The media circus surrounding Peter Jackson's $200 million production "King Kong" may be overshadowing this genius director's true legacy. Long before Universal Pictures was willing to give him a blank check, Peter Jackson directed epically entertaining movies like "Bad Taste" and "Meet the Feebles" with combined total production budgets of under $1 million. Shortly thereafter, Peter Jackson directed the cult fantasy film, "Braindead," on a budget of just $3 million. These three movies showcase the directorial talent behind the beloved Lord of the Rings trilogy before special effects and infinite budgets replaced the super fighting ninja priests and full-on zombie sex that set these movies apart from its peers.
One fan of Peter Jackson's early work is William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk over three decades of evolving budgets and technology. Although the special effects kept improving, many fans still felt a deeper emotional connection with the early Star Trek films. William Shatner has recently launched a DVD Club dedicated to helping Hollywood fans find great sci-fi movies, like Peter Jackson's early films, that didn't receive a modern day marketing blitz. William Shatner commented, "Movie fans should definitely see Peter Jackson's latest epic, but I hope that moviegoers who enjoy King Kong will take the time to discover his earlier movies."
In the end, most people will remember Peter Jackson as the director of blockbuster movies like King Kong and Lord of the Rings. But real genius doesn't need a $200 million budget, and Peter Jackson's less costly films demonstrate his creativity, his sense of humor, and his mastery of the craft of film-making in a personal way that these latter day epics do not.
So all you indie directors, keep at it. Someday you'll get your blockbusters.