What We Can Learn From Peter Jackson’s Live Blogging “The Hobbit”‘s Last Shooting Day
Jackson has been one of the early creative adopters of Social Media, proving throughout last year with the numerous Hobbit Videos and recently with Hobbitception that not only he knows who his audience is, what they expect and enjoy, but he is also willing to give them much more than what he is ought to, from a traditional Hollywoodian stand-point.
The reason why this is important is because if tomorrow Peter Jackson were to launch a crowdfunding campaign, chances are he would explode the numbers, not only because he “talks to geeks” but because he respects and loves his audience.
This is probably the first time that a director dealing with a blockbuster takes time to live-blog, opening a window on something fresh for many of us. And because mentorless is a site for independent creatives, this is also a great opportunity to think about what we can do as a filmmakers to build our audience and followers.
Granted, you might not have studios and green screens, but this is still a free and easy way to connect with your fans (or potential fans). Since Jackson’s started this live blog, his Facebook Page has gained thousands likes and has become the platform of the day for fans to get excited and talk, creating some (more) buzz.
Below are Jackson’s entries, in chronological order, with the pictures that were attached to the text. As you will see, no matter the shooting’s scale, things never go as planned and long-days are everybody’s favorite meal. There is a ton of stuff to learn from a single shooting day in Jackson’s life and, even under pressure, the man is graceful and funny, not an easy thing to do with millions in the balance!
Enjoy and get inspired!
“Our last day of shooting.
Ever since starting these blogs, there’s been something I thought I’d like to try one day (as well as answering the other 19 questions I owe you!) – blogging throughout a shoot day in real time. Try to give you all a feeling for what we deal with on an average day.
Today is not exactly “average”, given it’s our last day of shooting, but if I don’t do it today, I never will!
So here goes … I’ll try to update as much as I can during the day. At least with a quick photo. Text will depend a little on how busy it gets.
Right now, it’s just gone 6.30am here in Wellington. I’m in bed, about to get up! I didn’t get much sleep – too stressed about how we’re going to get through everything we need to shoot. I kept running it over in my mind.
We’re shooting scenes for Film 3 today. Stuff you will see in Dec 2014, so I’m going to try and make this honest, but spoiler free.
I’ve been lying here in pitch darkness, watching fight rehearsals over and over again. Our stunt coordinator, Glen Boswell, worked with the actors last weekend, designing some climatic battle moments. He filmed them, and I have them on my iPad, in an application we wrote called “WingNut TV”. It’s a program that allows a huge amount of material to be catalog used and updated each day over the Internet. It contains all our dailies, edited films, previs, music, and much more. I’m looking at the fights, figuring out the angles I’ll need to film them today. A huge amount to do, and it needs to get done.
Our shoot day starts at 8.30am, and is supposed to finish at 7.30pm. I suspect we’ll be working late. Whenever we work a long day, I joke with the crew that I’m just softening them up for when Jim Cameron shows up in Wellington to shoot Avatar 2 and 3. Well … It’s not really a joke.
I’ll try and update often today.”
“Dawn over Wellington – the view from our bedroom. Just after 7.00am. Have to chuck some clothes on, and think about going to work. When I’m shooting I have a funny superstition about wearing pretty much the same wardrobe every day. Last year I bought two shirts when I went to Comic-Con. A white one, and a blue one.
Today feels like a white day.”
“8.20am. Leaving home. Mr Smudge is waiting on the stairs to say goodbye to me. He does it everyday, and he’s usually waiting by the door to welcome me home at night.”
“Arriving at the studio.
8.20am. Not my favorite time of the day. When I drive to the studio, I usually feel nervous, and the day seems daunting. 100 people are about to look to me to find out what our first shot is, what lens I want to use, and how many set-ups it’s going to take to get the scene finished. Some of the time I have a plan, and some of the time I wing it. It helps to rehearse with the actors, and the ideas (hopefully good ones) start flowing.
It’s always better once we break the ice and start shooting.
The good news is that the studio is 5 mins from home, with no traffic lights or rush hour.”
“Setting up our first shot.
9.15. Should be shooting soon. Two cameras, both with 16 mm lenses. Two huge wide shots of a fight happening on an enormous set that filling most of K Stage. This is going to be hard, posting pics without spoilers. I’ll do my best! We have video diary cameras here, so you will eventually see what we’re doing today in detail – but not until the Film 3 extended cut, which I guess will be towards the end of 2015!
We have a splinter unit also filming today, directed by Christian Rivers.
The day has a messy start, because the first couple of hours are going to be spent shooting stuff we were supposed to have finished yesterday. But because of the sheer complexity of the choreography, we worked late, and still didn’t finish.
The real problem is that we were supposed to be shooting in F Stage today, and splinter was to spend the day in K Stage. But we need a couple of hours in K to wrap up, and then we’re going to quickly shift to F, and carry on with our day. It’s forced the splinter unit to stay in A Stage shooting green screen this morning, until we clear off K and let them in.
Too much detail! But this is the type of thing we’re always dealing with. I do have to get a Facebook filter quickly written, so Warner Bros doesn’t read that we didn’t get yesterday finished!
Hey, just spent so long writing this, we’ve just started shooting!!! Runs are on the board!
The photo: yes, we did actually just film this. Please don’t ask me to explain! Let’s get that WB filter activated! Thank you Hannah and Dusty!”
10.30am. Had to race to A Stage to try and explain to Graham and Christian why they were shooting their Dwalin fight against green screen, and not our beautiful expensive set as planned. Graham started sharpening his axe, so I just told them to read my last Facebook posting and I fled.
We’ve shot 3 shots on K Stage so far this morning. 2 more to go, and we’re shifting to F Stage.
Hopefully before the lunch break! Could be a long night …”
“Music spotting with Howard Shore
Midday. We’re shifting from K Stage to F Stage right now, and I took the chance to spot music with Howard Shore. He’s in New York, and busy writing the score for Film 2.
“Spotting” involves talking through edited scenes with Howard, and figuring out everything he needs to do a first pass at the music composition – where music should start and stop, what mood it should have, themes to use, moments to punctuate. That type of thing. To stay on schedule, Howard needs 10 mins of cut footage every week. This week we only have 3 & a half mins for him. Fortunately, he’s very good natured about it. It’s happened once or twice before!
Next week, when I’m back in the cutting room full time, Howard will be getting a deluge!
The score for Film 2 is going to be terrific. Last year, we were a little frustrated because we had to revisit so many of the LotR themes – The Shire, Rivendell, Galadriel, Gollum, and the Ring – we did this because I’m wanting these 3 Hobbit movies to have great unity with the Rings films in design, wardrobe, story and music, so it meant “An Unexpected Journey” had to acknowledge what had gone before.
But this time around, apart from a couple of Ring moments, it’s all new: Beorn, Mirkwood, The Woodland Realm, Laketown, Bard and Smaug all give Howard the chance to write brand new themes, and he’s knocking it out of the park!
We’ve now finished yesterday’s work, and can start on today’s scenes!
Better race back to set before Caro tells me off! More than she already has ….”
“Big Richard, Medium Richard and Little Richard.
2.00pm. Just breaking for lunch, with the first shot on F Stage complete. A daunting number to go. I don’t want to think about it, but it’s probably 7 or 8 set-ups. Splinter Unit have made the move to K Stage and will start shooting after lunch.
I asked the various Thorins to pose just before they headed off to lunch. One of these is Richard Armitage, and two of them are not. It’s your guess … The one in the middle is a little psycho.
I am looking forward to making movies with everyone the same height in the future.
The pressure now goes on. We’re going to have to move like the clappers!”
With Andy Serkis busy being a monkey at the moment, the directing duties for our action unit have fallen on Christian’s shoulders.
Back in 1986, when I was finishing my first movie, Bad Taste, I received my very first fan letter – from a 13 year old school boy, who sent me drawings of wizards and dragons. It was truly my first fan letter, so I wrote straight back to him.
By the time I was making Braindead, this school boy was a couple of years older, and joined us as my storyboard artist. He’s gone on to do storyboards for virtually every movie I’ve made since. He became animation director on King Kong, and won an Oscar. He’s now directing our splinter unit, and developing projects of his own.
This is Christian of course. It does prove that fan letters can pay off! I want to say “keep them coming” but I’m not going to.
Christian’s now got Dwalin on K Stage and the battle continues on a real set. He’s got about the same number of shots as us to get finished today.
We’re battling on, shooting Thorin in a climatic duel for the third movie. Finishing the entire shoot with the end of his story. Fitting I guess. It’s obviously not the very end of the movie itself. That scene was actually shot about 2 years ago. But it’s tough emotional stuff to punch on with into the night. Keeps us on our toes until the bitter end!
4.30pm … the day is still young.”
“Goodbye Dwalin! The very lovely Graham McTavish just competed his last shot with honors.
Main Unit and Splinter are running neck and neck. Each with 4 shots left. It’s going to be another 3 hours or so. Which ever unit finishes first gets to drink all the beer.
7.30pm … Boxing on …”
“One Hot Director with Two Not Quite So Hot Dwarves.
Aidan and Dean nail their first shot today. They’ve been waiting patiently since lunchtime. 3 more to go for Splinter.
8.15pm. Lining up third to last Main Unit shot.”
Two more shots … maybe an hour to go. This is home. The tent is where I have spent more time in the last two and a half years than anywhere else. I share it with Victoria, our script supervisor, Jabez our editor, Seb, my assistant and Caro, our producer.
Victoria watches everything we shoot like a hawk, and has to make a massive amount of notes, so any shot we shoot, or comment I make can be easily accessed in years to come. Plus she doesn’t let silly mistakes slip by.
Jabez and I try to edit previously shot scenes while I’m filming. I do find that hard, when there’s so much to think about during the day. But we do try and make selects of favourite takes, so we have a head start in the cutting room.
Seb has perfected the art of slipping me a cup of hot tea whenever I hold my hand out. It’s a finely tuned 6th sense. The tea’s always there … on set … in meetings … on mountainsides … in the bedroom at 3 in the morning.
Caro keeps everything running on time, and is the person I turn to first for just about everything. A huge support. We’ve worked together since Heavenly Creatures. Both Caro and Victoria are Aussies – but apart from that, they’re nearly perfect.
My big chair has a story. I always sat in a small wooden and canvas ” director’s chair”. Back in Dec, 2000, Harry Knowles visited us during the very last week of the LotR shoot. Now, Harry wasn’t going to fair too well in a small chair, so the Unit guys bought a crappy old arm chair from a second hand store, just for Harry’s personal use.
When he left, and the shoot was finished, I tried it out. It was quite comfy. Next thing, Caro had it recovered and presented it to me. I’ve used it ever since. Another good luck charm, like the bad wardrobe and continual cups of green tea.
The tent is always up and waiting for me in the mornings, thanks to the great Unit team. It always looks and feels the same on the inside, but the view out of the door has changed day by day. I look out onto amazing sets, river banks, blazing sun, pouring rain, mountains, dark tunnels and Hobbiton! Victoria and I always say that we should have photographed the view out the door everyday, from the start of shoot. It’s never the same two days in a row – a little disorientating. Next time maybe.
Getting quite tired now.”
“Just shot this close up of Richard. Look for it in Dec 2014!
2 more shots to go. Main Unit shooting Thorin, Splinter Unit shooting Fili and Kili.
9.21pm. Getting very near the end …”
“The last shot.
Big monitors, main unit. Small screens bottom right, splinter.
We’re neck and neck … Shooting our final shots at the same time.
10.32 pm. 4 or 5 takes so far.
No, wait … Done! While I was typing this, we shot more takes and finished! Richard was fantastic. Splinter almost done. Minutes away.
Smiles and happiness… And sadness. Yikes, very sad.”
A 20 hour day … 15 years of Tolkien … 771 days of shooting …
… And we arrive home exhausted, to a house full of teenagers! It’s going to be a long night!”
Back with Mr Smudge.
A long day. A great day. Thank you all for being part of it! Now for some sleep!”
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