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Stanley Kubrick's sage advice to aspiring filmmakers

There are few filmmakers in the history of cinema who have surpassed the artistic investigations of Stanley Kubrick through their own works. Over the course of his career, Kubrick tackled various subjects and managed to leave a definitive impact on each of the genres he explored — ranging from the influence of 2001: A Space Odyssey on science fiction to the lasting effects of Dr. Strangelove on political satire.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Kubrick was never really interested in studying film at university. He wasn’t exactly a model student and admitted that: “I never learned anything at all in school and didn’t read a book for pleasure until I was 19 years old”. Disillusioned with the education system, Kubrick started working as a photographer on his own and played chess at Washington Square Park to earn enough money for sustenance.

During his early years, Kubrick spent a lot of time at the Museum of Modern Art where he was exposed to the films of masters such as Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini and Max Ophüls. He claimed: “I saw a great many films at that time at the Museum of Modern Art and in movie theatres, and I learned far more by seeing films than from ready heavy tomes on film aesthetics.”

According to Kubrick, “The best education in film is to make one”. Just like other auteurs who encouraged young artists to begin their journey on their own, Kubrick insisted that amateur filmmakers should try making a film on their own before delving into advanced film theory or joining film school. Even a three-minute short film made by a novice is a greater lesson in filmmaking than anything else out there. It is this self-drive that helped him pick up a lot of things on his own and approach the table with a fresh perspective.

The director also warned against the evils of the industry, reminding young filmmakers that “there are a lot of noncreative aspects to filmmaking which have to be overcome”. While discussing these barriers to creativity, Kubrick mentioned the business side of things as well as tax returns and other organisational issues. Kubrick maintained that it is imperative to focus on the reality of the situation where most filmmakers will have to deal with these topics in addition to the creative projects.

Having started out by making low-budget short films himself, Kubrick insisted that capital is essential for serious filmmaking endeavours. Without the funds for filmmaking, most directors will never get to realise their dreams of translating their wildest dreams to the cinematic medium. Thankfully, it is more achievable now due to the commercialisation of cinema and Kubrick assured young artists that “it is no longer as difficult as it once was”.

The American New Wave pioneer also claimed that most of his success was due to the fact that he was a “freak” in a studio-dominated space because he existed outside the Hollywood system but still managed to break through to the general public. However, Kubrick had hope for future generations because he believed that people with enough ambition and an experimental spirit could make pioneering works.

“We’re really on the threshold of a revolutionary new era in film,” Kubrick predicted. While a new era has certainly been ushered in due to platforms like YouTube and Netflix, it is too early to tell whether this revolution will bring about the evolution of cinema or whether it will facilitate a lamentable regression in the innovations of the cinematic medium.

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