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KING KONG – THE PRODUCTION DIARIES MAKE CINEMA HISTORY

In a world first, the DVD Making Of comes before the film as Peter Jackson continues his role as a pioneer filmmaker in the use of the DVD medium, reports Andrew L. Urban. The genuine spirit of inclusive filmmaking that Jackson is pioneering is impressive. Uncensored and more or less unplanned, this is fly on the wall doco making from within the filmmaking enclave.

For once, the publicity hype is accurate: “For the first time in the history of cinema, film fans will have the opportunity to experience the production of a major motion picture from the unique perspective of a master filmmaker (Peter Jackson)… a first hand account of the film’s eight month production process … available on DVD (December 7) over a week before King Kong opens in cinemas (December 15).” This takes the possibilities of DVD to a new high, enabling audiences to see the making of the film before the film itself.

"a labour of love"

In Jackson’s intro to the Production Diaries on this 2-disc set, he outlines why this was done for DVD. One reason is to make the Diaries available in better resolution and overall quality than is possible on the net, where some of it was available throughout the shoot (much like the Lord of the Rings production material was). The interaction with fans around the world convinced Jackson and his team that this was a great way to provide fans with material they were eager to see. He says it wasn’t intended as a publicity gimmick, and even cynics would have to admit that as a publicity gimmick it is an enormous undertaking, the effort far outweighing any PR value. It’s more like a labour of love.

The genuine spirit of inclusive filmmaking that Jackson is pioneering is impressive. Uncensored and more or less unplanned, this is fly on the wall doco making from within the filmmaking enclave. Indeed, on day 4 of the shoot, when Jackson introduces Naomi Watts and Jack Black standing on the set ready for ‘Action!’ Black queries the scenario? “I can’t believe they (the internet audience) can see me in costume and make up … isn’t that verboten?” Normally, yes, “but we want to let people interested in it, in on a few little secrets,” says Jackson to an unconvinced Black. But Black is soon throwing himself into the spirit of things with his larrikin sense of humour.

Around day 34, a Gandalf character who is spying on the production becomes the centre of attraction. As they ham up the event, Jackson tells Black to run across the set as quickly as he can, whereupon Black quips, “I’ll serpentine,” in a throw away reference to one of the funniest scenes from the original The In Laws (1979) starring Peter Falk and Alan Arkin. This, and other mad moments, confirm Jackson’s ability to make serious work without taking himself too seriously.

A neat entry in these Diaries has Jackson demonstrating the miniature brontosaurus from the 1933 original, the film that launched his fascination with King Kong when he saw it aged 8.

There is lots on the practical side of filmmaking, both in studio and on location; like how to feed 400 cast and crew out of two catering trucks.

"unprecedented access to the shoot"

The two discs contain almost four hours of material, providing unprecedented access to the shoot, with Peter Jackson the director as guide and narrator. Informal and ad hoc, the discs have been authored with clever menu options that let you watch it all, or pick specific locations, etc. The RRP is $34.95, and there bis a special gift box set with some extra inclusions for $69.95.
 

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