Posted on Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009 by Devindra Hardawar
As part of their upcoming interview issue, Newsweek invited James Cameron and Peter Jackson to have a chat about filmmaking in the technology age. There’s the typical banter praising each others projects, as well as some fairly good insight into how they both use technology, and what it means for the future of film. Perhaps most interestingly, Cameron says in passing that he’d rather make Titanic with more CG, if he were to do it today.
His full quote, after the break.
If I did Titanic today, I’d do it very differently. There wouldn’t be a 750-foot-long set. There would be small set pieces integrated into a large CGI set. I wouldn’t have to wait seven days to get the perfect sunset for the kiss scene. We’d shoot it in front of a green screen, and we’d choose our sunset.
The quote comes amid a bigger discussion of using makeup and digital effects to alter actor’s ages. And while I’m sure that it will instantly get people readying their pitchforks, I honestly can’t blame Cameron for saying it. The Titanic shoot was a harrowing ordeal, to say the least. If he thinks that they could make the set appear just as believable without building the entire ship (and let’s face it, a project like that may never happen again), I don’t see that as necessarily being a bad thing.
Still, there’s something to be said for a physical set. One of my favorite aspects of Peter Weir’s Master and Commander is that he actually built and filmed in replicas of period ships. By doing so, he turned that movie into a $150 million art film, and it’s an experience unlikely to be recreated by CG. Weir’s film was all about very close quarters though, and the sets in no way compared to Titanic.
Knowing Cameron, he’d still build out large portions of the ship practically, and then stitch those various pieces together digitally when needed. At that point, it isn’t very different than old-school Hollywood production — except instead of cutting between locations and letting your mind fill in the blanks, the director can actually make it appear as if everything is connected.
All that being said, I completely disagree with him about the sunset remark. Filming actors in front of green screens rarely gives the same emotional and physical response as they would to a natural event. I can understand not wanting to build a massive 750-foot long set, but they can certainly spend a few mornings to realistically capture one of the greatest wonders of nature.