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