ONE - Filming The Future

The making and screening of ONE: A Space Odyssey

Updated 3 March 2001

The Dawn of Film

Hello dear reader, and welcome to the making of ONE: A Space Odyssey. What is it, why is it, who are we, who are you, why are we here and who's that guy? All these questions and more will be ignored in the following passages.

It all started when we, Spite Your Face Productions (then Underpendent Films) were contacted by a lecturer from our ex-college with some characteristically late information about an interesting film project. Edinburgh based collective Three Sixty Contemporary Arts, we learned, were commissioning a number of short films based on Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, with the deadline for submissions in little over a week. The commission was for a one minute film, based on the novel idea of showing twenty such films at a minute past eight on the twentieth of the first month, 2001, at the Cameo Cinema in Edinburgh (20x1 20.01 20:01 2001). With only a few days to conceive and submit an idea, complete with visuals, and being unsound of mind and body, we instantly decided to do a 'Lego' movie. Unlike our previous efforts involving the worlds favourite construction toy, we decided to put some work into this film. Of our four (count em') previous Lego® movies, only the legendary All of the Dead was actually animated or, indeed, any good. But if we were commissioned for this project, we promised ourselves, we would carefully script, storyboard, animatic, set design and so forth until we have the best Lego® film imaginable.

And lo, for some reason, they commissioned us.

The first draft of the script, which won us our commission, contained several extra scenes including one which required the construction of the large 'centrifuge' spaceship interior. What we didn't tell anyone was that Spite Your Face Productions have precious little Lego®, and thus would require considerable funding to make the film. What no one told us was that Three Sixty were non-profit making and could not provide us with a budget. And so began the long hard search for resources. We needed two things. Money and Lego® bricks. Mostly money. After searching though lists of every trust fund and beneficiary in the land we finally had a few breakthroughs. The nice people at Three Sixty Contemporary Arts managed to find us £50 so we weren't working at a loss, and The Lego Group also came through for us. We had been in negotiations with various branches of the Lego Group for weeks, and there were periods were things looked a little dark, but they finally agreed to send us a certain amount of materials, in lieu of financial support.

To the right we see Tony's mix of joy and terror at receiving so many pink and orange elements, arches and bikes at once.

Above left: A very strange photo of our amazement at such quantities of free Lego® product, later added to Tony's existing collection, above right.

Three Minutes Later. Film Commission.
We made the minifigs first, as we already had a prototype 'Dave' that we had knocked up for the promo imagery. We decided to use the old-school 70's spacemen as they not only resemble the spacesuits in 2001, but date from a similar era. The original Dave used the old space pack with the thick neck, but this was replaced in the movie by a modified Mega Bloks® space pack. Dave is also wearing a 1x1 tile piece on his chest, featuring printed-out details adhered with tape, essential for the astronaut about town. We even went to the obscure trouble of making a spare green space helmet for Dave to wear when he breaks back into the Discovery, but this obsessive detail never reached the screen. In the actual animation, the figures were filmed with blank faces, upon which faces drawn by Tony were later superimposed.

The E.V.A. Pod
While we waited to find out whether or not we would get any funding we started work on the pod, as it was about the only element we had enough of our own Lego® pieces to build. The space pod is a small ROUND one man craft with ROUND edges and a ROUND window, it is made out of SQUARE bricks, and as such I can honestly say that it is the hardest thing I have ever had to build. It took both Tim and I two days of revisions to finalise the pesky thing, but with a few additions from the box Lego sent us, we finally managed it. The basic structure of the pod is solid, without cheating, despite the strange angles involved. Various components had to be modified however for full cinematic effect. The window 'glass' is made from a piece of black photographic film to give it a full shine, and the Technic Lego® arms have been painted white.

Click here for more detailed images and explanation of the pod's construction!

Click on the pod images to see larger versions! It's a bizzare construction and these pics don't quite do it justice; new images may appear in due course.

The pod interior, which is hugely disproportionate to the exterior, features fairly exact copies of the monitors and dials in the original. They flicker thanks to the magic of After Effects. The 'window' was also digitally created.

The Discovery

We originally wanted to build a model of the Discovery, but it was soon established we had neither the resources nor the time to build a 12" Lego® sphere on a stick. So it was that we ended up cheating, using this unneccessarily large acrylic painting by Tony instead. We thought a painting of an imaginary Lego® model would be a bit dubious, so it's just....uh, weird instead.

The only part we did build is this strangely angled section of the exterior, complete with huge radio dish which is barely visible in the finished film (and not at all visible in this production shot!)

The African Landscape
This was made by Tim sitting in an orange room carving polystyrene and listening to the 2001 soundtrack on rotation for a couple of days. It's a more or less accurate depiction of the rocky landscape in the film, but a bit more orange.The monolith in this scene is made from black Lego® blocks and is the exact 1:4:9 scale of the original, but a bit more shiny.

The Monkeys
There are actually only four monkeys (Mickey Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork and Davey Jones). The rest were created through the art of split screen, just like real movie crowd scenes! The bone which the monkey throws at the end of the first scene is digitally composited from the point at which it leaves his hands.
The monkeys were purchased at the last minute from
Stop Motion Filming
We filmed the stop-motion animation at a full 25 frames/second. Still frames were grabbed from a DV camcorder (borrowed from Tony's dad) via firewire, a process which was much more fiddly and annoying than you might think!
A moody and dramatic shot of our africa setup!

A slightly abstract image of the animation process. Note the cinemascope ratio guide taped to the LCD screen.

The masters at work

An arm.

The Hotel Room
The Hotel room is our crowning achievement, and looks exactly like the room in the film down to the tiniest detail. It is quite probably the best model of anything that has ever been made anywhere in the entire universe ever, and is much better than wot you could do. Or not.

Anyway, its pretty good.

Old Dave's bed was made from beige blocks, with a quilt made of tin foil, seen here prior to painting. His pillow was fashioned from Milliput.

The room itself was built on top of Tony's lightbox, with floor tiles printed on acetate. The walls are made from card, with the pillars and details made from Lego®. About the walls are Renaissance style pictures. The main one features a strange variant on the Mona Lisa, this is the first proper painting Tony ever did, from when he was thirteen. The other two paintings feature minifig renditions of Tim and Tony.The bed is made from Lego®, with a tinfoil bed cover and a milliput pillow. The dresser and chairs are made from Lego® and are great. The ceiling is made primarily from card, with a paper covered hole in the centre to allow in ambient light. Its a bit like Hello magazine this bit, isn't it?

Here are a couple of in-progress shots:

Hal was created through a combination of a Lego® 'Light and Sound' lightbulb, an old Lego® train battery pack, and a red permanent marker.

The slitscan sequence comprises scanned Lego® tiles which were texture mapped onto an infinite plane. A heavily modified live action tracking shot over the monkies' desert environment mimics the slightly dubious aerial footage in Kubrick's film. Intercut with all this are retouched closeups of Dave with the expressions 'fear' 'unhappy' and 'confused' in turn.
Space Baby
The Space Baby (or Starchild if you want to be poncey about it) is a thumbnail sketch knocked up by Tony in a few seconds, and processed to death in Photoshop over a few hours.
The titles
The crescent earth seen in the title sequence was made from images of a great Lego® earth sphere made by Robert Butera. He kindly gave us permission to use his images. Unfortunately we didn't give his good work quite the exposure it deserved due to the shot of Earth at the end being cut due to time limitations. But having a Lego® crescent is nice, every detail counts!

Here it is in all its glory. Visit Robert's Planet Brick site for more info and images.

Edinburgh and Beyond the Infinite

The big premiere of 'One: A Space Odyssey' (along with the rest of the 'Twenty, Oh One' films) at the Cameo Cinema, Edinburgh, took place on Jan 20th 2001. Our film was very well recieved...experiencing a real audience reaction made it all worthwhile! The other films in the programme were very interesting, a great varied selection of shorts, and was nice to meet some of the people who made them, and of course the Three Sixty Contemporary Arts people who organised the whole thing! The showing was a great success all round, and was sold out! This was partly due to us being moved to a smaller screen to accomodate an extra showing of 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon', but addresses of those unable to get in were taken down, and repeat screenings at the Cameo and other venues are planned. (Visit the Three Sixty Contemporary Arts website for details of future screenings and events.)

Tony and I with the Three Sixty Contemporary Arts posse and some of our other fellow 'Twenty, Oh One' filmmakers.
Not sure what the strange apparition in the upper left means, hope it's a good omen!

Evidence of our sell-out status on the Cameo noticeboard!

More 'Twenty, Oh One' filmmakers and audience crowding expectently in the Cameo bar.

Some of the audience entering the packed screening.

I was going to photoshop a huge 'Twenty, Oh One' sign onto this image, but I couldn't be bothered!

Back to the ONE index

LEGO® is a trademark of the LEGO Group of companies which does not sponsor, authorize or endorse this site or any of it's content. All material here is at the discretion of Spite Your Face Productions.