Monkeys Fighting Robots

Filmworker is the story of Leon Vitali, the right-hand man of legendary filmmaker Stanely Kubrick who spent 30 years helping to create iconic films. If the idea of a documentary about a director’s assistant doesn’t sound appealing, then you’d probably be right in 99% of cases. However, Filmworker is about Stanley Kubrick, and nothing related to Kubrick is ever uninteresting. Rest assured, the story behind Filmworker is fascinating from start to finish and will only add to the mystique behind one of the greatest directors in the history of cinema.

“I always thought of Leon as a moth that was attracted to the flame. Stanley Kubrick was an incredibly bright light.”

Above any other form of entertainment, a major film production involves a lot of moving parts. Managing and leading those productions are directors, but few had the perfectionist vision of Stanley Kubrick. In 1968, young actor Leon Vitali fell in love with a film called 2001. Many film and TV roles kept Leon busy over the next three years before he watched another brilliant movie, A Clockwork Orange. Leon focused on getting an opportunity to work with Kubrick.

In 1975, after more successful work in TV and on film, Leon got a small role in Kubrick’s next film, Barry Lyndon. As the production went on, Kubrick took a liking to Leon. And Leon was enamored by the level at which Kubrick wanted to operate. By the end of production, Leon’s role as Lord Bullingdon had grown from minor supporting part to vital player. But it would also be the last major role Leon would ever play.

In the industry, Leon is known as a film-worker, or someone
who will do anything and everything for a production.

Over the course of his career, Leon learned the ins and outs of filmmaking. In the industry, Leon is known as a film-worker, or someone who will do anything and everything for a production. No task is too small or unimportant. It all functions to serve the whole.

After Barry Lyndon, Leon dedicated himself to being that film-worker for Kubrick. Over the next 30 years, Leon spent just about every waking, working minute with Kubrick. Leon was on set, preparing scenes, and also spent energy making sure that copies and dubs of the films were to Kubrick’s exact specifications. Leon served as an extension of Kubrick’s vision from production to distribution.

With a great skill all his own, director Tony Zierra guides viewers through the life of Leon Vitali. From a young actor with great talent and a promising career in front of the camera to the man who helped Kubrick create The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, and Eyes Wide Shut. Leon’s dedication to the master filmmaker is both beautiful and supremely rare. In a world of egos, especially in Hollywood, Leon put his aside because he knew Kubrick’s work was the most important work.

Filmworker is a portrait of absolute dedication.

Through the documentary, we learn the parts about Kubrick we already knew. Kubrick’s obsession with detail, lack of patience for anyone that’s not 100% dedicated to the craft, and his tyrannical nature. However, Leon, above anyone else aside from perhaps Kubrick’s immediate family, knew the director best. The multitalented film-worker paints a more intimate picture of the renowned filmmaker.

Filmworker is a portrait of absolute dedication. Even after Kubrick’s death, Leon played a vital role in making sure that all of the director’s films were preserved to perfection. And we should all be thankful that. There is only so much time and attention to give people. Kubrick sucked up 99.9% of it. People like Vitali eschewed ego for art. In our cynical world, it may sound pretentious, but it’s that sort of dedication that truly makes the world go round. And with Filmworker, Zierra is highlighting that truth and, in turn, Vitali is getting the attention he so deserves.

Many thanks to the folks at the Miami Jewish Film Festival for the chance to screen and review some incredible films from all over the world. 

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Writer, film-fanatic, geek, gamer, info junkie & consummate Devil's advocate who has been fascinated by Earth since 1976. Classically trained in the ways of the future.