The Design of 2001: A Space Odyssey

Back in the late 1960s, I began work at MGM’s Borehamwood studios as a studio runner. These days, that position is usually called a Production Assistant or PA.

I was employed by the studio rather than a production company, and I was assigned each day or each week to work on whatever film shooting in the studio needed an extra body.  My main task, as I recall after these 50 years, was to run off call sheets each night and deliver them to departments around the studio. The call sheet is a vital document on a production, letting everyone know what is to be shot the next day, and detailing everything that is needed for the shoot and when it is needed.

This was in the days before computers or even word processors were everywhere.  Instead, the Production Coordinator for each production typed the document on a Gestetner stencil (hands up all those who remember that) and the stencil was run off on a small hand-cranked printing drum.  It was messy, tedious, slow, and the stencils often ripped, requiring repairs using, usually, nail polish to stick it back together.

I don’t remember too many of the productions I was assigned to, but I was lucky enough to see many of the action sequences filmed for Where Eagles Dare, and there was always the closely-guarded and then-unnamed Stanley Kubrick project to intrigue.  Kubrick’s production took up a great deal of the studio and its lot, and was, of course, the talk of the commissary each day.  As a studio runner, I was dispatched to numerous 2001 departments and got to see much of the art work and special effects being created.

Construction of the lunar monlith set (when the monolith design was still a pyramid)

Construction of the lunar monolith set (when the monolith design was still a pyramid)

This is all a very long prologue to draw your attention to a really excellent piece in Creative Review which examines the work of NASA visualizer Harry Lange whom Kubrick hired as designer for the show.  If you enjoy the movie and/or are intrigued by what were cutting edge designs, do take the time to read the article.



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