stanley kubrick self portrait

Stanley Kubrick: not only a master film-maker, but also a great photographer.

Photos via:
Stanley Kubrick: Before He Wrote Scripts, He Took Photos
Kubrick before Hollywood
THE PHOTOGRAPHY OF STANLEY KUBRICK
Kubrick before Hollywood


My favorite Kubrick films

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
  • A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  • The Shining (1980)

Why I love Kubrick

First, I love his photography; you can see that his skills in photography is what helped him become a great director and cinematographer. Lesson: Photography can help our video/film/cinema, and vice-versa.

Second, His advances in technology in film: For example for Barry Lyndon (1975) Kubrick used Zeiss lenses developed for NASA, to film scenes under natural candlelight (f/0.7 Lens!!!). Not only that, but he was one of the first directors to use a ‘Steadicam’.

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Third, Kubrick had the guts to make controversial films that border-line on insane (A Clockwork Orange, 1971). But he did it not just for shock value; he wanted to uncover the evil that humans are capable of // and social critique.

Also a fun random note: he hired the famous NYC street photographer Weegee to be a set photographer for “Dr. Strangelove.” Which is further proof that Stanley Kubrick was greatly inspired by street photography.

Some of my favorite Kubrick photos and quotes below:


Inspiration

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‘The first really important book I read about filmmaking was The Film Technique by Pudovkin. This was some time before I had ever touched a movie camera and it opened my eyes to cutting and montage.’

Work with your heart

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‘The reason movies are often so bad out here isn’t because the people who make them are cynical money hacks. Most of them are doing the very best they can; they really want to make good movies. The trouble is with their heads, not their hearts.’

Making a film is easier than you think!

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‘When I made my first film, I think the thing was probably helped me the most was that it was such an unusual thing to do in the early 50s for someone who actually go and make a film. People thought it was impossible. It really is terribly easy. All anybody needs is a camera, a tape recorder, and some imagination.’

Now all we need is an iPhone, some patience, and imagination!

Don’t worry about making it fancy or super-good, just make it!

‘Perhaps it sounds ridiculous, but the best thing that young filmmakers should do is to get hold of a camera and some film and make a movie of any kind at all.’

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Don’t worry about film theory; just make them and figure it out as you go!

‘The best education in film is to make one.’

Supply the world with your own inner-light

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‘The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death — however mutable man may be able to make them — our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.’

Stay positive, and strive to make great art while you’re still alive!

‘If man merely sat back and thought about his impending termination, and his terrifying insignificance and aloneness in the cosmos, he would surely go mad, or succumb to a numbing sense of futility. Why, he might ask himself, should he bother to write a great symphony, or strive to make a living, or even to love another, when he is no more than a momentary microbe on a dust mote whirling through the unimaginable immensity of space? …’

We will all die. We must accept this fact, yet in spite of all of this — we must avoid the feeling of anomie [feeling of boredom/purposeless in life] and still strive to make great art that lies inert within you!

‘Those of us who are forced by their own sensibilities to view their lives in this perspective — who recognize that there is no purpose they can comprehend and that amidst a countless myriad of stars their existence goes unknown and unchronicled — can fall prey all too easily to the ultimate anomie [feeling of boredom/purposeless in life]. … The world’s religions, for all their parochialism, did supply a kind of consolation for this great ache … This shattering recognition of our mortality is at the root of far more mental illness than I suspect even psychiatrists are aware.’


Interest over fear

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Let curiosity lead us (and our children); not fear:

‘I think the big mistake in schools is trying to teach children anything, and by using fear as the basic motivation. Fear of getting failing grades, fear of not staying with your class, etc. Interest can produce learning on a scale compared to fear as a nuclear explosion to a firecracker.

Create your own meaning in life

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‘The very meaninglessness of life forces man to create his own meaning. If it can be written or thought, it can be filmed.’


You can film (almost) anything:

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‘If it can be written, or thought, it can be filmed.’

Convey emotions and mood

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‘The screen is a magic medium. It has such power that it can retain interest as it conveys emotions and moods that no other art form can hope to tackle.’


Be a yes-sayer to new ideas!

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‘Never say no to an idea – you never know how that idea will ignite another idea.’

Aim to make something good; not original

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‘Everything has already been done. every story has been told every scene has been shot. it’s our job to do it one better.’

Good art strokes our human emotion/affection

‘The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good.’

Avoid what you dislike in life (philosophy)

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‘I do not always know what I want, but I do know what I don’t want.’

Similar to the idea of Nassim Taleb: the best way to be happy isn’t to “be happier” or do things that make you happy; but to AVOID things which make you unhappy (via negative).

Seek happiness over money

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‘Like the man said, can happiness buy money?’

Feelings over “rational” thoughts

‘The truth of a thing is in the feel of it, not in the think of it.’

Don’t half-ass things you care about

‘Either you care, or you don’t. There’s no in-between. And if you care, then go all of the way.’


Create your own reality through your art/film/cinema

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‘[Making movies] you’re not trying to capture reality, you’re trying to capture a photograph of reality.’


Love over pity

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‘It’s a mistake to confuse pity with love.’


Don’t over-explain your art//leave the interpretation up to the viewer!

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‘How could we possibly appreciate the Mona Lisa if Leonardo had written at the bottom of the canvas: ‘The lady is smiling because she is hiding a secret from her lover.’ This would shackle the viewer to reality, and I don’t want this to happen to 2001.’

Build your reputation/success slowly

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‘I’ve never achieved spectacular success with a film. My reputation has grown slowly. I suppose you could say that I’m a successful filmmaker-in that a number of people speak well of me. But none of my films have received unanimously positive reviews, and none have done blockbuster business.’


Love life!

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‘The dead only know one thing; it is better to be alive.’


Social good/education through film

‘No philosophy based on an incorrect view of the nature of man is likely to produce social good.’


Storytelling

‘Everything has changed, but the process of telling a story has not changed. It’s like cavemen sitting round the fire; somebody’s going to tell the story. Somebody is drawing on the wall. You’re communicating. You’re trying to learn and teach at the same time. You’re your own student and you’re your own teacher, but the process is of the communicating.’

It is okay to not like a movie

Tunnel for the filming of A Clockwork Orange
Tunnel for the filming of A Clockwork Orange

‘Don’t get obsessed with not liking a movie.’

‘You either connect or you don’t connect. It’s not the end of the world. It’s a movie.’

Control all aspects of making the film

‘One man writes a novel. One man writes a symphony. It is essential that one man make a film.’


Art as reshaping life

Erotica statue in 'A Clockwork Orange'
Erotica statue in ‘A Clockwork Orange’

‘Art consists of reshaping life but it does not create life, nor cause life.’


Fly as high as you can!

Stanley Kubrick's Camera
Stanley Kubrick’s Camera

‘I’ve never been certain whether the moral of the Icarus story should only be, “don’t try to fly too high.” or whether it might also be thought as of “forget the wax and feathers, and do a better job on the wings.”


Don’t worry too much about being “original”

Bedroom model for the last scene in 2001: Space Odyssey
Bedroom model for the last scene in 2001: Space Odyssey

‘I haven’t come across any recent new ideas in film that strike me as being particularly important and that have to do with form. I think that a preoccupation with originality of form is more or less a fruitless thing. A truly original person with a truly original mind will not be able to function in the old form and will simply do something different. Others had much better think of the form as being some sort of classical tradition and try to work within it.’

Music x Film-Making

War Room in Dr. Strangelove
War Room in Dr. Strangelove

‘A film is, or should be, more like music than like fiction.’


We are happiest when we are making stuff!

‘I’m happy, at times, making films. I’m certainly unhappy not making films.’


CINEMA

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Cinematography and life lessons: