CLOSE
Getty Images
Getty Images

12 Stanley Kubrick Strategies for Perfecting a Film

Getty Images
Getty Images

Director Stanley Kubrick died in 1999, but he still remains an integral part of our culture today. The recent documentary Room 237 explored various conspiracy theories about The Shining. An extensive Kubrick exhibition is touring the world. And Kubrick’s work is continually noted as influential on contemporary directors of huge blockbusters such as Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese. Here are 12 things Stanley Kubrick would do in order to perfect a shot, performance, or film.

1. Adapt any source material.

Kubrick left no stone unturned when it came to genre or source material. He sometimes worked with non-fiction elements and other times adapted novels into films. He used shorter stories as basis for 2001: A Space Odyssey and Eyes Wide Shut, one a science fiction epic and the other a character-driven drama.

Stephen King has been vocal about his hatred for Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining, and Kubrick’s attempt to include author Gustav Hasford in the process of making Full Metal Jacket was a failure. Despite his reputation, Kubrick actually accepted a lot of help with his screenplays, including assistance from Lolita author Vladimir Nabokov, who wrote the screenplay for the 1962 film.

2. Don’t succumb to traditional film structure.

As Martin Scorsese explained, “[Kubrick] doesn’t deal with traditional, dramatic structure. He was experimenting.” The obvious example of Kubrick’s break from structure is 2001: A Space Odyssey, with its three independent sections, “The Dawn of Man,” “Jupiter Mission,” and “Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite.” The segments are very different in terms of both action and theme, but that does not stop Kubrick from making a coherent film.

Kubrick showed an interest in experimenting with structure long before 2001; in his 1956 film The Killing, chronology does not limit the plot.

3. Build elaborate, expensive sets.

Anyone who has seen The Shining knows that the Overlook Hotel is a main character, and the set itself reflected that. Kubrick used his budget to create elaborate interiors, including a two-story-tall lobby. And he insisted on having an actual wheel with a 38-foot diameter to represent the spacecraft in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Built by engineers, the wheel cost a total of $750,000. Later in his career, Kubrick became more averse to flying, so he sent staff to Manhattan, where Eyes Wide Shut was set, in order to get the exact measurements of streets and locations for set pieces like newspaper racks.

But the most famous set designs of Kubrick films don’t even scratch the surface. Steven Spielberg once told the Dr. Strangelove set designer, “That War Room set for Strangelove is the best set you ever designed. No, it’s the best set that’s ever been designed.”

4. Shoot as much as he wanted for as long as he wanted.

Kubrick was known for taking his time with each project. Eyes Wide Shut even holds a Guinness World Record for the longest constant movie shoot with 400 days. The film was released in 1999, yet no production schedule since has come close to surpassing the record. Kubrick used three weeks of the shoot to film a 13-minute scene with Tom Cruise and Sydney Pollack. The Shining and 2001: A Space Odyssey  also had shoots that are still famous for their extensiveness.

5. Let the actors take charge.

Kubrick empowered his actors to try scenes over and over again in different ways. For example, Malcolm McDowell came up with the idea for the infamous use of “Singin’ in the Rain" in A Clockwork Orange. Actor Peter Sellers once explained how involved he was allowed to be, claiming, “If a scene didn’t seem quite right, we’d sit round a table with a tape recorder and ad-lib on the lines of the passages we’d chosen; in that way we’d get perfectly natural dialogue which could then be scripted and used.”

Kubrick asked Jack Nicholson to interpret what the script for The Shining might mean by the direction, “Jack is not working.” Nicholson suggested he be throwing a tennis ball against the walls of the hotel, which became a prominent part of the final film.

6. Freak out his actors.  

Though Kubrick empowered his actors, they still tended to treat him like the legend he was, which made for an intimidating set at times. Tom Cruise developed an ulcer on the set of Eyes Wide Shut, but he did not talk about it publicly because he was worried about Kubrick’s reputation. Kubrick was notoriously hard on Shelley Duvall during the filming of The Shining and she has been very vocal about their tense relationship. She eventually acknowledged, “I might have hated him at the time, but I now see him as a really important filmmaker who gave me that role of my life and made me the sort of actress I never dared think I’d become.”

7. Go way over budget... 

2001: A Space Odyssey was supposed to cost $6 million to make, but Kubrick used $10.5 million. Barry Lyndon cost $11 million, which, it’s hard to believe, was shockingly high in 1975.

8. ...With anyone’s money.

Kubrick reached out to his family and friends for money to make his first two films, Fear and Desire and Killer’s Kiss. His father even gave up his life insurance for cash to help finance Fear and Desire.

9. Argue with experts in the field.

After his two family-funded films, a 28-year-old Kubrick made The Killing with a Hollywood budget. And a Hollywood budget meant Hollywood big shots, who were shocked to learn how confident and capable Kubrick actually was. One infamous on-set story describes an argument between Kubrick and famous cinematographer Lucien Ballard. As later described by the film’s associate producer, Alexander Singer:

"Stanley was, needless to say, very specific about this particular setup, as he was with all setups...So it’s all been pre-planned. Then he gives the finder to Lucien Ballard, and Lucien has watched him and says, ‘I see, it’s going to be a very nice shot.’ Lucien gets to work, Stanley walks off the set to do some piece of business. He comes back a few minutes later and Lucien has indeed set up the dolly track but he set it up at a considerable distance from where Stanley’s position had to be - in terms of the proximity to the set. Now Stanley said, ‘Wait a minute, Lucien, what are you doing, Lucien?’ ‘Well, I took your dolly shot and instead of the 25mm, I’m just going for the 50mm, but I’m at a distance where you would get the same image size...it won’t make any difference.’ Well, it’s all the difference in the world. As soon as you back up, you can hold the same image size, but the entire perspective changes...Stanley looked up at Lucien Ballard and said, ‘Lucien, either you move that camera and put it where it has to be to use a 25mm or get off this set and never come back!’”

10. Turn serious subject matter into comedy.

He created the hilarious 1964 satire Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb out of the serious novel Red Alert. Making light of nuclear weapons and mutually assured destruction was particularly outrageous during the Cold War, but that did not stop Kubrick. The film is often compared to Fail Safe, which was also released in 1964. That film took on the subject matter with a much more serious tone, but it would be hard to find anyone who'd argue Fail Safe is more notable in the world of film than Dr. Strangelove is.

11. Make himself legally vulnerable.

On the subject of Dr. Strangelove, Kubrick knew that his film might get the attention of the government. Production designer Ken Adam remembers when a serviceman visited the set one day and was taken aback by how accurate the film was. Adam claimed, “I got a memo from Stanley saying, ‘You better make sure that you know where all your references came from because otherwise we might be investigated by the FBI.’”

That serviceman was not the only one who couldn’t believe the film’s accuracy. Daniel Ellsberg, the military analyst who released the Pentagon papers, said of the comedy, “That was a documentary!”

12. Invent his own technology.

Long before James Cameron was inventing new filmmaking technologies to complete Titanic and Avatar, Kubrick was a technical innovator. During the making of Barry Lyndon, Kubrick decided he wanted to light portions of the film with only candles. He bought three of the ten lenses that NASA used to take pictures of the moon in the 1960s. He then attached the lenses to his own cameras so that he could get the shots with the lighting he wanted.

The Shining is often cited as one of the first films to make good use of the Steadicam. It was especially noteworthy because the camera was often following around a young boy on a tricycle, which was much more low to the ground than Steadicams had previously been. The crew used a wheelchair specially designed to assist with many of the shots.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Hulu
arrow
entertainment
10 Things We Know About The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2
Hulu
Hulu

Though Hulu has been producing original content for more than five years now, 2017 turned out to be a banner year for the streaming network with the debut of The Handmaid’s Tale on April 26, 2017. The dystopian drama, based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 book, imagines a future in which a theocratic regime known as Gilead has taken over the United States and enslaved fertile women so that the group’s most powerful couples can procreate.

If it all sounds rather bleak, that’s because it is—but it’s also one of the most impressive new series to arrive in years (as evidenced by the slew of awards it has won, including eight Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards). Fortunately, fans left wanting more don’t have that much longer to wait, as season two will premiere on Hulu in April. In the meantime, here’s everything we know about The Handmaid’s Tale’s second season.

1. IT WILL PREMIERE WITH TWO EPISODES.

When The Handmaid’s Tale returns on April 25, 2018, Hulu will release the first two of its 13 new episodes on premiere night, then drop another new episode every Wednesday.

2. MARGARET ATWOOD WILL CONTINUE TO HELP SHAPE THE NARRATIVE.

Fans of Atwood’s novel who didn’t like that season one went beyond the original source material are in for some more disappointment in season two, as the narrative will again go beyond the scope of what Atwood covered. But creator/showrunner Bruce Miller doesn’t necessarily agree with the criticism they received in season one.

“People talk about how we're beyond the book, but we're not really," Miller told Newsweek. "The book starts, then jumps 200 years with an academic discussion at the end of it, about what's happened in those intervening 200 years. We're not going beyond the novel. We're just covering territory [Atwood] covered quickly, a bit more slowly.”

Even more importantly, Miller's got Atwood on his side. The author serves as a consulting producer on the show, and the title isn’t an honorary one. For Miller, Atwood’s input is essential to shaping the show, particularly as it veers off into new territories. And they were already thinking about season two while shooting season one. “Margaret and I had started to talk about the shape of season two halfway through the first [season],” he told Entertainment Weekly.

In fact, Miller said that when he first began working on the show, he sketched out a full 10 seasons worth of storylines. “That’s what you have to do when you’re taking on a project like this,” he said.

3. MOTHERHOOD WILL BE A CENTRAL THEME.

As with season one, motherhood is a key theme in the series. And June/Offred’s pregnancy will be one of the main plotlines. “So much of [Season 2] is about motherhood,” Elisabeth Moss said during the Television Critics Association press tour. “Bruce and I always talked about the impending birth of this child that’s growing inside her as a bit of a ticking time bomb, and the complications of that are really wonderful to explore. It’s a wonderful thing to have a baby, but she’s having it potentially in this world that she may not want to bring it into. And then, you know, if she does have the baby, the baby gets taken away from her and she can’t be its mother. So, obviously, it’s very complicated and makes for good drama. But, it’s a very big part of this season, and it gets bigger and bigger as the show goes on.”

4. THE RESISTANCE IS COMING.

Just because June is pregnant, don’t expect her to sit on the sidelines as the resistance to Gilead continues. “There is more than one way to resist," Moss said. “There is resistance within [June], and that is a big part of this season.”

5. WE’LL GET TO SEE THE COLONIES.

A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Hulu

Miller, understandably, isn’t eager to share too many details about the new season. “I’m not being cagey!” he swore to Entertainment Weekly. “I just want the viewers to experience it for themselves!” What he did confirm is that the new season will bring us to the colonies—reportedly in episode two—and show what life is like for those who have been sent there.

It will also delve further into what life is like for the refugees who managed to escape Gilead, like Luke and Moira.

6. MARISA TOMEI WILL APPEAR IN AN EPISODE.

Though she won’t be a regular cast member, Miller recently announced that Oscar winner Marisa Tomei will make a guest appearance in the new season’s second episode. Yes, the one that will show us the Colonies. In fact, that’s where we’ll meet her; Tomei is playing the wife of a Commander.

7. WE’LL LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ORIGINS OF GILEAD.

As a group shrouded in secrecy, we still don’t know much about how and where Gilead began. That will change a bit in season two. When discussing some of the questions viewers will have answered, executive producer Warren Littlefield promised that, "How did Gilead come about? How did this happen?” would be two of them. “We get to follow the historical creation of this world,” he said.

8. THERE WILL BE AT LEAST ONE HANDMAID FUNERAL.

A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Hulu

While Miller wouldn’t talk about who the handmaids are mourning in a teaser shot from season two that shows a handmaid’s funeral, he was excited to talk about creating the look for the scene. “Everything from the design of their costumes to the way they look is so chilling,” Miller told Entertainment Weekly. “These scenes that are so beautiful, while set in such a terrible place, provide the kind of contrast that makes me happy.”

9. ELISABETH MOSS SAYS THE TONE WILL BE DARKER.

Like season one, Miller says that The Handmaid’s Tale's second season will again balance its darker, dystopian themes with glimpses of hopefulness. “I think the first season had very difficult things, and very hopeful things, and I think this season is exactly the same way,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “There come some surprising moments of real hope and victory, and strength, that come from surprising places.”

Moss, however, has a different opinion. “It's a dark season,” she told reporters at TCA. “I would say arguably it's darker than Season 1—if that's possible.”

10. IT WILL ALSO BE BLOODIER.

A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Hulu

When pressed about how the teaser images for the new season seemed to feature a lot of blood, Miller conceded: “Oh gosh, yeah. There may be a little more blood this season.”

arrow
entertainment
6 Surprising Facts About Nintendo's Animal Crossing

by Ryan Lambie

Animal Crossing is one of the most unusual series of games Nintendo has ever produced. Casting you as a newcomer in a woodland town populated by garrulous and sometimes eccentric creatures, Animal Crossing is about conversation, friendship, and collecting things rather than competition or shooting enemies. It’s a formula that has grown over successive generations, with the 3DS version now one of the most popular games available for that system—which is all the more impressive, given the game’s obscure origins almost 15 years ago. Here are a few things you might not have known about the video game.

1. ITS INSPIRATION CAME FROM AN UNLIKELY PLACE.

By the late 1990s, Katsuya Eguchi had already worked on some of Nintendo’s greatest games. He’d designed the levels for the classic Super Mario Bros 3. He was the director of Star Fox (or Star Wing, as it was known in the UK), and the designer behind the adorable Yoshi’s Story. But Animal Crossing was inspired by Eguchi’s experiences from his earlier days, when he was a 21-year-old graduate who’d taken the decisive step of moving from Chiba Prefecture, Japan, where he’d grown up and studied, to Nintendo’s headquarters in Kyoto.

Eguchi wanted to recreate the feeling of being alone in a new town, away from friends and family. “I wondered for a long time if there would be a way to recreate that feeling, and that was the impetus behind Animal Crossing,” Eguchi told Edge magazine in 2008. Receiving letters from your mother, getting a job (from the game’s resident raccoon capitalist, Tom Nook), and gradually filling your empty house with furniture and collectibles all sprang from Eguchi’s memories of first moving to Kyoto.

2. IT WAS ORIGINALLY DEVELOPED FOR THE N64.

Although Animal Crossing would eventually become best known as a GameCube title—to the point where many assume that this is where the series began—the game actually appeared first on the N64. First developed for the ill-fated 64DD add-on, Animal Crossing (or Doubutsu no Mori, which translates to Animal Forest) was ultimately released as a standard cartridge. But by the time Animal Crossing emerged in Japan in 2001, the N64 was already nearing the end of its lifespan, and was never localized for a worldwide release.

3. TRANSLATING THE GAME FOR AN INTERNATIONAL AUDIENCE WAS A DIFFICULT TASK.

The GameCube version of Animal Crossing was released in Japan in December 2001, about eight months after the N64 edition. Thanks to the added capacity of the console’s discs, they could include characters like Tortimer or Blathers that weren’t in the N64 iteration, and Animal Crossing soon became a hit with Japanese critics and players alike.

Porting Animal Crossing for an international audience would prove to be a considerable task, however, with the game’s reams of dialogue and cultural references all requiring careful translation. But the effort that writers Nate Bihldorff and Rich Amtower put into the English-language version would soon pay off; Nintendo’s bosses in Japan were so impressed with the additional festivals and sheer personality present in the western version of Animal Crossing that they decided to have that version of the game translated back into Japanese. This new version of the game, called Doubutsu no Mori e+, was released in 2003.

4. K.K. SLIDER IS BASED ON ON THE GAME'S COMPOSER.

One of Animal Crossing’s most recognizable and popular characters is K.K. Slider, the laidback canine musician. He’s said to be based, both in looks and name, on Kazumi Totaka, the prolific composer and voice actor who co-wrote Animal Crossing’s music. In the Japanese version of Animal Crossing, K.K. Slider is called Totakeke—a play on the real musician’s name. K.K. Slider’s almost as prolific as Totaka, too: Animal Crossing: New Leaf on the Nintendo 3DS contains a total of 91 tracks performed by the character.

5. ONE CHARACTER HAS BEEN KNOWN TO MAKE PLAYERS CRY.

A more controversial character than K.K. Slider, Mr. Resetti is an angry mole created to remind players to save the game before switching off their console. And the more often players forget to save their game, the angrier Mr. Resetti gets. Mr. Resetti’s anger apparently disturbed some younger players, though, as Animal Crossing: New Leaf’s project leader Aya Kyogoku revealed in an interview with Nintendo's former president, the late Satoru Iwata.

“We really weren't sure about Mr. Resetti, as he really divides people," Kyogoku said. “Some people love him, of course, but there are others who don't like being shouted at in his rough accent.”

“It seems like younger female players, in particular, are scared,” Iwata agreed. “I've heard that some of them have even cried.”

To avoid the tears, Mr. Resetti plays a less prominent role in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and only appears if the player first builds a Reset Surveillance Centre. Divisive though he is, Mr. Resetti’s been designed and written with as much care as any of the other characters in Animal Crossing; his first name’s Sonny, he has a brother called Don and a cousin called Vinnie, and he prefers his coffee black with no sugar.

6. THE SERIES IS STILL EVOLVING.

Since its first appearance in 2001, the quirky and disarming Animal Crossing has grown to encompass toys, a movie, and no fewer than four main games (or five if you count the version released for the N64 as a separate entry). All told, the Animal Crossing games have sold more than 30 million copies, and the series is still growing. In late 2017, the mobile title Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp was released for iOS and Android. It's a big step for the franchise, as Nintendo is famously selective about which of its series get a mobile makeover. A game once inspired by the loneliness of moving to a new town has now become one of Nintendo’s most successful and beloved franchises.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios