From ‘Terminator’ to ‘Titanic’ to ‘Avatar’, director James Cameron has pushed Hollywood’s technical magic to new limits, but human emotion must always come first, he told the AFP.
In an age when special effects are much more accessible to filmmakers and studios are willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on blockbusters on a regular basis, it’s the artistry that makes the difference, Cameron said during a visit to Paris.
Whether he can still find the balance will be tested as the world finally sees “Avatar: The Way of Water” next week – a sequel to his groundbreaking 13-year-long alien epic.
“Anyone could buy a brush. Not everyone can paint a picture,” said the Canadian director. “Technology doesn’t create art. Artists create art – that’s important.”
It was originally hoped that a first sequel would be released in 2014, but Cameron’s gargantuan ambitions have led to repeated delays.
He doesn’t sound like the kind of megalomaniac director of the Hollywood tradition – describing his sets as “one big hippy community with a bunch of really big artists”.
But these hippies are armed with powerful computers.
“We had over 3,200 shots, which is a lot to maintain high quality control,” Cameron said.
“We introduced deep machine learning and plugged in AI at different stages of the process to help us…not to take the place of the actors at all, but in fact to be more faithful to what they had done” , did he declare.
The challenge was to successfully squeeze emotion out of performances shot largely in front of green screens, and where most of the sets and props didn’t show up until later in the effects booths.
“The heart, the soul, the emotion, the conflict, the creativity…it all comes first, and then all the technical work begins,” he said.
Cameron has always justified the huge sums he demanded from the studios – ‘Titanic’ was both the most expensive and highest-grossing film of all time after its release in 1997, only to be surpassed by ‘Avatar’ in 2009 – and he feels this responsibility “every day”.
“I can’t be whimsical or impulsive, I have to be very focused and dedicated to creating something that pleases me artistically and that I think will please the public and the trade enough to make money,” he said. he declares.
“It can’t be too intellectual, but I can make it satisfying by adding secondary and tertiary levels of meaning to it that I know are there.”
Obviously, much of the Avatar series’ impetus draws attention to humanity’s impact on nature, but the sequel also focuses on Cameron’s aquatic interests.
Long fascinated by the sea, from 1989’s “The Abyss” to “Titanic,” Cameron became a deep-ocean explorer for National Geographic in the 2000s and was the first solo human to visit the deepest underwater pit. deep, the Mariana Trough, a purpose- built submarine.
He sees “Avatar” as “awakening that thing in all of us, that connection to nature.
“The movie asks you to feel something for nature… Maybe it’s about feeling a sense of outrage,” Cameron said.
“These Navi characters…they don’t look like us, they’re blue, they have ears and tails. But they represent the better angels of our nature.
“Maybe for 10 minutes after the movie ends, you see the world a little differently,” he added.
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