Director, explorer and all-round genius, James Cameron, swung by Reddit over the weekend to answer questions from the masses. It really was a tell-all, with Cameron coming clean on the Avatar sequels, the future of filmmaking and VR, and his favourite guilty pleasure movie.
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You can read the full Ask Me Anything right here, but we’ve chosen a few choice excerpts to delight you.
“Well, if one believes in a multiverse of an infinite number of parallel universes, or even a large number of them, then there have to be a few where Skynet wins. But you know, I don’t know how it’s done exactly. And if I did I wouldn’t say.”
“I wasn’t particularly embarrassed because I think that’s an unbelievably specific nitpick and if that caused him to not enjoy the film, he may need to reevaluate his priorities. That said, because I’m such a perfectionist, I challenged him to provide me with the correct star fields and incorporated them into the future rereleases of the film. So, if you watch the film now, the stars are correct.”
“Oh, probably Resident Evil, the first one. I just like that film! You don’t have to defend a guilty pleasure.”
Mythbusters did an episode about this and proved that two people could have floated on the door in such a way that both could have survived, but it involved using both of their floatation vests rigged under the door in such a way that they wouldn’t detach. What they neglected to incorporate was the amount of time that they would have had to spend submerged in 28 degree water to attach them that way. Also, Jack is a 19 year old guy processing a problem in real time, in water, at night, and already hypothermic, so that’s a lot to ask of him.
“Well, there were a number of challenges leading up to the dive in terms of creating a new submersible from scratch that involved many new technologies, and anybody who has ever built a complex new technological system from scratch knows what I’m talking about. But the biggest challenge on the day of the dive itself was the sea state, we had a 2 and a half meter sea, so talking close to 8-10 foot waves. That was bigger than we were supposed to launch in. And during the launch process, one of our key safety systems got broken on the submersible. And I elected to dive anyway. Then it turned out not to be necessary, it was a backup system, and the dive went fairly well after that.
Your ears don’t pop, because the submersible is designed to withstand the pressure. What you feel is the cold, and the confinement. Now your MIND is very aware of the pressure, because if the submersible were to fail, you’d cease to exist in a microsecond. I call it “being chummed into a meat butt.” Needless to say, that didn’t happen, unless we’re in one of those parallel universes we were talking about before.
On that dive, we discovered a number of new species, they were very small, including a new sea cucumber, it was very small, I referred to one of them as a “little sea pig” because they look like little pink piglets. They’re about as big as your thumb, or maybe smaller. Technically, they’re called Holothurian. And we also discovered a large number of new bacterial species that live in the bottom sediment down there. But the impression is of a very desolate landscape, like the moon. You have to look very closely to find life down there.”
“Interesting. I thought it was an interesting film. I thought it was thought provoking and beautifully, visually mounted, but at the end of the day it didn’t add up logically. But I enjoyed it, and I’m glad it was made. I liked it better than the previous two Alien sequels. And it was done in native 3D and I’m a big fan of Native 3D done by directors who embrace it as an art form, like Ridley, Scorsese, Ang Lee.”
“We abandoned True Lies 2 after 9/11, because we didn’t think a comedy about fundamentalist terrorists was so funny anymore. And then we never picked it up again.”
“I personally would be very interested to find a way to incorporate VR and a narrative filmmaking experience. So a narrative directed experience that has individuated pathways where you have choices that you make in real-time, I think that would be a lot of fun. I think it would be very technically daunting and expensive, to do it as the same quality level as a typical feature, but it would be fun to experiment with. It sounds like a lot of fun. I don’t think it would take over the feature film market though. I’m very familiar with VR, but I haven’t seen the specific Oculus Rift device. I’m interested in it, I’m meant to see it sometime in the next month or so, but I’ve been familiar with VR since its inception. In fact, virtual reality is a way of describing the way we work on Avatar, we work in a virtual workspace all day long. We use a “virtual camera” which is how I create all the shots that are CG in the film, a window into a virtual reality that completely surrounds me.”
“48 fps to me is not a format, it’s a tool, like music it’s good to use sparingly and in the right spot. I believe all movies should be made in 3D, forever, but the projection needs to be better, and brighter. I want people to see in the movie theaters what I am seeing in my perfectly calibrated screening room, and people aren’t seeing that. Larger formats. I’d love to see screens get bigger. In terms of storytelling, I’d like to see Hollywood embrace the caliber of writing in feature films that we’re currently seeing in the series on television – more emphasis on character, and less on explosions and pyrotechnics. And I’m talking the big tentpole movies, I think they’re obnoxiously loud and fast. Not that I don’t like loud fast scenes, I just don’t like whole movies that are that way!”
“Well, I have 5 kids and I would never answer the question if someone asked me which one was my favorite. The same with my movies. Each film is a journey, you learn so much from it, and it’s a reflection of a different period in your life, a different snapshot of who you were at this time. The one I’m working on is always my favorite. Right now it’s Avatar 2, Avatar 3, and Avatar 4.”