Two boys playing with $100,000,000

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Dunkirk Director Christopher Nolan and cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema are everywhere in behind the scenes photos of the filming of the movie Dunkirk. It looks like the $100 million movie that two boys filmed. That’s the two of them in the water next to the plane in the photo above. Hoytema is the bearded man on the left and Nolan is the blonde man on the right.

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After all the preparation for filming – I’m sure it’s a long journey from idea to writing to funding to first day on set – the arduous task of actually filming the movie is like finally arriving at your favorite playground. They weren’t letting anyone else do the fun part – the actual doing the work, filming the movie. And that was where they played with their creativity. Story after story in interviews told of ‘never been done before’. Like Roger Bannister’s miracle mile they turned impossible into reality.

It was not easy. Hand in hand with ‘never been done before’ is ‘how do we do this’? Trial and error involves a lot of error to learn. In a $100,000,000-spending high stress situation there’s a lot riding on success. And the water in the English channel is not known for its balmy temperatures. 59 degrees Farenheit is normal for June. Most of the movie was filmed outside in the real original Dunkirk locations. Weather was unpredictable and rarely cooperative.

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Towards the end of filming production moved onto a set for some of the water scenes. Many of the crew and producers were relieved that everything just got easier – controlled environment, temperature, no worries about rain, tides, waves.

But not Hoytema. “On days like this Chris and I would look at each other and say, ‘I don’t like this.’ It’s warm, the water is acceptable in temperature. This is all too convenient and it’s all too nice. [Laughs] It’s something you have to learn to live with.”

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Play isn’t meant to be easy. Too easy, too ‘convenient and nice’ and the fun is drained from it. Play is meant to engage us, enthrall us, take us over. To finally be immersed, joyfully engaging a challenge.

If you want to play more, you might look for the places that are difficult already and bring in the play element. Or if you’re really brave, look for your equivalent of $100,000,000 on the line. Take the leap and jump in. The water’s either fine or (hopefully) cold enough to shock and excite you into play.

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