Evgenia Kalyabina

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Designer/Director project. Looking at Peter Jackson and Grant Major’s work.

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We’ve just finished our presentatons of our short research project on long-lasting relationships between the director and the production designer. Well, I really enjoyed doing that kind of reserch and to be honest I wanted to do this kind of research myself for a long time.
My decision to go to film industry was very spontanious so I feel that I’m lacking this basic knowledge about the industry and how it works. This project allowed me to look closer at directors’ and designers’ works and get this scense of collaboration within the actual filming process.

I was working with Janka who I’ve already worked with on last year reserch project. From the very beginning of last week we divided the research that we were about to do. We decided to go for Peter Jackson and Grant Major’s films which was a bit of random choice. I wasn’t a big fan of Peter Jackson’s films but not because I don’t like what he does, it’s just the particular stories he chooses. For example, the most famous trilogy ever “The Lord Of The Rings”. I feel like there is too much walking for me and I don’t blame the director (I once tried to read the book and I failed on the 10th page. The story is boring to start with). However, when I started to do my reserch I looked at the “Making of” videos and I saw all that elaborate work people’ve done for this project and I think that I just think more of this film now.

I was looking particulary at Peter Jackson’s perspective and how he chooses the team and what he wants from people. Apparently, he has this obsession with history and particular level of details. I really liked looking at pre-production work for the Lord of the Rings and how Peter Jackson whanted the whole story to be seen as a real history that has actually happened and not as a fantasy story. To be honest, I’ve never noticed how much work was put into that production, I mean it is obvious that it is a lot but I could never really imagine the actual scale. The whole details the art department went into like individual ornaments on the knives that would reflect the people (or in this case not people) who supposingly made those and each one would be completely different… That’s what makes the film and the design grand. That I liked about Peter Jackson way of working is his interest in absolutely every department and that balance between control and creativity. He definitely knows what he wants in terms of style and consept from the very beginning. Most of the design ideas (general ones) for his Lord Of The Rings and The King Kong came from the concept artists. That’s is actually was a bit of a dissapointment for this particualr research because then it’s not very clear what the production designer actually done. What I think Grant Major was in those production is a person who brought it all together. In those “Making of” videos I’ve seen there is a little shown of him and his work but there were a couple of technical drawings there and he was taking about the details they had to create for all the cultures individually, taking the inspiration from real history and real cultures.

The other thing that I was really suprised to discover while researching is all those beautiful and huge models for the film. I myself enjoy modelmaking very much and those models look absolutely astonishing to me! Moreover, while whatching the movie I really couldn’t tell that those were models as they looked absolutely real to me. The crew even came up with the new word for those minatures that were 3 times human size – biggatures. Funny and so true.

However, I do apreciate all the work done for The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, I think I like King Kong (2005) more. The action takes place in 1933 New York so pretty elaborate reserch has to be done on this matter. I also like that none of the scenes where actually shot in New York for the obvious reason – the New York as it was in 1933 doesn’e exhist anymore. King Kong is not just a fantasy story – it is a mix of real history and fantasy. And this is what I think Peter Jackson does best, mixing real and unreal together.

king-kong-s1 (1) king-kong-s5

The very first movie the director and the designer worked on together was Heavenly creatures (1994) and this was the film I’ve never seen before. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect of it. The story is based on actual crime happened in New Zeland in 1950’s and it was a scandal back then. I really liked the characters in this story and it doesn’t mean that I like the way they act or understand why they went and murdered someone, I mean that their inside world is shown really well in the film. It is again a mixture of fantasy and reality and it seems like the audience actually in the girls’ heads. There was obviously a lower budget for this film and the technology wasn’t that elaborate as today but Peter Jackson has an absolute love for CGI effects and this is where it all started. Some of the imaginary scenes actually remind me of sets from “Where dreams may come” which was filmed later so it makes me think of an influence that film has had that time. It should be said that it was a big break through for Peter Jackson that time because he was known for making horror movies back then and attempting the drama based on a real story was a bit challenging, I guess.

Well, in the end I can say that I definitelly enjoyed working on this project and what I want to do is to continue with the same type of research on my own time so just I could understant different approach and the way people can work and collaborate in the film industry.

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