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Exclusive: filmmaker Matt Wells discusses his Shining short film


Stanley Kubrick's classic horror The Shining creeps back into Cineworld this Halloween, as gloriously frightening and strange as it ever was.

The creepy Stephen King adaptation stars Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance, struggling writer and caretaker of the isolated Overlook Hotel who is driven mad by the ghosts that run amok there... or is he?

In direct opposition to King's book Kubrick leaves us with more questions than answers, drawing strong performances from Nicholson, Shelley Duvall as Jack's persecuted wife Wendy and Danny Lloyd as their on-screen son, Danny, who possesses the eerie telepathic ability known as 'shining'.

The re-release of the iconic horror will be preceded by a seven-minute short movie 'Work and Play: A Short Film About The Shining', directed by Matt Wells. We were delighted to catch up with Matt to discuss his thoughts on The Shining's legacy and the impact it's had on him as a filmmaker.

"Stanley Kubrick is an almost mythic director, and a lot has already been said about The Shining. There have been films, books, lectures and endless articles. And yet when the chance to make a documentary about it first came up, the movie started to get under my skin all over again.

It isn’t just that I like The Shining (which I do), it’s that I somehow can’t quite shake it, which is something you often hear said about that movie. It seems to have a very particular effect on people, and with the movie coming out in cinemas again, I wanted to find out why.

The Shining is a recognisable film. It’s referenced in cartoons, adverts, music videos, games, sitcoms etc. It’s worked its way deep into our cultural life. As a teenager, I’d seen it quoted so much that I felt I knew the film before I’d ever watched it. It’s easy to forget that a film like that doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Behind all those iconic moments are lots of people doing their jobs – actors, drivers, screenwriters, carpenters and so on.

I recently spoke to Dan Lloyd who played Danny. He was a child when he appeared in the film and stopped acting not long after. Dan told me that when he turns on the TV and finds The Shining on, to him it’s just like watching a home video. There’s nostalgia, and fond memories, but it doesn’t really register as a movie, and he seems immune to its effects.

But Dan, and many others, helped make the film, and saw it come together at close quarters. And so I filmed interviews with some of Kubrick’s collaborators - Lisa and Louise Burns who played the Grady twins, Garrett Brown who was instrumental in the achieving the film’s look, Diane Johnson who co-wrote the script, among others. And then there’s the archive…

Kubrick kept everything: script drafts, memos, shot lists, prop research, advert designs… the list goes on. There’s a vast store of this stuff at the Stanley Kubrick Archive in London which not many people have seen. So I went down there, and as you sift through the boxes you start to see how the film came together.

It’s a treasure trove – plenty of it found its way into my documentary, but there is a lot more down there. You can trace on-screen moments back through designs, models and sketches, back to scribbled notes in Kubrick’s writing. As you do you get some sense of how this man worked, sometimes even of how he thought, and why his films are so singular.

So my documentary was an attempt to figure out how the film works, and why it stays with you in the way that it does. And by interviewing his collaborators and looking through his archive, I came to think that that’s partly about the mechanics of the film itself, and the nuts and bolts of his filmmaking process.

But perhaps more fundamentally, it’s about the way the film plays on our minds and our fears. The mind is a mysterious thing but still I think Kubrick knew what he was doing when he made that film – because here I am, 37 years later, still trying to figure it out."

Matt Wells (@_mattwells_) is director of Work & Play: A Short Film About The Shining, which will be playing before The Shining on its nation-wide re-release this Halloween.

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