Stanley Kubrick’s approach to problem solving

Stanley Kubrick was one of the most influential directors in the history of cinema. Born on July 26, 1928, in New York City, he is known for his meticulous attention to detail, his innovation in narrative and visual style, and his mastery across a variety of film genres.

He’s cited as one of the most influential filmmakers in cinematic history and his films include The Shining, A Clockwork Orange and 2001: A Space Odyssey.


Stanley Kubrick’s childhood

Stanley Kubrick was born in the Bronx, New York, to a middle-class Jewish family. His father, Jacob Leonard (Jack) Kubrick, was a successful physician, and his mother, Sadie Gertrude (née Perveler), was a housewife. He had one younger sister, Barbara.

Kubrick attended William Howard Taft High School in the Bronx, where he graduated in 1945. Although intelligent, he was not academically inclined and his poor grades meant that options for college were limited. Although he briefly attended evening classes at City College of New York, he did not graduate and was never formally educated in film.


In his own words:

“As a child, I was a school misfit, and considered reading a book ‘school work’. I don’t think I read a book for pleasure until I graduated high school. I had one thing that I think perhaps helped me get over being a school misfit, and that is that I became a student of photography, at about 12 or 13 [years old].”

Kubrick’s father gave him a Graflex camera when he was thirteen, sparking his interest in photography. Kubrick proved to be a gifted photographer, and his skills led to him becoming an official school photographer for a year. This eventually led to his job as a photographer for Look magazine after high school.

“I started out by just taking a camera and learning how to take and print pictures, learning how to build a dark room and learning all the technical things. Finally, trying to find out how to sell pictures and become a professional photographer. It was a case of (over the period of the age of 13 to 17), going through, step by step, by myself, without anyone really helping me, the problem solving of becoming a photographer. I think looking back that this particular thing about problem-solving is something that schools generally don’t teach you, and if you can develop a sort of generalised approach to problem solving, it’s surprising how it helps you in anything.

“I think that photography might have been more valuable than doing the proper things in school.

Kubrick had an interest that, combined with intentional learning and problem solving, led to mastery. Once mastery is reached in one area, someone has the confidence and belief that they can apply it elsewhere.


Stanley Kubrick’s career

Kubrick began his career as a photographer for Look magazine in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He made his first film, a 16-minute documentary called “Day of the Fight,” in 1951 but first gained significant attention with the release of “Paths of Glory” in 1957, a war film starring Kirk Douglas. He later directed “Spartacus” in 1960, a historical epic also starring Douglas. However, his creative control was limited on this project, leading him to ensure he had complete control over all his subsequent films.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Kubrick produced some of his most memorable works. “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (1964) is a dark satire of Cold War politics. “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968) is often considered one of the greatest films ever made and a pioneering work in the science fiction genre. “A Clockwork Orange” (1971) is a dystopian crime film that stirred up controversy due to its violent content.

Kubrick continued to produce innovative and provocative films into the 1980s and 1990s, including the horror film “The Shining” (1980), the war film “Full Metal Jacket” (1987), and the erotic drama “Eyes Wide Shut” (1999), which was his final film.

Throughout his career, Kubrick was known for his perfectionism. He often demanded multiple takes of scenes and was heavily involved in all aspects of his films’ production, from scripting and shooting to editing and scoring. His films are also known for their thematic depth, exploring topics like human violence, sexuality, and the nature of power.

Kubrick died on March 7, 1999, shortly after completing “Eyes Wide Shut.” Despite the limited number of films he made in his nearly 50-year career, his work continues to be studied and celebrated for its profound impact on the art of filmmaking.


What parents can learn from Kubrick’s upbringing

Kubrick’s upbringing in New York City had a profound impact on him, and his time spent in the city’s museums, cinemas, and jazz clubs greatly influenced his artistic development. His early career as a photographer taught him about composition, lighting, and storytelling, skills that would be critical to his later work as a film director. Despite his lack of formal education in film, Kubrick became one of the most revered directors in the history of cinema, showing that passion and self-taught skills can lead to extraordinary achievements.


Found this interesting? Check out an interesting story about fellow director Steven Spielberg.