Stanley Kubrick’s photography works greatly influenced his early ventures into filmmaking. He started out making documentaries. His photography skills made it easy for him to transition from still photography to moving pictures.
His early films became notable with his impressive execution of reverse tracking shots, which would soon become one of his signature camera movements.
Stanley Kubrick Biography: His Early Years
Stanley Kubrick Biography: Tapping His Artistic Potentials During His Teenage Years
Stanley Kubrick Biography: From Struggling Through College to Becoming a Young Filmmaker
Kubrick as a Photographer
Traveling around the United States as a full-time staff photographer for Look magazine, he exposed himself in varying life experiences around the country. This opened his eyes to the world and he developed a thirst for knowledge. He tried enrolling as a non-matriculating student at Columbia University and he monitored classes of Moses Hadas, Lionel Trilling, and Mark Van Doren.
Kubrick also frequented the Museum of Modern Art film showings for his regular dose of movie marathons. He also further honed his skills in photography, which would later on greatly influence his filmmaking career. One of his initial inspirations in filmmaking was the complex and fluid cameraworks by German filmmaker Max Ophüls. Kubrick’s future films reflected influences from his visual style.
Kubrick’s First Film
In 1950, after creating and publishing a photo essay about boxing for Look magazine, he decided to use this as his theme for his first film. Kubrick and his friend Alexander Singer planned to make his first project, which would soon become the 1951 short documentary entitled Day of the Fight. Produced in 1950 and using much of his savings to fund the project, he finished this black-and-white film about boxer Walter Cartier at the age of 23. The film cost him about $3,900. He self-studied filmmaking and he asked around how to operate film cameras, primarily from the people who provide the camera rentals for him. He acted as the documentary’s producer, director, and cinematographer.
Distribution by RKO Pictures
Day of the Fight was bought by RKO (Radio-Keith-Orpheum) Pictures, one of the Big Five studios of Hollywood’s Golden Age and the oldest continuously operational studios founded in 1929. This American film production and distribution company also produced classics like Citizen Kane and It’s a Wonderful Life. Day of the Fight was used as part of a series played at the Paramount Theatre in New York on a bill with an Ava Gardner-Robert Mitchum movie entitled My Forbidden Past.
Although he didn’t really earn much from the venture of selling his film (generally just recuperating its cost), he kept his passion for filmmaking burning. He considered his first film a success and he quit his job as photographer at Look to pursue filmmaking full time.
More of Kubrick’s Early Works
In the same year, RKO advanced money for Kubrick’s next documentary short film for their Pathe Screenliner series. Kubrick made the 9-minute film Flying Padre, a story about the Catholic priest named Father Fred Stadtmuller who served in rural New Mexico. This black-and-white documentary showed him providing spiritual guidance, giving sermons at funerals, and giving assistance to the needy, including transporting sick people to the hospital. Flying Padre was narrated by CBS announcer Bob Hite.
In 1953, just after his first feature film entitled Fear and Desire, Kubrick directed and photographed an industrial documentary entitled The Seafarers. This 30-minute commissioned short was intended to recoup costs for his first feature. The Seafarers, his first color film, served as a promotional film meant for the Atlantic and Gulf Coast District of the Seafarers International Union.
Day of the Fight, Flying Padre, and The Seafarers were Kubrick’s only surviving works in the documentary genre. It was also believed that he was also involved in other short film projects, the most notable of which being the United Nations-commissioned documentary project entitled World Assembly of Youth in 1952. However, most of these projects didn’t survive any known copies.
“Watching Kubrick in Reverse: Flying Padre and Day of the Fight,” Bright Lights Film.
“Stanley Kubrick,” Biography.com.
“Stanley Kubrick Biography,” The Biography Channel.
“Stanley Kubrick Biography,” FilmMakers Magazine.
“Stanley Kubrick,” Prodigy.com.
“Biography for Stanley Kubrick,” IMDb.
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