5 Things to Learn From the 1966 Making-Of of 2001: a Space Odyssey
‘2001: a Space Odyssey – a Look Behind the Future‘ is not just yet another making-of about a classic. This 20 minutes video shared by Soundtrack Specialist a week ago is a rare and precious archive that you will have a blast watching and can learn a lot from to better understand in what context Stanley Kubrick made this movie, and how it happened.
Here are 5 things to enjoy about this video:
1 -This is a ‘in-real-time’ making-of
If you look at the Clockwork Orange making-of, it really is a ‘look back at how the movie was made’, which is what you expect from movies made pre-90s, given that film was not something you would spare on a making-of with no ways to show it to an audience. (Remember: no DVDs, no Internet)
But 2001’s making-of was shot as a promotional/educational program because of the science aspect of 2001 and thus shot as the film was being made. What attracted them was not to know if it was going to be a success but rather the scientific and technical effort put behind the curtain to build this outer world everybody was wondering about. To put things back into context: in 1966, when this video was shot, no man had ever walked on the moon, which means that everything Kubrick and his team was working on was based on controlled speculation and fantasy. Which brings me to my second point:
2 – BTS People You’d Rarely See Today Are Part of the Making-Of
One of the thing that attracted so much attention onto 2001 is that its inception required an enormous amount of work from dozens of people coming from various technical fields:
“And this is Borehamwood, England today. Here, in this London suburb, space scientists, industrial designers, and conceptual artists from all over the world are gathering at the MGM Studios. They’ve been brought together to contribute their vision, their ideas, their knowledge to advice and consult in the film of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: a Space Odyssey.”
Kubrick was going into the unknown, and to do so, he surrounded himself with experts who were trying to guess what would 2001 be, and how could they translate it on screen. What makes this making-of precious is that it starts with those experts, continues with Art Director Anthony Masters, then moves on with illustrator Roy Carnon, co-writer Arthur C. Clarke etc.
3 – The Writer Has a Central Place in the Process
It’s been a small decade that screenwriters have started to be noticed again when it comes to filmmaking, but I remember while growing up, you would never hear from the person who wrote the script, never seen them on TV, or doing interviews in film magazine. Here, Arthur C. Clarke, writer of the original novel and co-writer with Kubrick for the screen adaptation, talks about what him and Kubrick had in mind when tackling this sci-fi project:
“In 2001, Stanley Kubrick and I have set ourselves several goals. We hope to convey to the public the wonder, and beauty, and promise, of the new age of exploration, which is opening up before the human race. We want to convey the message that our Earth is perhaps, not the only haven of life. Our Sun, the Sun that shines on this planet is one of a hundred of a billion, circling in the Milky Way. How many of those shine upon our equals or our masters, out there in the depth of space? That’s the question that 2001 asks and seeks to answer.”
4 – Video Village, New Camera Mount, Pushing-Boundaries Sets and all that Jazz…
What I found fascinating in this documentary is to see how little seems to have changed since 2001, only to realize that 2001 was one of this pioneer film that left its marks on how far you can push it to tell a story. To direct his actors while they were in the centrifuge, Kubrick used video cameras and microphones. If this looks and sounds a lot like a video village, and/or what Cuaron did to direct Bullock on Gravity, that’s normal:
“By remote control, Stanley Kubrick directs his actors in complex deep space sequences. He uses concealed television cameras to monitor their performances.”
If you look at the Centrifuge set, it doesn’t go without reminding of Nolan’s corridor on Inception either and the new camera system that has to be built to create a feeling of outer space is yet another problematic that is often mentioned in today’s making-ofs, but not that often in making-of from the 60s:
“The Centrifuge: a 38 tons colossus and its great complexity demands a drastically new approach to directing, lighting and photography. To accomplish the effect of weightlessness, cameras are placed on radically unorthodox mounts, optical engineers had to design equipments which would meet the requirements of Kubrick’s desire and incisive imagination.”
5 – A lot more footage about 2001 might be out there…
‘The inherent news value of 2001: a Space Odyssey has attracted a number of reporters, photographers, and newsmen from all over the world. They come to talk, to record, and to interview. Here Keir Dullea talks to reporter about his role in the film.”
…and there is always hope that more will come out with time! In the meantime, you might have noticed something: Kubrick isn’t part of this making-of! If he appears on illustrations sequences, he isn’t interviewed. It’s hard to say if it is because he refused or because having a director’s interview wasn’t necessary back then to report on a film (how unthinkable today…) but I thought it was worth noting.
Watch the full video below, and enjoy: