Academy of Achievement Logo
Achiever Gallery
   + [ The Arts ]
  Public Service
  Science & Exploration
  My Role Model
  Recommended Books
  Academy Careers
Keys to Success
Achievement Podcasts
About the Academy
For Teachers

Search the site

Academy Careers


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

Share This Page
  (Maximum 150 characters, 150 left)

James Cameron
James Cameron
Profile of James Cameron Biography of James Cameron Interview with James Cameron James Cameron Photo Gallery

James Cameron Interview (page: 6 / 8)

Master Filmmaker

Print James Cameron Interview Print Interview

  James Cameron

James Cameron Interview Photo
Clearly the road to success is not a straight line. It's a winding road.

James Cameron: The road to success is like Harold and the Purple Crayon. You draw it for yourself. You have to imagine it first, and then you have to draw it, and then you have to walk it. Some people fall into good luck. Some people have it handed to them, but I think the great majority map it out for themselves.

What about the setbacks and the frustrations and the self-doubts? How do you deal with them?

James Cameron: When you're working in a public art form like film making you don't really need self-doubt, because if it's bad you're going to hear exactly what's wrong with it, and if it's good you'll hear what's good about it. There are plenty of other people who will inform you, so self-doubt is not really necessary. You can set that one aside. Just drop it out the door. What you need is a lot of confidence to stand up to the slings and arrows, the barrage of negativity.

James Cameron Interview Photo
We exist in a peer environment and when we're on the outside and we're trying to get in, all our peers are like us and just a bunch of friends or people with similar interests. And none of them think you're special. They think they're special. So very few people will give you encouragement.

It's like that old adage "It's not enough to succeed, your friends must also fail." You're not going to get a lot of tremendous encouragement from your peer group and you can't feed on that energy. You can actually support each other in very tangible ways, but that thing of "Dude, you've got it, you're going all the way," you're not going to hear that. And you're certainly going to face rejection after rejection. You're going to knock on a lot of doors and you're going to have to prove yourself.

I think you know that going in if you're going into the film making process. You have to go in with your eyes open. That's what it's going to be like.

There's a tremendous temptation to do a work-around, or to do a moral or ethical work-around or a short cut in a lot of situations, because it's easier and it's just -- you're so needy to get those little breaks and so on. And I think a lot of people get sort of ethically short-circuited at that stage and they never recover, you know? Because I think a lot of people would say, "Well, you know, I'll do what I have to do now, but then later I'll be good." It doesn't work that way. You are who you are. Fortunately, I've managed to get where I am without -- the occasional burglary aside -- without having to really hurt anybody or go against my word. I think ultimately your word becomes the most important thing that you have. It's the most important currency that you have. Having a successful film is a very important currency as well, but in the long run your word is the most important thing, and if you say you're going to do something you have to do it.

[ Key to Success ] Integrity

I think that's what saw me through on Titanic.

Titanic was in some ways the roughest project that I've ever been involved with. And what saw me through on that was that I had a relationship with the people who were quite rightly panicking, but they never completely panicked because they knew who I was, and we always treated each other with a kind of respect. I always did what I think was the right or ethical thing throughout that. Even though it was costing me millions of dollars personally right out of my pocket to do it, I felt I had to do it or they would never trust me again on another film, and I think that that's ultimately the most important currency that you reap from any situation.

[ Key to Success ] Integrity

Were there any moments of panic for you during the making of Titanic?

James Cameron: Pretty much every day, but when you're in a leadership position you can never ever manifest that. You can never manifest the panic that you feel inside.

Titanic was a situation where I felt, I think, pretty much like the officer felt on the bridge of the ship. I could see the iceberg coming far away, but as hard as I turned that wheel there was just too much mass, too much inertia, and there was nothing I could do, but I still had to play it through. There was no way to get off. And so then, you know, you're in this kind of situation where you feel quite doomed, and yet you still have to play by your own ethical standards, you know, no matter where it takes you. And ultimately that was the salvation, because I think if I hadn't done that they might have panicked. They might have pulled the plug. Things would have been very different, the whole thing might have crashed and burned but it didn't, you know. We held on. We missed the iceberg by that much.

[ Key to Success ] Courage

You first established a reputation as a master of special effects, and yet this blockbuster film, Titanic, you call a love story. It certainly has special effects, but that's not how you talk about it.

James Cameron Interview Photo
James Cameron: Right. Titanic was conceived as a love story, and if I could have done it without one visual effect I would have been more than happy to do that. The fact is that the ship hasn't existed since 1912, at least not at the surface, so we had to create it somehow.

Obviously it was a big visual effect show when all was said and done, but that wasn't my motivation to make the film. I don't think that should ever be the motivation to make a film; it should be a means to an end.

Certainly there's an aspect of me that likes big challenges, whether it's big physical construction or visual effects or whatever. I think that's what I do best. Other people work at a much more intimate level; they do that solely and are better at that.

I think that it was definitely a goal of Titanic to integrate a very personal, very emotional, and very intimate film making style with spectacle. And try to make that not be kind of chocolate syrup on a cheeseburger, you know. Make it somehow work together.

Is that what made Titanic such a worldwide success?

James Cameron: I think the spectacle got people's attention, got them to the theaters, and then the emotional, cathartic experience of watching the film is what made the film work. I think the spectacle served it but was not the defining factor in its success. Once again I think it's a question of balance. It's sort of like looking at a painting and saying what part of the painting is the part that makes you like it. It's all of it working together that makes you like the painting.

James Cameron Interview, Page: 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   

This page last revised on Apr 06, 2012 14:43 EST
How To Cite This Page