It’s just terrific

February, 1976. Producer Jan Harlan writes to Stanley Kubrick and speaks passionately about a new piece of technology so impressive that it could lead to “shots which would not enter your mind otherwise.” That invention was the now-ubiquitous Steadicam, and Harlan was right to be so impressed. Indeed, Kubrick shared his enthusiasm, so much so that the Steadicam was used extensively and to great effect in his next movie, The Shining — most notably the smooth tracking shots in the hotel’s corridors — and in every film of his that followed.

Transcript follows. Image from the amazing book, The Stanley Kubrick Archives.


10. Feb. 76


Dear Stanley,

I saw this new contraption for hand-held shots in action. It’s just terrific. Enclosed a photograph of one of the prototypes. The whole secret is a perfect balance of the camera and the arm AND a spring loaded– tension arm which separates the body movement from the camera to an astonishing degree. The operator can run and the camera moves through the air as if held on a string from above. I saw a roll of film this morning shot by Haskel where the operator sits on a crane – the crane comes down the the ground, the operator gets of the seat and walks away, no cut. Not only will this thing safe a lot of money and time by avoiding tracks, but you could do shots and think of shots which would not enter your mind otherwise. You see, I am sold on that think, although it costs $30,000.–. Ed will be in London on Feb 25 for 4 hours and I told him to send you that roll of film which I saw. I promised him that you will send it back to him within a few days. He will just arrange with someone that the roll is delivered to you.

Ed will be in Copenhagen in 2 weeks and I have asked him to see Mr. Jakobsen and find out for himself what is happening. I assume that Jakobsen has not contacted you in the meantime.

best Jan