Last year, we featured Making The Shining, the behind-the-scenes documentary on Stanley Kubrick’s Stephen King-adapting horror film shot by his teenage daughter Vivian. (Find Part 1 below, and Part 2 here.) If you can’t get enough knowledge about Kubrick’s working methods — and true Kubrick aficionados never can — you’ll want to watch Staircases to Nowhere as well. This extended cut version of the film offers something of an oral history of The Shining‘s production from those who toiled hard on it: a scenic artist and prop man, a camera operator, a camera technician, a continuity supervisor, and even a publicist. Those who know Kubrick’s work know that, in every aspect of filmmaking, the man had very specific ideas about what he wanted. He also had high expectations for his crew’s ability to realize them, even if that would require untested, or even yet unenvisioned, techniques and devices. One interviewee describes Kubrick as “a frustrated technician,” and indeed, this documentary fills out the image of the director as an artistic innovator willing to experiment and improvise with the physical technology of filmmaking.
The on-set stories told in Staircases to Nowhere come, so the video description puts it, as “extracts from full-length interviews with each of the contributors about their careers working at studios in Elstree and Borehamwood, and form part of ‘The Elstree Project’ – a collaboration between Elstree Screen Heritage and the University of Hertfordshire. This work has been done on a voluntary basis with student volunteers and staff giving up their own time to help preserve the legacy of the ‘British Hollywood’.” You can learn more about the project at its official site, which continues to document the English towns of Borehamwood and Elstree’s rich history of film and television production. The American-born but British-resident Kubrick certainly found something that worked for him in England. Whether that came down to a simple affinity for the country or the country’s tolerance of his uncommonly rigorous approach to craft, you can’t argue with the results today — as much as the man individually re-painting hundreds of ballroom tiles gold for lighting reasons might have felt like arguing at the time.
Rare 1960s Audio: Stanley Kubrick’s Big Interview with The New Yorker
Stanley Kubrick’s Very First Films: Three Short Documentaries
Terry Gilliam: The Difference Between Kubrick (Great Filmmaker) and Spielberg (Less So)
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.
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