Oscar-winning director, producer, and writer Peter Jackson came to worldwide fame through producing the masterful Lord of the Ringsadaptations in the early 2000s. More recently, he put together a gorgeous World War I documentary, They Shall Not Grow Old.
But the 58-year-old New Zealander had a long journey before he reached the Academy Awards, starting with his directorial debut, a funky little alien invasion movie called Bad Taste.
The Royal Ocean Film Society recently examined this journey in a video essay, which you can watch below for some instant inspiration. Continue on to dive into the main takeaways!
Jackson had to rely totally on himself
In 1987 New Zealand, there was no film industry to teach or support Jackson. He was a young director working full time and trying to balance his job (which he needed to pay for film stock) and the frantic weekend shoots on Bad Taste.
When an actor dropped out because of the gore in the film, Jackson retooled the story for himself and two friends to act as the leads, and he built upon the plot with every new weekend shoot. This flexibility and resourcefulness extended to props and special effects.
He saved money by building his own gear
In behind-the-scenes footage, Jackson shows off the Steadicam he built himself for the film.
Things haven't changed—he laments in the footage that a Steadicam would normally retail for a large chunk of a film budget. But because he took the time to figure out a DIY alternative, they saved thousands.
The guns and knives on the film are low-budget craft projects with ingenious visual tricks built-in. A cardboard machete has a convenient slot for a head to fit into, and a simple tube to carry gushing "blood."
Practical effects were his only choice at the time, but they hold up. Guts and brains are butcher shop products. Puppets stand-in for actors when needed. Jackson appears as two characters in one scene using a body double, smart shooting, and camera editing.
He was dedicated
Making Bad Taste was no easy feat. It took an investment of his own money—thousands of it, in fact. It also took time. Weekend shoots stretched over three years, plus an additional year for post-production.
He had some fortunate help through a number of development grants, which allowed him to quit his job and focus on the film full time.
In the end, the movie won him a trip to Cannes and launched an amazing career. But he wouldn't have gotten there without fully committing to a vision while also being willing to work through numerous production issues and putting in a ton of effort over a long period.
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Source: The Royal Ocean Film Society