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What Can We Learn from Peter Jackson's DIY Approach to 'Bad Taste'? $20 Steadicams Totally Work!

Peter JacksonThere are so many films out there that filmmakers with all types of budgets, tastes, and sensibilities try to learn from and emulate. Screenwriters may look to Chinatown to learn its structure while cinematographers may look to Soy Cuba for its one-of-a-kind tracking shot. And then there’s Peter Jackson’s first feature film Bad Taste (1987). Before he was working with top dollar visual effects, Jackson was a DIY filmmaker making films on a small budget, and in the 1988 documentary, Good Taste Made Bad Taste, he shares how he shot the movie using stabilizers, dollies, and cranes that he made himself — an unintentional DIY tutorial for all low-budget filmmakers.

First of all, if you haven’t seen or heard of Bad Taste, it’s a “science fiction splatter comedy horror” about a small town that gets invaded by human flesh-loving aliens that slowly begin to pick away at the townsfolk. Check out the trailer below:


Jackson and his crew, made up of a small group of his friends, shot the film on weekends over a course of four years. Though the New Zealand Film Commission stepped in near the end of production to provide the filmmakers with a hefty $235,000 budget, Jackson was in the process of shooting it with $25,000.

There are so many lessons to learn from Jackson’s approach to the film. For one, he made due with what he had: he baked all of the masks in his mother’s oven and filmed 90% of the footage with his second-hand Bolex that didn’t record sound, meaning he had to dub all of the dialog in post. And that which he didn’t have, he built himself.

As you’ll see in the documentary below, he constructed several rigs and props for the film: a  $20 spring-loaded steady-cam, wooden dolly tracks, and an arsenal of automatic weapons made of aluminum tubing.

The story behind Jackson’s Bad Taste is one that we can all learn from as well as be inspired by. No, not all of us are going to have the budget he did, as small as it may have been (until the end), but his DIY approach to much of the production is something we can all relate to and be encouraged by, because hey — we all have to start somewhere, and getting creative with the tools we use will keep costs down and our production values higher.

Check out the documentary below:

What do you think of Peter Jackson’s DIY approach to Bad Taste? Do you have any DIY tips to share? Let us know in the comments below!

[via Svartalv & Cinephilia and Beyond]

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Description image 39 COMMENTS

  • There is one thing that comes to my mind after seeing the trailer (quote from the comic book guy in the Simpsons) : “WORST MOVIE EVER !”

  • The production values were not much below many of the action adventure movies from the 1980′s. It’s apparent that he figured out some effective workarounds with the budget he had.

  • Wow……..I remember watching Bad Taste as a kid…….I like it…

  • A great making of. And one of the most inspiring debuts.

    Best films of all time (rated in terms of ‘never getting bored with watching it again’)

    1. The Princess Bride
    2. Bad Taste
    3. Star Wars
    4. Gattaca
    5. In the Bleak Midwinter

  • Cool. This one also has interesting DIY approach: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2V_WmA4YpKM

  • Filthy Punt on 12.15.13 @ 5:47PM

    A timely reminder Peter Jackson used to make good films, something he hasn’t done in nearly twenty years since The Frighteners.

  • shaun wilson on 12.15.13 @ 6:05PM

    My hat, as usual, goes off to Peter.

  • This is absolutely inspiring. Great to also see clips of PJ’s very early work. Reminds you that we are all human.

  • Too bad he never posted exactly how he made his steady cam. these days lots of us use PVC we can get from the depot instead of alum.

  • Cameron Glendinning on 12.15.13 @ 10:51PM

    Meet the Feebles, his second film is one of my favorites

  • It’s amazing how much work was put into all of this and especially how dedicated the entire crew was. They all took part in a 4-year project just for the fun of it. Unbelievably rare!

    It’s also great to see all the trail and error Peter put into making the practical special effects.

    • What Happened now the Hobbit is all fake look CGI.

      Apart from Lord of the Rings and Hobbit….Peter Jackson
      has been pretty much hit and miss…mostly miss…just
      like all the other directors. Cameron alone is the only
      one who never missed.

  • what a complete piece of shit. this is not about cinema. this is about making stupid videos with stupid costumes.
    cinema is an art, is contemplative and, above all is deep, it has a meaning – everything this piece of shit doesn’t have.

  • Always interesting to see how people start off in the business.

    The scariest visual Peter achieved is the protruding alien butt checks. Some things just can’t be unseen.

  • Ha ha – good old Kiwi ingenuity – that’s what I reckon.

  • nice very insiring for new inde filmakers. thanks peter

  • This is awesome, I made my first film “Exhumation” the exact same way but with 1000$ budgest, built everything myself and a friend, and everyone in it was a a friend or volunteer and took 2 years working week ends only to finish, and it’s about aliens. It was very fun and learning experience. Thanks for sharing this article.

  • I feel like my younger self had a lot in common with Peter Jackson. Unfortuneatly for me, I went to college and now I can’t afford to do shit. I’m sure he didn’t have student loans to worry about when he was doing all this…

    A warning to young people: If you want to make films, make them. Don’t go to an expensive school to learn how. I wish websites like NoFilmSchool and Youtube offered/had the resources they do now when I was being told college was a “good investment”.

  • At Blockbusters 25 years ago: “Hey! I got Bad Taste!” “-We all know that Jack. Now go find a good movie.”

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