Directors' Notes On Sir Peter Jackson

Here begins a series which I hope to continue in the future, in which I take notes on an interview with a well-known director and compile them into a list of musings on film and the creative process. To start with, here are the notes I took from an interview with Sir Peter Jackson just after the DVD release of Battle of Five Armies. It's one of those laid back interviews were even the harder-hitting questions received interesting and insightful answers, so if you have an hour I definitely recommend listening in its entirety.


It's weird seeing something you made several years after it was published. You start seeing all these little fixes that could be made and saying “Oh that cut was a little sloppy” and you can’t see it as anything other than the work-in-progress that it was back before anybody else had seen it.

I hope that someday I can dress as unpretentiously as Sir Peter Jackson and still get away with it.

You can’t make films for audiences because an audience consists of millions of people all with different tastes. You can only make a film for you and hope that other people share your tastes and sensibilities. Coming off a recent critique for the new show I'm producing, this one really hit close to home. For an interesting followup on the relationship between taste and quality, see Ira Glass on good taste.

It’s strange to think that the phone call to Harvey Weinstein about the rights to the Lord of the Rings took place when I was just getting into the Hobbit as a toddler, listening to a book-on-vinyl adaptation from the cartoon.

The greatest thing you can hope for, both as an artist and as a storyteller, is to work with people who are better than you. They elevate what you make into something much greater and longer lasting. Collaboration is exciting, especially when it becomes self-sustaining and everyone’s working off each other to make something really cool.

You never stop being scared of showing your work to people you admire — or to people with a reason to hate it. 

When you’re a producer, you have to think about about what’s the cheapest/fastest/safest way to get something on screen. As a writer and director you try to balance that with what’s the most satisfying to see.

It is merely a coincidence that I and the director I admire most should both love writing and editing and absolutely loathe the process of production. But boy does it feel good to know I’m not alone in loving to direct but hating the madcap environment of shooting the darned thing.

Directing is answering questions, and sometimes it doesn’t matter if your answer is right or wrong — it’s just a decision that needs to be made.

The movie you write is never the movie you shoot which is rarely the movie you edit. That’s usually a good thing because at each step your collaborators are coming up with new ideas that are better than what you originally imagined.

When talking about George Lucas as a business man, it’s easy to forget that his business decisions helped fund Pixar, ILM, and the underlying technology that fueled the Disney Renaissance.