I love films, the art of filmmaking, am a digital media technology nut and positively devour great 'production' success stories (i.e., getting complex projects from ideation to realization and finally, reward).
As such, I have always considered Director James Cameron a compelling case study in an industry full of compelling case studies (think: Spielberg, Scorsese, Coppola, Lucas, Coen Brothers).
From ‘Terminator’ to ‘Titanic,’ this is an auteur that fully visualizes and renders wholly original conceptions, creating places, spaces and times that are authentic and earnest – if a bit over-the-top at times.
Always ambitious, and never repeating himself, he has to be considered a great entrepreneur every bit as much as he is a great director, inasmuch as each movie production is a full-blown (ad)venture requiring fund-raising, hiring/recruiting/retaining talent, squeezing every drop of goodness out of that talent, juggling personalities, varying skill sets, getting the product out the door timely, and then, marketing it successfully.
Movie making, Cameron once said, is war; a constant fight against the countless things that can go wrong in a world of big money and big egos. Where, after four years, just birthing the movie is about all a director can think of.
It is with this backdrop that I watched the above 60 Minutes segment on Cameron and his forthcoming $400M 3D marvel, ‘Avatar,’ which is every bit the technical, storytelling and creative high-wire act that Titanic was.
Titanic, if you remember, cost over $200M to make, and was projected to be the ‘Heavens Gate’ of Cameron’s career, needing to generate over $500M in revenues just to break even (once all marketing, distribution and promotions costs were factored in).
In the end, Titanic not only avoided its projected cinematic iceberg, but became a monster financial and critical hit, grossing over $1.8 billion dollars worldwide (it’s the most profitable movie ever made), and winning an Oscar® for Best Picture, and a total of 11 Oscars overall.
In any event, check out the 60 Minutes segment (above), as it is quite enjoyable for the reasons cited.
What follows are a couple of excerpts:
- Morley Safer: "3D or not 3D, that is the question. Hollywood has been making false starts and false promises about 3D since the 1950s. Now comes director Jim Cameron, who is unveiling a movie in mid-December that could settle the argument about the staying power of 3D once and for all…The movie is "Avatar," and 70 years after Judy Garland left Kansas for Oz, Cameron plans to take audiences down the Yellow Brick Road of the 21st century, pushing the limits of modern technology with some filmmaking magic he has helped invent."
- James Cameron (on the impact of new technology): "Even when we were doing Titanic twelve years ago, you know, the shot at the bow where they kiss, we waited two weeks for the right sunset to get that shot,” says Cameron. “Now we'd just shoot it in front of a green screen and choose the right sunset later, you know, digitally."
- Cameron (on being a filmmaker): "I think the moment you're making a film, no matter how crude, no matter how small or cheap the film is, you're a filmmaker."
- Cameron (on having exacting standards): "I'm not in this to phone it in or to do mediocre work. I tell everybody when we start a project, 'You know, we're going to the Super Bowl. Just understand that. You got to be ready. Don't, as Martin Sheen said in 'Apocalypse Now,' you know, 'Don't get on the boat if you're not ready to go all the way,'" Cameron said.