The Making of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (As Told by Those Who Helped Him Make It)

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.

Relat­ed con­tent:

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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