Posted on Monday, May 7th, 2012 by Russ Fischer
In the years since the original release of Titanic, James Cameron developed a few different film projects, one of which became Avatar, a few of which (like Battle Angel) were postponed, and a couple that he produced for other directors. He also developed a strong interest in documentary filmmaking, and has chronicled his interest in underwater exploration through a series of films.
Now, the director says that his days of developing other films, whether for himself or another director, are all but over. From now on, Cameron sees himself dedicated only to the Avatar series and his documentary work. Everything else — presumably including Battle Angel, though that project was not mentioned specifically — will be left by the wayside. We’ll see a couple of Avatar sequels, and perhaps even Avatar 4, eventually, but that might be it.
Speaking to the New York Times, Cameron explained,
I’ve divided my time over the last 16 years over deep ocean exploration and filmmaking. I’ve made two movies in 16 years, and I’ve done eight expeditions. Last year I basically completely disbanded my production company’s development arm. So I’m not interested in developing anything. I’m in the “Avatar” business. Period. That’s it. I’m making “Avatar 2,” “Avatar 3,” maybe “Avatar 4,” and I’m not going to produce other people’s movies for them. I’m not interested in taking scripts. And that all sounds I suppose a little bit restricted, but the point is I think within the “Avatar” landscape I can say everything I need to say that I think needs to be said, in terms of the state of the world and what I think we need to be doing about it. And doing it in an entertaining way. And anything I can’t say in that area, I want to say through documentaries, which I’m continuing. I’ve done five documentaries in the last 10 years, and I’ll hopefully do a lot more.
Given that the Avatar films are his only narrative focus at this point, how far along is the sequel? Cameron says that the development of a technological backbone for the films is still taking time.
We’ve spent the last year and a half on software development and pipeline development. The virtual production methodology was extremely prototypical on the first film. As then, no one had ever done it before and we didn’t even know for two and half years into it and $100 million into it if it was going to work. So we just wanted to make our lives a whole lot easier so that we can spend a little more of our brainpower on creativity. It was a very, very uphill battle on the first film. So we’ve been mostly working on the tool set, the production pipeline, setting up the new stages in Los Angeles, setting up the new visual effects pipeline in New Zealand, that sort of thing. And, by the way, writing. We haven’t gotten to the design stage yet. That’ll be the next.
Taking three things into account — Cameron’s age, the length of time it takes to produce just one Avatar film, and his interest in doing more documentary work — I can’t say I’m surprised to hear that Avatar will probably be the only focus of the narrative filmmaking part of Cameron’s career from now on. There just isn’t time for him to do anything else. As someone who isn’t particularly interested in more Avatar films, that’s disappointing, but I’d rather the guy follow the path he wants to follow. And the comments about developing further technology for the Avatar series is interesting; as has been the case with other films in Cameron’s career, those sequels are likely going to develop tools that will be put to use by the rest of the film industry.
(And, note, that Cameron’s quote about developing non-Avatar films could be taken to mean that while he isn’t developing new material, he isn’t jettisoning things that he has already extensively developed, such as Battle Angel. I don’t actually believe we’ll ever see a Cameron-directed Battle Angel, but the quote leaves the possibility open, depending upon how you read it.)