Crossing the Line
Exactly 9 years ago I beheld for the first time a 30-second clip.
After the initial screen display the text “extract from ‘Crossing the Line'”, several men came in view, dressed in period uniforms and huddled in a trench until receiving the order to prepare for attack.
The 30 seconds were gone and the screen faded to black. There soon appeared the words “written & directed by Peter Jackson”.
Barely 4 years after The Return of the King, I was in awe of everything crafted by the Kiwi filmmaker. I had loved King Kong and enjoyed The Lovely Bones.
Then here came this clip, with (initially) obscure origins, dealing with Jackson’s (and my own) historical interest in the First World War.
Shortly after I realised that this clip was nothing compared to a 15-minute short film written and directed by Peter Jackson, in order to promote the revolutionary RED cameras which were back then slowly emerging on the market.
It’s also fair to give appropriate directing credit to Neill Blomkamp who, two years later, went on to direct District 9 produced by Peter Jackson.
Day after day I re-watched the clip, and scoured the forums for every bit of information about the short film and the possibility of seeing it in full someday. Alas! that privilege was reserved to a lucky few who would get to attend an international gathering to promote, amongst many other high-tech gadgets, the two RED cameras Jackson had used to miraculously shoot the film in just 2 days.
When I say “day after day”, I really mean that. Between April and August 2007, it was a daily ritual of mine to go online and browse through the same message boards and websites, hoping for the release of more clips (or the full thing).
Then, I struck gold. The creators of the cameras were kind enough to post a 3-minute trailer of the short film. Sure, it wasn’t the entire piece, but the jump from 30-seconds was overwhelming.
I went into full tilt and devoured the gorgeous new shots of a contested no-man’s land, breathtaking dogfights and powerful canon-fire shots, as a piece of James Newton Howard’s score from King Kong soared in the background.
I was in shock. Good shock. After months of waiting, and attempting to mentally construct the imaginary film beyond the 30-second clip, here was a wider view at the story and the visuals that Peter Jackson had created.
However, as often happens after the first few viewings, that urge to want to learn more and see the whole work returned. I felt frustrated at having experienced an incomplete fragment of Jackson’s latest project – no matter how small or insignificant it compared to the other works throughout the director’s career.
After August, the day-to-day hunt continued. A few ‘behind the scenes’ and ‘making of’ articles soon emerged online. They were a gold mine of information which I could pore over and quench my thirst for this short film that many were calling a “little masterpiece”.
Days turned to weeks, to months and years. My drive to seek out other information began to wane as it soon became clear that no further updates were in sight.
Occasionally, I would attempt to type-in those intriguing words in the Google search box: “Crossing the Line – Peter Jackson”, hoping against hope that the results would yield something new.
Last week, I was suddenly taken back to the day I watched the first clip. Something triggered that curiosity and compelled me to write this quick post about that experience.
At this point you may be asking yourself: “Why this, James? And why now?”
Well, it’s still linked to Tolkien up to a point. It’s World War I and Peter Jackson.
Oh and did you know that Calum Gittins is one of the actors in the film? Gittins played Haleth in The Two Towers.
What a difference 7 years make, huh?
Following the release of The Hobbit trilogy, let’s not forget that beyond Middle-earth, beyond Skull Island and beyond the splatter movies, there’s this little piece of Jackson history, this work of art that seems destined to remain an unfulfilled visual experience in the minds of many fans.