It seems like the best plan for getting through the grueling process of big-budget studio filmmaking is taking it one small step at a time. Speaking on the debut episode of Shudder’s new podcast “Visitations,” that’s what Taika Waititi said he learned from fellow New Zealand filmmaker Peter Jackson.
After speaking with co-hosts Elijah Wood and Daniel Noah about his earlier filmmaking work on features like “Eagle vs. Shark” and “Boy,” the conversation turned to how Waititi made the transition to the Marvel entry “Thor: Ragnarok.”
“Before I did it, I had no context, no real way of knowing how to approach one of these films. I went and saw Peter in Wellington and I said, ‘Hey man, I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing. How do you do one of these big movies?’ And he was great. He said, ‘It never changes after all these years. I still go to work and I just need to get the day. I’m gonna complete that call sheet. So that everyone is on the same page and believes that we can do it,'” Waititi said.
He explained that the crash course in learning how to make that happen every day was probably a more helpful experience in the long run than gradually working up to a MCU tentpole.
“I think it would have been worse if I’d done a smaller progression,” Watiti said. “Going from the tiniest thing to the biggest thing possible…I’ve got nothing left to lose in that situation. It’s such a scary transition that it kind of canceled out my fear.”
He also pointed out that occasionally embracing that fear of failure has kept him from getting auteurist delusions of grandeur. Fear help drive him while making “Jojo Rabbit,” his Nazi satire film due out this fall.
“I think that’s one of my fears, making a bad film,” he said. “That’s actually one thing that keeps me up at night, making something terrible and not knowing that I’m making something bad. Not being able to step back and go, ‘This actually might be unsaveable,’ That’s I think why I felt good about doing this film. Every project I’ve gone into, if I feel like this could be the end of my career, then it’s been a really good experience.”
Listen to the full episode of “Visitations” (including the story of why he and frequent collaborator Jemaine Clement initially didn’t care for each other) below: