warner Bros.

Before that lovely day in late August or early September, depending on where you call home, Inception will celebrate its 10th anniversary. To commemorate the festivities (and so Nolan can get some weekend money), Inception will make a quick run through theaters.

The special 10th Anniversary theatrical event for “Inception” will also give audiences a never-before-seen look at footage from Nolan’s highly anticipated film, “Tenet,” which will debut worldwide on September 3. Moviegoers will also be treated to an exclusive sneak peek of select films on Warner Bros.’ upcoming slate.

Warner Bros. Press Release

Dope, right? Even better comes from @lywr_, Nolan fan and super sleuth, who did this:

Each masterful scene? Shot twice, in different directions! Each stunt effect? Practical with no green screen! The hell?! Back to that interview in ICG, Tenet editor Jennifer Lame (Hereditary, Marriage Story, Manchester by the Sea) touts the miraculous amount of little VFX: about 300.

Yeah, that’s it.

Practically Unbelievable

Christopher Nolan will blow us away on Tenet
Credit: Melinda Sue Gordon, SMPSP

Most action directors range from 500 to 2,000 VFX because computers can do it better and cheaper. Nolan rocks it old school and I doubt anyone will be able to tell a difference. Farther along in the great story from ICG and Kevin H. Martin, Nolan credits Andrew Jackson (his visual effects supervisor, not the former president) for this incredible feat.

“Visual effects supervisor Andrew Jackson was responsible for coming up with our safety net,” Nolan explained. “We wanted it all in-camera, but if it couldn’t be done, what choices are there in post-production? I like to say Andrew kind of bid himself out of a job because he helped us achieve such an enormous amount practically. There were still very complicated visual effects for the team at Double Negative, but Andrew’s expertise and background in on-set effects benefited us enormously.”


When Tenet comes to the big screen, will you be there? Hopefully, this awesome news will help you get all lathered up in sanitizer, adorned in your latest mask and gloves, and ready for a long-lost cinematic experience.

See you at the movies. Just sit waaaaaay over there, okay?


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