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If you like Peter Jackson's story, you might also like:
James Cameron,
Francis Ford Coppola,
Ron Howard,
George Lucas,
Kiri Te Kanawa
and Robert Zemeckis

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Sir Peter Jackson
Sir Peter Jackson
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Sir Peter Jackson Interview (page: 6 / 8)

Oscar for Best Director

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  Sir Peter Jackson

Sir Peter Jackson Interview Photo
At that point, I got some help from the New Zealand Film Commission. They saw it and came on board. I had spent 17 grand of my own money to reach that point. The film commission came on board, saw what I had, the 75 minutes, and they agreed to come in with another 30-odd grand which would enable me to leave my job, work full time on the film, still shoot it the weekends, but I'd be able to build the costumes and sets during the week, and it was just going to exhilarate the whole thing. Then they gave me money to finish the post-production of the film, which was 200 grand, because that's quite an expensive process, the post-production. You have to blow it up to 35 mil, have to lay a soundtrack, hire a composer, do a score, do a sound mix, color timing, everything to get the film done.

We got it done in 1988 for the Cannes Film Festival. It was called Bad Taste, and it sold really well. The irony is that it was the fastest selling New Zealand film ever. New Zealand had made sort of worthy films, socially aware sort of, you know, slightly arty, pretentious films to some degree. And I come along, and the Film Commission, they have the job of selling all the New Zealand films at Cannes, and within the space of 48 hours, I think, Bad Taste had sold to more than 30 countries who'd come in and bought it, and we were already at that stage, way past the money. We were in profit. We'd gone way past what we actually spent on the film. It still gets sold now. The licenses always get renewed, and the film's sort of in constant circulation.

It seems like if you had been growing up in Hollywood, you would have been hard-pressed to go to the Los Angeles Film Commission and have them say, "Okay. You're a talented young filmmaker. You've never made a film before, but we're going to support this and make sure you have the money to finish it." So in a way, it sounds like you were helped by the fact that you were where you were.

Sir Peter Jackson: Yeah. Well, the New Zealand Film Commission, it was an odd one for them as well, because they're used to getting applications for films about the difficulties of bringing up a child by yourself after you divorced your husband or wife. You know, socially conscious, aware. The subjects of New Zealand films are often very bland and very boring and very uninteresting. Nobody in those days had a feeling of fantasy and imagination in the films, I didn't believe.

This film, I have to say was very gory. It was a splatter movie called Bad Taste. So it was not -- it was actually something very unusual for a government film organization to fund. I had a very good friend called Jim Booth who was the head of the -- I mean, he became a good friend. He was a sort of enemy at the beginning, 'cause he was the head of the Film Commission, but Jim supported it. He later left to become a producing partner with me, so he became a good friend, and he was the right guy at the Film Commission to actually do this. He was a person prepared to take risks and not to stick with the norm.

I left the newspaper, left my full-time job after seven years. I left at the moment the Film Commission came in with money for me to finish it. Quit my job, and I've never been back there since. Always felt that one day I might have to go back, but I guess now I probably can start to put those fears to rest. I still have recurring dreams that I'm back at the newspaper there, that things haven't worked out well in the film business, and I'm back in the photolithography department.

[ Key to Success ] Courage

There's one very interesting sort of gap in your résumé. A lot of filmmakers of your generation have a degree from a film school -- from USC or NYU or whatever. But you're a very impressive example of someone who taught themselves.

Sir Peter Jackson: New Zealand didn't have a film school. New Zealand didn't have a film industry when I was starting out with my early films. I was wanting to make movies in a country that didn't make films basically, didn't make anything. So I think I must have been assuming when I was young that I'd have to travel overseas, and I'd have to go to where Ray Harryhausen was if I was going to be his assistant or whatever. I certainly had a feeling that I wasn't able to stay in New Zealand.

Sir Peter Jackson Interview Photo
But when I was about 16 or 17 years old, Roger Donaldson made a movie called Sleeping Dogs, which was New Zealand's first real feature film. It was 1977, and it was in color. It had Warren Oates in it. It was like a real movie, and then other film makers, Jeff Murphy, followed very quickly. Goodbye, Pork Pie, which was a very funny comedic film, came along, and then suddenly, with a hiss and a roar, the New Zealand film industry got underway, and the government formed the Film Commission. And this was happening at just the right time for me, because I was 17, 18 years old. I was now getting really serious with the films that I had been making during my teenage years. I had been making, you know, James Bond movies and all sorts of things. So I was really excited that there was a film industry.

I tried to get a job in the film industry when I left school, but I couldn't get any job at all. It wasn't an industry, it's just a bunch of people that make movies. There was nothing, no position I could go into. So I ended up at the newspaper. But anyway, by the time Bad Taste came out at Cannes, I was essentially a professional filmmaker at that point. I sort of ended up becoming a professional filmmaker because I got this film made in the weekends and it got sold at Cannes and it made money. So suddenly, I was there.

I wanted to keep the momentum going very quickly. I met up with some interesting people. I met up with Fran Walsh at this stage, and Steven Sinclair, another writer.

We started writing a zombie comedy film called Braindead, but we couldn't get the money for that. It was too expensive. So we had this other idea called Meet the Feebles, which was a cheaper idea based on puppets, like the Muppets, but puppets who do sex and drugs, and they murder each other, and when they shoot each other, squibs would fire off with blood spurts out of these puppets as they keep getting hit, and it's like this -- it's a very anarchic film, very funny actually. It's very funny. It's the one film I screened for the cast of King Kong last year when they came down to New Zealand. I got an old print out off the shelf, and we sat down and watched the Feebles, and they couldn't believe it. Sort of thought they should know who they're dealing with.

But anyway, Meet the Feebles was another one that sold well at the marketplace, that went to Cannes and sold well and made its money back very quickly, which enabled us to then finally get Braindead made, which is called Dead Alive in the U.S. That 's a very gory horror comedy about zombies.

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