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Thread: The Shining

  1. #1
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    Below is my account of working with Stanley that I originally posted to the Kubrick discussion group:





    My very first meeting with Stanley actually goes back to 1971 at

    Pinewood Studios. At the time I was working on Staff in the Sound

    department working in Theater#5 which specialised in dialogue and

    effects recording. We would be dealing with one of the many aspects of

    Post Production on most of the films shooting there at the time, and

    there was a steady flow of work to keep us busy. At that time Pinewood

    was a pleasure to work for. I was surrounded by a lot of staff members

    that had worked on a lot of the famous Rank Productions that I had long

    admired.

    Sometime in early '71 news came through that Stanley Kubrick would be

    bringing his production of "A CLOCKWORK ORANGE" into the studio for a

    few days to utilise the studios' Process Projection department, headed

    by Charles Staffell. The scene ofcourse was Alex and his droogs driving

    recklessly through the London streets. The sequence was shot on 'Stage

    D'.

    I was a big admirer of Stanley's and really wanted to talk to him, but

    based on what I had read about him and his personality particularly

    during the crucial stages of shooting, made no attempt to try. Oddly

    enough there was little or no effort to getting onto the set to watch. I

    knew the Process Projection Staff well and made me feel at ease.

    Watching and hearing Stanley work was really something. The impact of

    this experience was exaggerated by the fact that he has never granted a

    video or filmed interview.

    That day or the following that miracle opportunity came my way. I was

    walking down the hall and there was Stanley sitting on his own making

    notes. As I walked passed him I just said 'Good afternoon, Sir'. I don't

    think I used his name. He greeted me with a very warm and confident

    'Hi!' I respected his privacy and just walked on.

    1978.

    By this time I was working as an assistant in the editing rooms,

    free-lance. I was working at the Elstree Studios of the Associated

    British Picture Corp., in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, more commonly

    known as EMI. I had been working on the TV series "RETURN OF THE SAINT"

    and "HANOVER STREET" a WWII love story with Harrison Ford. I had planned

    to visit the US at beginning of November. Before I left I met Ray

    Lovejoy in the Studio Restaurant and he asked me if I would like to be

    the 2nd assistant editor on "THE SHINING". I regretfully had to turn it

    down as I was booked for three and a half months vacation in

    California. Plus I was extremely nervous about the prospect of working

    with Stanley Kubrick. I said I would contact him (Ray) when I returned,

    on the basis that something might become available then. I had the

    entire vacation to think about it. I was dubious about it. The entire

    British Film Industry had many stories to tell about it's members'

    experiences of working on a Stanley Kubrick Picture. Due to several

    informative books now available, a lot of this is now public knowledge.

    1979

    I returned from California in February and decided to take the plunge. I

    called Ray but there was nothing available. The film was now going full

    speed. Ray told me to keep in touch with him. and in the meantime I

    found employment elsewhere. Finally in June Ray told me to come in and

    see him. Main Unit shooting had wrapped and they had already started

    cutting, starting at Reel 1 continuing in continuity. The editing team

    were housed in the old cutting room block at EMI Studios. As I had no

    transport I wanted to be assured that we wouldn't eventually be moving

    to Stanley's house to edit,as had been the case on some of his previous

    films. It was tough to get to without a car. I was assured this wouldn't

    happen. So I was finally notified by Douglas Twiddy, Production Manager

    on 29th June that my hiring date was 2nd July. The day I went down to

    the studio to see Ray was when he took me down to the stage to

    officially meet Stanley and he was shooting the hedge maze insert with

    the VistaVision plate.

    The first day I started I found they were already well into editing,

    Reel 3 I think. My main chore was to go through each reel, after it had

    been assmbled and create a log, a record of every cut in the picture and

    track, including updates to reels. This would become the 'protection

    bible'. This idea came about as a result of a devastating fire which

    destroyed parts of Stanley's sets. If a fire destroyed the cutting copy

    (editor's work print), hopefully somebody with some sense would have

    grabbed the 'protection bible', so the film could be reconstructed

    identically as before. The original camera negative (shot full-frame,

    composed for 1.85:1) is stored at the lab, but right behind me where I

    was working was the equivalent in positive stock. Not one foot of film

    was left unprinted, which was a very unusual situation. Most films only

    print up a few selected circled takes which in itself is quite an

    amount. The calculation was that there was a million feet of film

    sitting there. Stanley wanted the option of being able to access any

    take immediately without having to order it from the lab.

    The British system of identifying scenes on the film was not by it's

    scene number. On the first day's shooting the slate will read 1 take 1

    and they might be shooting scene 34. The number will increase on each

    set-up. It has been known that in certain cases the scene slate system

    has been adopted. For example a feature shot partly in England and then

    concludes it's post production in the U.S. would understandably request

    the American system to avoid confusion. As far as I can recall "THE

    SHINING" was done retaining the british system.

    Traditionally, the picture and sound of each take are separated from

    their respective daily rolls, after viewing, and then the picture and

    sound of the same take are wound into one another and supported by a

    rubber band. Instead, they were retained on 1000' rolls.The slate system

    starting at 1 on upwards makes it easy to find also the script has a

    record of the slate number, and what scene belongs to it. The reason for

    this information is because of Stanley's cutting methods. He had a

    moviola present but editing was achieved my using two steenbecks or

    flat-beds as they are also known. Briefly they are a tool for viewing

    picture with or without sound without having to take it to a theater. At

    the seating position the left or first steenbeck would be threaded with

    the required daily roll, then when the take has been selected, Stanley

    would mark the 'in' point with a chinagraph pencil. Then Ray or an

    assistant would step in and cut the film, remove the roll from the first

    steenbeck, move it to the second steenbeck and splice it to the picture

    and sound, which is an accumalation of cuts already made. Stanley will

    then go over to that steenbeck and carefully select the 'out' point.

    When that has been decided. The daily roll is then removed and taken

    back to the first steenbeck where the two halves of the daily roll are

    spliced back together with a 'slug' in the picture and sound roll, a

    short piece of clear film to indicate that film has been removed. This

    same procedure is repeated over and over, keeping in mind this is just

    the first assembly, there will be many visits back to these reels for

    refinement etc.

    The script as far as I could recollect had no ending and was still was

    not decided upon when I left the picture in december and the first

    assembly still had not been completed.

    One scene that was in the film that got cut that as far as I know has

    never been publicised, is the 'SCRAPBOOK' scene. It lasts maybe two

    minutes. Jack and Shelley are seated on a sofar in front of a table in

    the lobby area. On the table is a huge thick scrapbook describing the

    Hotel's history. Jack is reading some of eerie contents to Shelley in a

    playful attempt to frighten her. I cannot recall the exact location of

    this scene as I don't own a script.

    The kitchen set in the film became the main editing area. It was huge

    and very open. I was one side with the film. The editing area itself was

    in the center, opposite was a huge old-fashioned industrial elevator,

    and in the far corner was Stanley's office. Stanley normally came in

    around 11am, sometimes with his dogs. My startime was around 8:30am.

    My additional chores was to keep Stanley happy. I would supply him with

    refreshments, he enjoyed tea and was conversant with the english

    teamaking traditions. He made an effort to ensure that I would get it to

    the point of perfection. I would also get his lunch. Brisket of Beef

    sandwich was one of favorites I remember. I would run the occasional

    roll of silent dailies for him. We had our own 35mm projector

    installation. Stanley was very particular about outsiders seeing dailies

    and cut scenes etc. This is how I came to know Stanley well in a short

    time and he revealed to me his sense of humour, something I thought I

    would never get to see.

    Aerial footage of the lodge and the roads leading up to it would

    ocassionally show up. Then one day the decision was made to move us from

    the studio to his new estate in St. Albans.

    (end part #1)





    (Part 2) May 21 1998



    I mentioned in Part One that we moved into what was the kitchen set in

    the film as our editing base. The kitchen set was not built on a regular

    shooting stage but in a brick building which stood toward the rear of

    the Studio lot. I cannot recall what it was regularly used for, but soon

    after the completion of shooting we moved from the cutting building, for

    the purpose of extra security that Stanley required if we were to remain

    on the lot.

    The main reason behind the move to Stanley's new property in St. Albans

    was because the main part of Stanley's house was going through major

    rennovation and it was clashing with the editing schedule. Stanley

    obviously decided it would be more convenient to have Ray and his

    assistants right on his property where he could have 100% control.

    We were moved into the stables, minus horses, and had plenty of room.

    There was a long walkway or hall, one end was Stanley's office, next to

    that was the editing room itself. Other rooms were utilised for Ray and

    assistants.

    Due to the large volume of film it was decided to retain it at the

    studio. Every few days a truck would take a couple of us to the studio

    to pick up the film that was needed for the next two or three scenes.

    In the mornings, we wouldn't see Stanley normally until around noon. He

    would be busy supervising the renovating of his house which was a huge

    undertaking. It was a beautiful old house and almost everything had been

    torn out from top to bottom.

    Stanley had been living in Elstree at a house called Abbot's Mead. I

    know that the editing crews on "A CLOCKWORK ORANGE" and possibly "BARRY

    LYNDON" were based there. If the name of the house sounds familiar it is

    because Stanley's youngest daughter Vivien, took the name, changed it to

    Abigail and used it for her career as a composer on "FULL METAL JACKET".

    Vivien frequently came in to watch her father work. I didn't get to know

    her very well. That, originally was soon to change. Vivien had shot a

    lot of 16mm footage of her father at work during shooting, for an

    intended documentary. The plan eventually was for me to assist her, but

    that was short-lived as I believe they were aware that I was going to

    return to the US at some point.

    While I was working on "HANOVER STREET" I struck up a friendship with

    the gentlemen, whose name I unfortunately cannot remember, who provided

    the film with a team of B-25 aircraft. Several of these were supposed to

    return to the US and I had an opportunity to return on one but due to

    customs problems and their uncertainty of remaining in the air for such

    a long flight, and after months of waiting, the idea was dropped.

    Eventually the planes were re-used on 1980's "YANKS".

    As time went on I was able to watch more of the editing. It is very hard

    to recall the kind of conversations that took place between Ray and

    Stanley, harsh argument never took place, always a very pleasant and

    professional air, it was very much a team effort although ofcourse

    Stanley had the final say. A recent query came up about the rotor blades

    from the helicopter camera in one of the opening shots, and why Stanley,

    perfectionist that he is, allowed this through is a tough one to answer.

    I think he is very much the perfectionist that publicity claims he is.

    To what degree in different areas and circumstances, is my question. The

    version I know of Stanley is the editor and business-man side. On one

    only occasion, I don't recall why, they asked my opinion of a scene. I

    know it was a scene involving a series of close-ups with Jack Nicholson.

    The only observation I made was the lack of continuity of his hands from

    shot to shot. I was told I was being too particular as his hands were

    below the boundary line of the 1.85 mask, Stanley points to the screen

    on the steenbeck showing me the marks drawn on the screen for 1.85. This

    is parallel situation, I think it would be a little ridiculous to say

    that Stanley is any less a perfectionist because of this. In editing in

    general, among the best directors and editors, continuity is in the

    foreground of their minds but often it is sacrificed because the rhythmn

    of the body of the film dictates otherwise, if the continuity isn't

    perfect but the cut is dramatically or emotionally correct, no one will

    notice. In theory, a film is made for an audience to see once only.

    On frequent visits back to the studio, we had a few editing rooms in the

    old cutting buildings, new motion pictures were moving in and ot of the

    studio. One production in particular was Warren Beatty's production

    "REDS". Our editing rooms were up on the 2nd or 3rd floor and right

    below us were two huge trailers, one for Warren and the other for Jack

    Nicholson. I took the courage to knock on the door of Jack's trailer. He

    came to the door, I introduced myself and he invited me in. He was

    excited to know how the film was progressing as Stanley had not allowed

    him to view anything. The meeting lasted about two to three minutes.

    I do not remember exactly the amount of takes of any given scene but I

    recall close-ups of Jack at the bar got up to the mid 30's, keep in mind

    that Stanley would often adopt the multiple take within take method.

    This means normally the camera rolls on take one, the camera cuts and

    proceeds to roll on take two. In this case the camera rolls on take one,

    the actor goes through the dialogue, but instead of the camera stopping

    proceeds through the scene several times. This system is rather hard on

    editors as there is no definate identification in the film itself to say

    what take it is. It's ultimately up to the continuity girl to make a

    careful note of what is approved by the director and accurate records

    have to be kept by the editing staff to ensure it can be found quickly

    months later.

    The highest take count that I can recall was with Scatman Crothers. One

    scene soared to the mid-seventies! That was separate takes.

    A matter of weeks before I left for the US discussions were going on

    about who to hire as a composer, one or two names were brought up, Jean

    Michel Jarre was one. Stanley would have samples of his albums to listen

    to, but didn't seem to be satisfied. One saturday I was walking around

    the West-End of London looking around the record and bookshops as I

    often do. I walked into a record shop and there was some unique style of

    music playing. Images of "THE SHINING" came to mind and I immediately

    asked what it was. It turned out to be an album called "CHINA" by

    composer Vangelis. I went into work on the monday and told Stanley. I

    think I may have bought the album. When he heard the track that I had

    described to him he was sold on it immediately. He had the cue-

    unfortunately I cannot remember what it was called- transferred to

    magnetic film and syncronized it to the opening scene in the picture.

    Stanley was extremely happy. As a result he ordered up the rest of his

    albums. But between the time that I left and the film's release

    something didn't work out. Regardless of this, Vangelis achieved success

    with "CHARIOTS OF FIRE".

    At this point during Stanley's excitement it was time for me to move on.

    By good fortune a teaser trailer, which had been designed by famous 007

    title designer Maurice Binder, had to be shipped to MGM Labs in

    California. Stanley arranged for his company Hawk Films to provide me

    with a free ticket to Los Angeles to hand carry the film elements to MGM

    Labs.

    On my last day I bid farewell to Stanley and Ray. Stanley thanked me for

    a great job and an offer of any help should I need it. He signed the

    novel with a thankyou for Vangelis included. It was the end of a very

    stimulating six months

  2. #2
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    Stephen,



    Quite a story. Thank you for informing us of the process and the personal history.



    So, you were the man who discovered Vangelis. Did you get to work on Chariots also?



    Fascinating.



    Gibbie

  3. #3
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    Originally posted by Gibbie@May 6 2005, 12:25 PM

    Stephen,



    Quite a story. Thank you for informing us of the process and the personal history.



    So, you were the man who discovered Vangelis. Did you get to work on Chariots also?



    Fascinating.



    Gibbie
    Hi Gibbie, I certainly do not take the credit for that. I think he had done one film already by the time I discovered his albums.

    I didn't work on "Chariots" as I was living in the US by that time.

  4. #4
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    Originally posted by Stephen Pickard@May 19 2005, 03:53 AM

    Hi Gibbie, I certainly do not take the credit for that. I think he had done one film already by the time I discovered his albums.

    I didn't work on "Chariots" as I was living in the US by that time.
    Hi Stephen,

    Your influence with Kubrick had to have caught the attention of Puttnam & co.

    Thanks for the stories!

    Gibbie

  5. #5
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    PS - If your looking for another unique musician who is good for film, but is not used too much, I recommend Yann Tiersen in Amelie. The best use of music I have heard and seen in a movie in a long time.

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    I feel so jealous.



    My Grandads claim to fame is working with Hitchcock. I don't know what truth is in this mind, as he only told me recently, and he has lost it a bit. At points I think he may even have been confusing Alfred Hitchcock with Alan Titchmarsh. I dunno did Hitchcock work with "that bra-less manly looking one with ginger hair"?

  7. #7
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    Glad that a proper reliable insights into Kubrick has come out after his death.

    I remember seeing spurilous articles saying that he spent his days alone at home making a security system that wouldnt detect his cats wandering around or wearing a crash helmet when in a car. Made him out to be a complete loony.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Country: England harryfielder's Avatar
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    Great stories Stephen, I was at Pinewood with Ken Russell in 1971..The Devils..



    Aitch,

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    Fantastic stories Stephen. I am currently trying to gather information for a documentary on Elstree Studios so this stuff is absolute gold. Do you have any photos or mementos from your time at Elstree?



    Oh and if anyone knows where I can get that photos of Stanley Kubrick standing in front of the burned down sets, smiling, please let me know. I used to have it, but can't find it anywhere.



    Thanks

    Jamie

  10. #10
    Super Moderator Country: UK christoph404's Avatar
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    Fascinating stuff! thanks for sharing that those memories with us

  11. #11
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    So you're a member of the Kubrick Klub, well congrats, there aren't many people that have either met or worked with the great man. Consider yourself blessed and thanks for sharing your experiences.

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