31-year-old London-born filmmaker Thomas Ikimi has applied the Christopher Nolan school of filmmaking to his career so far.

Like Nolan’s debut, his first feature, Limbo, was a micro budget affair which cost 00 and was produced mostly through using his student credit card. His follow-up, Legacy: Black Ops, which was released on DVD last week (you can read our review here), also shares a link to Memento via its similar delve into the mind of a troubled and psychologically-unbalanced protagonist (a striking central performance from The Wire’s Idris Elba).

Ikimi is of Nigerian descent and attended primary school in Nigeria and public school in England before gaining a literature and writing degree from Columbia University, New York. His next project (a sci-fi film) is currently in pre-production.

We caught up with him to chat about the making of ‘Black Ops’ and how he manages to get a one of Baltimore’s most notorious criminal figures involved.

Can you tell me a little bit about how Legacy: Black Ops came about.

The initial reason behind the idea was because I was trying to meet Steven Spielberg. He had a TV series called On The Lot (short-lived reality show competition produced by Spielberg and Mark Burnett). At the time I was in the UK, having finished my last project, and I was looking for opportunities. My brother told me about the show and the chance to meet Spielberg and potentially win a development deal. I got through the first round and made it to the last 150 people or so. The idea I come up with was a one room setting story which was essentially Black Ops. When I didn’t make it to the last round on the show I looked at the idea and realised it wasn’t bad at all, so I started to develop it and then I saw Twelve Angry Men for the first time and realised it was possible to do something compelling in one room.

The film looks very cinematic despite its stagy setting. How did you manage to achieve this?

There were a lot of things working against me with the film. First thing on a basic level was its only one room. You’re limited in the interesting shots you can create and you’re trying focus on one tiny space. I think the difference between my movie and a lot of others which have a similar set-up is that I was evoking something much larger here. It’s not all about everything going on in the room – it’s really about creating an aura of things that have happened before and outside of the room, such as the flashbacks, and information gained through the TV screen and the newspaper cuttings. When I was shooting it I kept thinking to myself if I was doing this scene, how I could shoot it if it was part of a bigger movie. I didn’t think of it as just one small, basic room – I tried to make it interesting.

Idris Elba gives a fantastic performance in the film and he’s also credited as Executive Producer. How did you get him onboard?

When I finished the script, we started looking at the actor options and decided we wanted British performers – people who could work and travel to the UK, or those who had a base there. We made a list and he was on there. We thought of him for the senator initially, but as he was one of the first people to get back to us expressing that he would really love to do it, we decided to give him something more interesting to do and we offered him instead the part of the main character. I think that tipped the scales in terms of him signing on. He jumped at it and when I got the call from him, he said he would be executive producer and really wanted to help out anyway he could. He wanted to wait at first and see if his presence in the film could potentially raise more funds, but I decided that we needed to go with the half million dollars I’d managed to cobble together as even a year from that date, we may not have been able to get him, and anything after that may have been impossible!

The film looks great for a modestly-budgeted production. How did you manage to get more bangs for your bucks, so to speak?

I have to give a lot of credit to the Scottish crew (it was filmed in Dumfries and Galloway) that worked on the film. They didn’t get paid a lot and they didn’t have much time either and with what they had available, they did a fantastic job. You look at the high level of quality these guys were able to achieve you then wonder why, if a movie costs 20 million, you can’t have something more incredible than a lot of the stuff that’s out there in that price range. I also think having a lot of clarity and going into the project knowing exactly what it is you want to do really help too. Once you have that, if you hit any bricks walls, it’s much easier to compromise, change course and do things which you didn’t perhaps visualise first.

The film got a small UK cinema release and then came out on DVD the following week. What kind of reception has it received?

When you look at the review, they’ve been so mixed. Ultimately I made a movie I would have loved to have seen. It’s interesting the love/hate reception the film has received. Critics seem to love it or hate it but I think the last thing you want to do is create a film that people are lukewarm towards. They watch it and it just washes over them. They’re the kind of movies you want to avoid. I also think that compared to some of the films coming out nowadays, it’s a pretty weird film, because it’s so unlike a lot out there.

Can you tell us a little bit about your next project?

I’m working on a sci-fi action thriller. I think that’s the best way of describing it. It’s in the Philip K. Dick mould, and it basically deals with the concept of humanity and what it is that makes a person human, which is what a lot of sci-fi deals with anyway. That’s really the focus of the film. What defines a person and what motivates a person to be who they are. My first film cost nine grand so even if I have 10 million dollars here, getting it to look like a 50-100 million picture can be achieved from hopefully applying the same principles of my two previous film and not thinking just because you have a more money at your deposal, it doesn’t mean you just throw it at something to make it work.