2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

I haven’t written about 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), before – and as a script writer for hire and UK script consultant some readers may be surprised to see me writing about photography and special effects. But, really, the script of 2001, is the least interesting thing about the film…

Kubrick and Clarke worked on the script itself for over a year before they went into production, based on some of Clarke’s short stories. Gradually, throughout this process, Kubrick began to strip away more and more plot elements – until, he eventually had a story – probably THE story, of the history and future of mankind.

It wasn’t just ambitious, looking back now it’s amazing that Kubrick had the guts to try ‘the ultimate sci-fi film’ at a time when special effects had to be built, they couldn’t just be conjured up on a computer. And remember – this film was made before we went to the moon!

Kubrick wanted to create the ultimate cinema – big screen- sci-fi experience. And 2001, is a film (shot, as I recall in 65mm) that demands to be seen on a big screen. Its visuals are stunning, for any film students reading this who like to work with digital images and digital video – see 2001 as soon as you can. See what a master director can do with techniques such as back projection (especially in the early ‘Dawn of Man’ sequences…)

Speaking of the Dawn of Man sequence – it features probably the greatest single ‘cut’ in the history of film editing. I’m pretty sure you’ll spot it.

As what can be done on film (thanks to CGI) grows – so that everything is possible and nothing is interesting, it’s worth going back to this film and seeing what Kubrick did with practical effects, trick photography, back projection, miniatures, special make-up effects and matte painting. It’s a master class of filmmaking – we don’t want to lose, or forget the artistry involved in these techniques.

Kubrick only won one Oscar – for the visual effects on this film. See it, it’s a trip…

Matthew Cooper has been a script writer for hire for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer. He’s also a leading UK script consultant. You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb. You can get in touch with Matthew on matcoop23@yahoo.co.uk or hire him on Peopleperhour