Rarity – Kubrick on tape

Young Kubrick self portrait

An early self portrait of the young Stanley Kubrick, photographer – Image source: British Journal of Photography

In a 77 minute interview recorded over chess between takes on 2001: A Space Odyssey in the mid 1960’s Kubrick describes selling his first photograph, his first short and making his first feature.

Ah that quaint idea of selling something you’ve made!

If not quite alive in the same form today (Vimeo On Demand is a step in the right direction), it is fascinating to hear Kubrick speak about how he became a filmmaker. Here’s the interview:


Kubrick began as a hobbyist, and in his early career was that of photographer.

A self professed geek, Kubrick had a fascination in early adoption of tape recorders.

His wife Christine once remarked “Stanley would be happy with eight tape recorders and one pair of pants”.

Kubrick used the tape recorders for dictation, verbally dictating his script ideas.

He says one of the keys to getting started was a generalised approach to problem solving.

This love of (and talent for) problem solving was critical in giving Kubrick’s film the edge. His attention to detail is legendary. Most people are slap-dash because they don’t consider all the possibilities and don’t really give a crap. Even worse most people and businesses are happy with the slap-dash – how many times have you been in an internet cafe where something as simple as the WiFi doesn’t work or crawls along? The same goes for filmmaking. How many times have you worked on a film with someone who thinks a half-assed approach and a dispassionate commitment is all that’s required? There’s a lot of incompetent people who are comfortable with their mediocrity.

Known as one of the most fiercely intelligent filmmakers of his generation, in his early school days Kubrick got mediocre grades, which says a lot about how poor our system of schooling is. Personally speaking, my time at school was also a huge waste of time spent memorising dogma – rather than practically and creatively applying stuff. For me the best way to learn something is simply to do it.

Early Kubrick photography

Above: Early photography by Kubrick, shot in 1949, Chicago. Source: Flickr

That’s the best advice for aspiring filmmakers – arm yourself with the technical knowledge, and go and do it.