Peter Jackson, Special Effects Enthusiast: A Career Retrospective

When tracing the roots of legendary filmmaker Peter Jackson, his storytelling feat in “The Lord of the Rings Trilogy” reflects what his earlier works had. Even as a child, the visual ideas, interests, and themes for his home movies show enthusiasm for creating innovative special effects.

Special Effects in His Amateur Works

Jackson’s ventures into homemade special effects were largely done through trial and error in his amateur films. As the movies he wanted to do required visual effects to tell their stories, he made his own special effects for projects and soon became a competent claymation artist, which became apparent in his early childhood films. He also joined local filmmaking contests using stop-motion animation techniques similar to the style of Ray Harryhausen. He shot zombie movies in a local cemetery as well.

Clearly, things that interest him include wars; monsters; zombies; and the action, adventure, and fantasy genres. As a child, he was such an avid fan of the 1933 “King Kong” that he once cut his mother’s old fur coat to create a model of the famous giant ape. Jackson made his version of the film using his own stop-motion models.

As a teenager, he would make his own war movies, required him to experiment on special effects in his backyard. He shot the movie “World War Two,” which simulates firing a gun by punching small holes into the celluloid. In doing so, when the footage got projected, it gave the impression of showing small bullet holes.

The Success of “Bad Taste”

During his early 20s, Jackson made “Bad Taste,” a low-budget and amateur-style movie that would soon change his life. Aside from winning critical acclaim and awards at the Cannes Film Festival, it readily became a cult classic because of its fitting combination of bizarre humor and amateur special effects. This opened up the door for him to do professional film work in horror movies, which led to his next film “Dead Alive.” Jackson’s passion for special effects continued to flourish through his future films.

In “Bad Taste,” he did all the movie’s special effects, makeup, and prosthetic effects. He also built exact replicas of the weapons used for this project on his own. As an innovative filmmaker, Jackson experimented on yogurt, muesli, and green food coloring mixed in a bowl for this film venture . He made latex models at home using his mom’s kitchen oven.

Special Effects Companies

Jackson was an early user of computer enhancement technology at a time when professional filmmaking workflows were still slowly transitioning to the digital format. He founded several companies related to production work, digital technology, and special effects. These include the popular digital visual effects company Weta Digital. This is a part of his other co-owned companies, including the special effects and prop company Weta Workshop, the production company Weta Productions, and the merchandise production company Weta Collectibles.

Jackson also made the production company Three Foot Six and and post-production facility Park Road Post Production. He is behind the creation of the enterprises of WingNut, which is composed of the production company WingNut Films, the video game development company WingNut Interactive, and the World War I model-making company WingNut Wings. Clearly, Jackson’s childhood passions have a significant space in his adult life and his chosen profession.

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