As the final film in the Hobbit trilogy opens in New Zealand cinemas, NZ On Screen Content Director Irene Gardiner looks back at the early filmmaking years of Sir Peter Jackson.

The final Hobbit film The Battle of the Five Armies arrives in cinemas 15 years after Peter Jackson first trained his cameras on Middle-earth - and made it clear that global blockbusters could come from New Zealand.

With three Lord of the Rings films, the Hobbit trilogy, King Kong and The Lovely Bones all under his belt, Sir Peter is now a major international filmmaker. But his early New Zealand films are still much loved, and, in some cases, regarded as cult classics both here and around the world.

Interview with Sir Peter Jackson
Interview with Orlando Bloom

It all started back in 1988, when splatter masterpiece Bad Taste was released. After concocting all manner of outlandish images on 8mm film, Bad Taste was Sir Peter's breakthrough; the first feature to make it from his Pukerua Bay backyard to cinema screens, where it quickly began to rack up sales. An all-male cast of public service Alien Investigation and Detection Service operatives run amok with guns, food, vomit, rockets and misguided enthusiasm to rid the earth of alien Lord Crumb and his fast-food gang, who want to turn earthlings into hamburgers.


You can see the trailer for Bad Taste here:

Next up after Bad Taste, Sir Peter made the wild puppet movie Meet the Feebles, with a bit of help from his long-time collaborator Sir Richard Taylor. This fascinating documentary about the making of the film, made at the time for a TVNZ arts show, includes a revealing interview with Sir Peter, as well as footage of his childhood films - war movies and stop motion animation made with his first 8mm camera.

View Sex, Drugs and Soft Toys - The Making of Meet the Feebles here:
Sex, Drugs and Soft Toys - The Making of Meet the Feebles
Meet the Feebles was followed by Braindead in 1992, and then in 1994 came Heavenly Creatures - a based-on-a-true story film that went big internationally. The innovative special effects for the film were also the catalyst for the birth of Weta Workshop, as documented in this piece for TV3 arts series The Edge. Sir Richard Taylor crafts a sea creature; George Port gives a tour of the fledgling Weta Digital (him, a computer and a single room) and Sir Peter (in a Tintin t-shirt) breaks down Heavenly Creatures scenes, and muses on Kiwi ingenuity and taking on Hollywood.

Watch The Edge - The Birth of Weta here:

In 1995, Sir Peter's career took a bit of a quirky turn when he partnered up with filmmaker Costa Botes to make the mockumentary Forgotten Silver, about (fictional) film pioneer Colin McKenzie. Botes, who had originated the mockumentary, later made this (actual) documentary about the film and the controversy it had generated as New Zealand TV viewers reacted to having the wool pulled over their eyes. In Behind the Bull, Botes interviews Sir Peter and other pranksters, and they muse on the film's priceless impact.

You can see Behind the Bull here:

The Frighteners followed Forgotten Silver in 1996, and then it was off to the world of blockbusters for Sir Peter, which brings us back to the final Hobbit film, The Battle of the Five Armies. If you haven't seen it yet, check out the trailers now.

View The Hobbit - The Battle of the Five Armies trailers here:

You can see NZ On Screen's full Sir Peter Jackson collection here.