Monday, January 09, 2006

Forget raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, all the New Yorker needs is a little Peter Jackson

When I’m feeling blue, I resort to the one thing that has without fail served to fill me with some comfort time and time again: behind the scenes footage and DVD extras for Peter Jackson’s films. I own all of the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings films, and have delved into all nine DVD discs (there are two in each extended edition, plus one dvd for each of the standard releases) of extras that exist, though I’m certain that not even I have watched everything there is to watch yet.

On December 13th, King Kong: Peter Jackson’s Production Diaries were released on DVD. These two discs contain every single video diary that was posted on the fan run website Kong is King during the production of the film. While I had already seen a handful of these diaries, (I even posted some links to them on this blog in the past), I never followed the site as religiously as I could have. Of course it turned out for the best, because I was rewarded with almost four solid hours of video footage I hadn’t seen, which included interviews with the actors, crew, and most of all, the beloved Peter Jackson. These diaries really showed, beyond anything, Jackson’s loyalty and dedication to his fans. Many a diary entry were responses to emails that fans sent in to the website asking details about any given facet of the film making process, be it the sound crew, the wardrobe department, or the way certain FX sequences were orchestrated. There was a diary on the hundreth day of production which showed “A day in the life of Peter Jackson.” We saw how Jackson was up and on his way to a meeting by 8:30 AM, and did not finish his work day until midnight of that same day. Of course all of it is done with a humorous touch, the camera zooming in to capture him dozing on a couch in the edit bay, or intercutting between PJ working and while the crew celebrates at a party going on in the meantime.

Perhaps one of the most astonishing aspects of the diaries, is how genuninely good natured Jackson remains through all of them. There really aren’t that many directors of his stature that I can think of, who would embrace the idea of having cameras on them while they’re shooting a movie the way he did. Not only does Jackson allow it, but he seems excited by it. He seems so interested in sharing his own enthusiasm with others. And it is in fact delightful to see his fervor over things like the original models of the dinosaurs that were used in the 1933 stop motion sequence. It is apparent through his commentary, that above all, Jackson is as big a fan as anyone out there, and that he is thrilled to be working on a project (King Kong) that has been a life long dream of his.

These diaries manage to be informative and interesting, without becoming boring or tedious; and they are ideal for anyone who just wishes to guzzle up information about the film making process, or the bevy of minutia involved in the production of King Kong. Along the way of course, are a lot of silly moments, like the April Fool’s day prank where Jackson, cast and crew tried to fool everyone into thinking that they were going to start shooting two sequels back to back “Son of Kong” and “Kong 3: Into the Wolf’s Lair.” There is also a bizarre segment during one of the last diary entries before the very end of shooting, where Jackson pretends he is too tired to direct, and invites both Bryan Singer and Frank Darabont to do guest directing spots on the last two days of shooting. (Singer was relatively near, in Australia, where he had been working on Superman Returns). Despite the fact that I have a bit more respect for Singer on a personal level, due to his association with Jackson (any friend of Peter’s is a friend of mine, though Singer is undeniably a talented director) I still can’t help using this moment as an excuse to use this picture of Singer again:

And yet the initial question still remains somewhat unanswered….what is it about watching this particular film maker and his cohorts make a movie, that fills me with such a sense of calm and comfort? I think ultimately, it’s knowing that there is someone out there who is as big a fanboy(girl) as I am; that there is a group of people who would get equally excited by looking at a seventy five year old model of a brontosaurus. There is a moment in one of the diaries, where various cast and crew members are going around giving reasons for why steam comes out of the potholes and street vents in New York City. Peter Jackson’s repsonse is one that I could imagine coming out of my own mouth. He posits that it is all of the alligators in the sewers who huddle together when it’s cold and breathe their hot breath out into the streets where it condenses and becomes visible. Jackson’s sense of childlike wonder and imagination is to me both admirable and touching. But what I find even more inspiring than the level of Jackson’s talent, is his passion for what he does. He and the group of people that he works with at WETA and otherwise have such a love and dedication to what they do. I find some peace in that.

So if you liked King Kong, or are a fan of Peter Jackson, or even if you just have an interest in the many different elements involved in film making, I highly recommend the King Kong Production Diary DVD’s.


Anonymous phinney said...

it was a really cool veiwing. i look forward to seeing more. well stated ny'r.
Mark Phinney

8:41 PM  
Blogger Elliot said...

I think you may have meant to say that Singer was relatively near New Zealand (he was obviously near Australia because he was in Australia).

10:21 PM  
Blogger The New Yorker said...

Ooops, I meant to say relatively near, IN Australia.

12:52 PM  
Anonymous ryan said...

I dug the production diaries too -- the guy behind them was pretty interesting. --Ryan

5:02 PM  
Blogger The New Yorker said...

He sounds it, thanks for pointing out the link :)

12:44 PM  

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