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D I R E C T O R ' S C H A I R H OLLYWOOD — New Zealand- based writer/director/producer Peter Jackson was born on Hal- loween in 1961, and at an early age began making movies with his parents' Super 8 camera. At 17, he left school and, after pur- chasing a 16mm camera, began shooting a science-fiction comedy short. Since then, his projects have grown somewhat in terms of scope and budget. After all, he spent most of the past decade creating arguably the most ambitious and technically-impressive epics in cinema: the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which he then fol- lowed up with King Kong. So how do you top those Oscar-winning blockbusters? If you're Jackson, who person- ally won three Oscars for LOTR's The Return of the King, you don't even try. As he told me after completing the Rings trilogy, "I sor t of know, in my hear t, I've made the biggest thing that I'm ever going to do in my life. I might as well retire." Happily, Jackson didn't retire, and while he didn't take on another epic, his new film, The Lovely Bones, isn't exactly the sor t of "small, low-key project" he went on to say he was "looking forward to doing." Based on the 2002 best-seller by Alice Sebold, and with a repor ted budget of $70 million, it tells the harrowing and intensely-emotional story of a raped and murdered 14-year-old girl (played by Atonement's Oscar-nominated Saoirse Ronan), who watches from above while her family on Ear th mourn her loss and try to find her killer. Here, Jackson, whose credit also include directing Heavenly Creatures, producing the recent sci-fi hit District 9, producing Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tin Tin: The Se- cret of the Unicorn, the first of a planned tril- ogy (one of which he plans to direct), and co-writing the screenplays and producing Guillermo del Toro's two-film adaptation of Tolkien's The Hobbit, talks about making the film, creating the heavenly world of The Lovely Bones with CGI, and his love of post. POST: What sort of film did you set out to make? JACKSON: "We wanted to make one that really evoked the book, that was ver y emotional, and we knew it'd obviously be on a much smaller scale logistically than the films we'd been making like Lord of the Rings and Kong. And, I have to say, that was also one of the most appealing things about making it. The reality is, as filmmakers, we find one of the most enjoyable experiences is when you have a big challenge, when you have some- thing difficult to try and achieve. At the time, Lord of the Rings was supremely difficult, and then Kong was also very difficult, but by the time we did Kong we had a ver y well-oiled pipeline in place for doing these huge, big- budget, spectacular films. So if we'd gone and made another one of those, with this pipeline and all the digital technology in place, it wouldn't have been nearly so chal- lenging as The Lovely Bones was. "This film demanded a very different type of filmmaking, so we deliberately decided to walk away from those big-budget fantasy types of films and tackle something very dif- ferent.You have to keep challenging yourself as a filmmaker, or you just get stale. It's good to work outside your comfor t zone, which this definitely was." POST: What were the biggest challenges of creating the "in-between" world where Susie is? JACKSON: "It was a very long process of conceptual ar t with Weta Workshop, who basically had about six people working on it full-time for several months.They did a lot of drawings and design work to help bring it all to life.The 'in-between,' which is what we call it, is the world Susie finds herself in after she's killed, but it's not heaven. She hasn't reached heaven yet. It's more a case of being trapped in this limbo world, and she's trapped there until she comes to terms with her own death. In a way, she's imprisoned by the guy who killed her. He still has control over her. "In many ways this 'in-between' world rep- resents her subconscious desires, an aspect of her mind. And it was very difficult to film as it's one of those intangible things that's terrify- ing when it comes down to figuring out ex- actly what and how you're going to film it. And then we went for a ver y surreal, ver y weird approach to get the look, with lots of bluescreen and compositing and CGI in post." POST: Where did you do the post? JACKSON: "All of it was done in New Zealand at Park Road Post Production in Wellington and at Weta Digital — they are literally just a hundred yards away on the same street — who did all the visual effects. The great thing for us is that the local city council dug up the road for us a couple of years ago and laid this big fiber pipeline down the street, so Weta are now linked to all our mixing stages [at Park Road] by fiber optics. "And what always happens with the sound mix is that as you're in the middle of it, the last visual effects shots are also being done at the same time, and the soundtrack is affected by these shots. So we can be mixing a film, and because the movie's playing off the digital hard drive, Weta Digital can replace the shots on the hard drive almost instantly, and as they complete a new version of the Peter Jackson — The Lovely Bones By IAIN BLAIR Even when leaving the big-budget epic behind, this filmmaker still calls on VFX to help tell the story. Peter Jackson, on set, calls the DI process "crucial." He loves being able to play with the film's look up until the very end. 10 Post • December 2009 Weta Digital provided over 500 VFX shots for The Lovely Bones, many of them seamless.

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