Creativity, Cinema, Stanley Kubrick & Genius

So how and why is Stanley Kubrick a genius of cinema?

Let me count the ways…

And also, a bit slower, this time :

And also:



And top 20 RoI filmmaker Steven Spielberg on Kubrick:

Steven Spielberg: “[Kubrick] would tell me, the last couple years of his life when we were talking about the form, he kept saying, “I want to change the form. I want to make a movie that changes the form.” And I said, “Well, didn’t you with ‘2001‘?”

Csikszentmihalyi notes:

`Creativity occurs when a person makes a change in a domain, a change that will be transmitted through time.

Some individuals are more likely to make such changes, either because of personal qualities or because they have the good fortune to be well positioned with respect to the domain – they have better access to it, or their social circumstances allow them free time to experiment.’

(Csikszentmihalyi in Henry, 2006, p. 3)

Lucas and Spielberg often cite Kubrick’s 2001 as inspirations for their own later sci-fi movies (top 20 RoI movies like Star Wars, E.T., etc). Want more on all that?

Then Watch as 15 Iconic Directors fawn over Kubrick’s 2001.

And, there are many more ways Kubrick was an eminent-genius-level creative.

So, here is a great book on Genius. …Kubrick is mentioned in there.

The Wiley Handbook of Genius (Ed: D K Simonton 2014)

…Why was Kubrick a genius of cinema?

Just one reason of multiple reasons: Kubrick made instant classics in many different film genres.

For example see how many films he has in the AFI’s Best 100 Movies.

His classics include:


…What’s a classic? See the diagram below…

First, we need to look at the Categories of Creativity. Also known as the Categories of Canon:

Categories of creativity, or categories of canon. Seven types of big-c Creativity/canon in Cinema (or, in novels, games, songs, etc) (Velikovsky 2014)

If of interest, have also examined these Categories of Creativity in more detail in these articles:

Velikovsky, J. T. (2014). Flow Theory, Evolution & Creativity: or, ‘Fun & Games’. Paper presented at the Interactive Entertainment 2014 (IE2014) Conference, Newcastle, Australia.

Velikovsky, J. T. (2016). The Holon/Parton Theory of the Unit of Culture (or the Meme, and Narreme): In Science, Media, Entertainment and the Arts. In A. Connor & S. Marks (Eds.), Creative Technologies for Multidisciplinary Applications. New York: IGI Global.

Velikovsky, J. T. (2017). Chapter 405: The Holon/Parton Structure of the Meme, or, The Unit Of Culture. In M. Khosrow-Pour (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology, Fourth Edition (pp. 4666-4678). New York: IGI Global.

And – we also need to examine creativity as a spectrum, from Everyday Creativity up to Highly-Eminent Genius.

The 5-C model of Creativity – Velikovsky 2017

Kubrick was at the extreme-right end of the bell curve above.

If of interest, for more detail on The Five-C model of creativity, see Five Views of the Monomyth.

Anyway – now, examine Kubrick’s creativity (or his extreme case of it, namely “boldface-C” Creativity, or, Highly Eminent Genius), I would like to compare a quote from Creativity (Csikszentmihalyi 1996) to a quote from Kubrick himself.

“Telling me to take a vacation from filmmaking is like telling a child to take a vacation from playing”

(Kubrick in LoBrutto 1997, p. 342)

And, from Creativity (1996), a study of 91 eminent creatives:

`One thing about creative work is that it’s never done. In different words, every person we interviewed said that it was equally true that they had worked every minute of their careers, and that they had never worked a day in their lives. They experienced the most focussed immersion in extremely difficult tasks as a lark, an exhilarating and playful adventure.

It is easy to resent this attitude and see the inner freedom of the creative person as an elite privelege. While the rest of us are struggling at boring jobs, they have the luxury of doing what they love to do, not knowing whether it is work or play. There might be an element of truth in this. But far more important, in my opinion, is the message that the creative person is sending us: You too can spend your life doing what you love to do.’

(Csikszentmihalyi, 1996, p. 106)

Interesting also, that comparative mythographer Joseph Campbell – who I suggest is talking about flow theory when he uses the term bliss – suggested: “What you have to do, you do with play.” (Campbell in Osbon, 1991). Kubrick sure did that.

Anyway, so, Stanley Kubrick was a genius of cinema.

Cinema is also rather complex, as it is composed of (contains) many other very complex domains of culture. Kubrick mastered all of them:

The Film/Cinema Domain: mise en abyme (Domains, within Domains)

Game Design is even more complex, as it contains the domain of Cinema within it, as one small part (think: Videogame Cutscenes, the little movies that introduce the game and the new game Missions, etc)

And… an interesting philosophical question:

…What would a videogame be like, if it was made by the genius, Stanley Kubrick?

Sadly, now, we may never know…?!

A Thought: Maybe, something like the games Journey, and also the Metal Gear Solid series, but with a social conscience…? Note how Kubrick’s films always have a social conscience…

Another interesting quote from Kubrick (speaking about A Clockwork Orange), given Evolutionary Psychology:

`Although a certain amount of hypocrisy exists about it, everyone is fascinated by violence… After all, man is the most remorseless killer who ever stalked the earth. Our interest in violence in part reflects the fact that on the subconscious level we are very little different from our primitive ancestors.’

(Kubrick in LoBrutto 1997, p. 339)

For more on all that, see: Consilience. (A big list of evolutionary books on creativity I read for my 2016 PhD on movie creativity).

Of course Spielberg completed Kubrick’s AI: Artificial Intelligence.

And, see also:

See, also:

Also I’m not crazy about the voice-over narration (and I don’t agree with the list, or its order), but this is also worth a look. You get to see parts of Kubrick’s films in it.

I guess my main point is this:

I’ve watched most of Kubrick’s films literally hundreds of times over the past 20 years. And yet every time, I still find new and amazing things to appreciate in them. How many films can you say that about? (In videogames, it’s called: Replay Value).

…Classics! Genius.

Also if you want to go deeper into his creativity, check these out:

And also listen to, just how often Stanley says the word “problem” throughout this one below… (Listen to the whole 1966 interview! …Count them all! It makes a great drinking game! Every time Kubrick says the word “problem”, you have to drink-! 🙂

Mainly, the word comes up so much because:

All creativity is problem-solving… just as All life is doing science.

Namely – in this 1966 interview with Jeremy Bernstein about his movie career, eminent-genius-level filmmaker Stanley Kubrick reveals his own view on creative problem solving:

`I think that, if you get involved in any kind of problem-solving in depth, on almost anything… it’s surprisingly-similar to problem-solving on anything

I started out, by just… getting a camera, and learning how to take pictures, and learning how to print pictures, and learning how to build a darkroom, and learning how to do all the technical things… and then finally trying to find out, how you could sell pictures… and: Would it be possible to be a professional photographer?

And it was a case of… from the age of say, from… 13 to 17, you might say, going through, step-by-step, by myself – without anybody really helping me – the problem-solving of: becoming a photographer.

And I think, in looking back that… this particular thing about problem-solving is something that schools, generally, don’t teach you. And that, if you can develop a kind of generalized approach to problem-solving, that it’s surprising how it helps you, in anything.’

(Kubrick in Popova, 2013, minutes 1-4)

…and also, check out these 3 recorded interviews (Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket) with Michel Ciment.

Interestingly the above interview was rewritten when published, and in that text, Kubrick’s answers are much less revealing of his creative process, in my view.

(But hey – I only have a PhD in movie creativity, so: What do I know 😉

When you examine creativity, you look at the 6 P’s: the creative

  1. Person (ality) – Biological, Psychological, Sociological, Cultural
  2. Potential – Do they have some or many of Gardner’s multiple intelligences/talents?
  3. Process – How do they do their creativity? Also, what about the 10-year rule?
  4. Product – What was their unit of culture. (e.g., a book, or a film, or a song? etc.)
  5. Place – Where did they do it? (e.g., their Country, Locality, Home Office*, etc)
  6. Persuasion (What convinced people, that the work was creative, or even, its extreme case, genius? Was it “e = mc2″, or 2001: A Space Odyssey, or what.)

Both Charles Darwin and Stanley Kubrick worked from home. Go figure.

Read more on it in this great book, Origins of Genius (Simonton 1999).

More reasons why Kubrick was a genius:

See the NASA space-camera lens Kubrick adapted to fit onto a normal 35mm camera in order to shoot the indoor candle-lit scenes in Barry Lyndon (1975). This was a new, useful and surprising (i.e., creative) result, and worked really well. Note also how revolutionary this was at the time. You may need to watch Barry Lyndon and compare it to other period drama films shot at the time to fully recognize and appreciate the difference!

And watch the Steadicam scenes (young Danny on the trike in the hallways) in The Shining (1980); this was revolutionary at the time in terms of film style, or David Bordwell’s ‘artistic schemas’ (Bordwell, 2008, [2008] 2010). Garrett Brown (who I met at film school), the inventor of the Steadicam shot these Steadicam scenes. The only earlier use I am aware of – in such a popular film – was the Philadelphia Museum of Art staircase-scene in (Best Picture Oscar-winner) Rocky (1976), one of the top 20 RoI movies.

See my online PhD dissertation for more details if of interest, namely (Velikovsky, 2016a). To save time, the URL for the PhD is very easy to locate right here on my PhD research weblog.

CCCC title page

…Thoughts? Feedback? Comments?

PS – And hey see also: ‘Eyes Wide Cut’: What Happens When a Filmmaker Reimagines Kubrick’s Masterpiece? (2017)

PPS – Hey, Fincher is a genius of cinema. Guess how early he got started in movies?

Also, this was when it started for him:

For more, see the “ten-year rule” in creativity.

Here’s an interesting 20 minute video on Kubrick’s photography style, (and some key artistic influences and mentors) and how it all influenced his film cinematography.

Here’s Steve Martin talking about how he was nearly involved in Eyes Wide Shut.

Two of Kubrick’s planned film projects were scuttled by someone anticipating him.

Napoleon was abandoned as a bad film about Napoleon came out.

Aryan Papers was abandoned when Spielberg’s holocaust movie (Schindler’s List) came out.

So, making movies is hard. It involves talent, hard work, craft skills, luck and random chance. There are lot of things that can go wrong – (that are no fault of your own) and everything also has to go right. See: The Anna Karenina Principle.

And see my PhD for more. I wrote it to help screenwriters and movie-makers succeed. Namely most of the screenwriting books out there are half-wrong. You have to be all right.


JT Velikovsky

High-RoI Story/Screenplay/Movie and Transmedia Researcher

The above is (mostly) an adapted excerpt, from my doctoral thesis: “Communication, Creativity and Consilience in Cinema”. It is presented here for the benefit of fellow screenwriting, filmmaking and creativity researchers. For more, see https://aftrs.academia.edu/JTVelikovsky

JT Velikovsky is also a produced feature film screenwriter and million-selling transmedia writer-director-producer. He has been a professional story analyst for major film studios, film funding organizations, and for the national writer’s guild. For more see: http://on-writering.blogspot.com/


See also:

StoryAlity #117 – Velikovsky’s 40 Domain Problems in Screenwriting (or: “Consilient PhDs I’d Like To See


Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1996), Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention (1st edn.; New York: HarperCollins) viii, 456 p.

LoBrutto, V. (1997). Stanley Kubrick: A Biography. New York: D.I. Fine Books.

Velikovsky, J. T. (2014). Flow Theory, Evolution & Creativity: or, ‘Fun & Games’. Paper presented at the Interactive Entertainment 2014 (IE2014) Conference, Newcastle, Australia.

Velikovsky, J. T. (2016). The Holon/Parton Theory of the Unit of Culture (or the Meme, and Narreme): In Science, Media, Entertainment and the Arts. In A. Connor & S. Marks (Eds.), Creative Technologies for Multidisciplinary Applications. New York: IGI Global.

Velikovsky, J. T. (2017). Chapter 405: The Holon/Parton Structure of the Meme, or, The Unit Of Culture. In M. Khosrow-Pour (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology, Fourth Edition (pp. 4666-4678). New York: IGI Global.

9 thoughts on “StoryAlity#13B – Creativity, Cinema, Stanley Kubrick & Genius

  1. Pingback: StoryAlity#147 – ANZCA2017 Communication Conference | StoryAlity

  2. On videogames; have you played THE LAST OF US? Thoughts of that insofar as creative genius in the realm of gaming is concerned?

    What about INSIDE, or BIOSHOCK? There are plenty of others, actually, that I can’t think of right now. You did mention METAL GEAR SOLID, and I think the final instalment – THE PHANTOM PAIN – is another interesting example that really pushes the envelope of gaming.

    • All very true!
      Yeah I worked for 2K games, very familiar with BIOSHOCK. 🙂 (And even Ayn Rand’s work as it happens)
      I played a bit of `THE LAST OF US’ – great stuff!
      Thanks for all the great comments and feedback.
      (Those posts about videogames are a bit old now I probably should update them… 🙂 – all great points you make, thank you for them!

  3. Pingback: StoryAlity#143 – All of life is doing science | StoryAlity

  4. Pingback: StoryAlity#129B – What is Metamodernism? | StoryAlity

  5. Pingback: StoryAlity #131 – Why Things (like some Movies) Are Popular – and – The Anna Karenina principle | StoryAlity

  6. Pingback: StoryAlity#149 – Popper on creativity and problem-solving | StoryAlity

  7. Pingback: StoryAlity#151 – Kubrick, Darwin and the monomyth in The Journal of Genius and Eminence | StoryAlity

  8. Pingback: StoryAlity #27 – Narratology since Plato – a Brief Lit Review | StoryAlity

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.