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If you like James Cameron's story, you might also like:
Robert Ballard,
Francis Ford Coppola,
Ron Howard,
Peter Jackson,
George Lucas and
Robert Zemeckis

James Cameron also appears in the video:
Media and Social Responsibility

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring James Cameron in the Achievement Curriculum section:
Media & The Arts

Related Links:
Deap Sea Challenge
Cameron Online

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James Cameron
James Cameron
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James Cameron Interview (page: 3 / 8)

Master Filmmaker

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  James Cameron

Was there a moment when the light bulb went on and you said, "That's what I want to do. I want to be a filmmaker. I want to be a director."?

James Cameron: There were several light bulbs at several different times, and the first one was when I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey for the first time. And the light bulb there was, "You know, a movie can be more than just telling a story. It can be a piece of art." It can be something that has a profound impact on your imagination, on your appreciation of how music works with the images and so on. It sort of just blew the doors off the whole thing for me at the age of 14, and I started thinking about film in a completely different way and got fascinated by it.

[ Key to Success ] Vision

James Cameron Interview Photo
It was such a fascinating film that they made a book about The Making of 2001. It was, to my knowledge, one of the first films that had a "making of" book. It's the first one that I knew of, and I read it from cover-to-cover 18 times. I didn't understand half of it until many years later, but it started a process of projecting myself into the idea of actually creating images using these high tech means.

Of course, I did all my low tech analogues of those means, buying models and gluing them on pieces of glass and moving them around. It was good training to think spatially and to think in terms of story boarding and so on. So I was already a filmmaker but I hadn't realized it yet.

That was all happening in Canada, thousands of miles from Hollywood, and then ironically, at the age of 17 we moved from Canada to Los Angeles, which is very close to the black hole of Hollywood itself. At that point, I didn't know if I could get there from here. "Who am I to say that I could be a filmmaker?" It didn't make any sense so I abandoned it for grown-up things and I decided to be a scientist. It wasn't until many years later that I realized this is where my heart really lay.

The next light bulb was really just the one that says, "Just do it. Just pick up a camera and start shooting something." Don't wait to be asked because nobody is going to ask you and don't wait for the perfect conditions because they'll never be perfect. It's a little bit like having a child. If you wait until the right time to have a child you'll die childless, and I think film making is very much the same thing. You just have to take the plunge and just start shooting something even if it's bad. You can always hide it but you will have learned something, you know.

[ Key to Success ] Courage

What films influenced you most as a young person?

James Cameron: The films that influenced me were so disparate that there's almost no pattern. Stanley Kubrick was an influence because I loved 2001: A Space Odyssey. and the more I learned about him and his methodology the more I realized what a rigorous intellectual exercise filmmaking was for him, and I was inspired by that. The word perfectionist has a fussy connotation of unnecessary work, of unnecessary complication of the process, but I think that everything he did in his process was necessary.

James Cameron Interview Photo
I have since come to learn that process doesn't work as well for me. There has to be some chaos, some looseness, so the actors are given the opportunities to give you their best. If you have it preconceived in crystallinely perfect form, you don't leave the door open for magic. The magic doesn't come from within the director's mind, it comes from within the hearts of the actors. You have to be there to seize it at the right moment. But Kubrick was definitely an important influence.

All the films that I saw in my last two years of high school and my first year of college are the films that still burn vividly for me. Woodstock, Catch-22, Easy Rider, The Graduate, Bonnie and Clyde, The Godfather. It was such an amazing time in film production, very eclectic and just breaking all the rules.

You've also said seeing the film Star Wars affected you.

James Cameron: That was probably the film that galvanized me to get off my butt and go be a film maker. I was fascinated by space, I was always painting space ships and living in this world of these whizzing, dynamic space battles.

In my senior year in high school, we used to play "Battleship" in class. We turned it into space battleships and we would draw these elaborate spaceships and send coordinates to each other by notes and try to blow each other up.

I was living in a Star Wars world in my mind, and all of a sudden I saw this film, and it was like somebody had reached into my hind brain and yanked out a lot of stuff that was in there, and I was seeing it on the screen realized. And not to take anything away from George's creation, because it's obviously a phenomenal milestone, but my reaction to it was not, "Oh, wow, that's cool. I want to see more." It was, "Oh, wow, I better get off my butt because somebody is doing this stuff, you know, and they're beating me to it." That was my reaction. So I -- you know, I basically quit my job and started, you know, doing a little film with visual effects, and sucked my friends into that vortex, and we all quit our jobs and fortunately we've all managed to successfully transition into film making, of that little group of four people.

[ Key to Success ] Passion

A lot of people ask me, you know, "What's the best advice to someone who wants to be a director?" And the answer I give is very simple. "Be a director." Pick up a camera. Shoot something. No matter how small, no matter how cheesy, no matter whether your friends and your sister star in it. Put your name on it as director. Now you're a director. Everything after that you're just negotiating your budget and your fee. So it's a state of mind is really the point, once you commit yourself to do it.

[ Key to Success ] Passion

Then the hard part starts. You have to foreswear all other paths, because you can't keep a foot in cabinet making and a foot in directing. You can't keep one foot in another job. It's a total and all-consuming thing. I suspect that's true of many of the difficult and challenging things in the world, whether it's research or whatever. Certainly the arts must be all consuming, because you're in competition with people who have made that decision, who have committed themselves 100 percent. You're competing for resources. It's a big coral reef. It's a big food chain, and you're competing for resources and you're competing against people who have made that commitment. If you don't make the same commitment you're not going to compete. It's that simple.

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This page last revised on Apr 06, 2012 14:43 EDT
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