“Filmmaking is a trauma that’s akin to combat.” ~James Cameron
James Francis Cameron was born in Ontario, Canada in 1954. When his family moved to Brea, CA, he enrolled in Fullerton College, a 2-year community college, to study physics. He transferred to English then dropped out before the start of the semester. He worked different jobs including truck driving and wrote when he had time.
During that time, he would spend time at the USC library, teaching himself about special effects. He would read any graduate student thesis that covered optical printing, front screen projection, dye transfers, and film technology.
After watching the original Star Wars film, Cameron quit his job as a truck driver and actively pursued the film industry. He wrote a ten-minute science fiction script with friends, entitled Xenogenesis. They rented camera, lenses, film stock, and studio to shoot it in a 35mm. To understand how the camera operates, they dismantled it and spent the first half-day of the shoot trying to put it together.
Cameron started to work at Roger Corman Studios, making low-budget productions that taught him how to work efficiently and effectively. He became the art director for the sci-fi movie Battle Beyond the Stars. He did special effects on Escape from New York and acted as the production designer on Galaxy of Terror.
He was hired to do special effects for the sequel of Piranha. The original director, Miller Drake, left the project. Cameron was hired to take over, as his first directorial job. The movie was produced in Jamaica. They encountered numerous problems and adverse weather conditions. Cameron was fired after failing to obtain a close up scene of Carole Davis. Cameron was invited to stay on location to assist in shooting. After stricken with food poisoning, he had a nightmare one night about an invisible robot sent from the future to kill him. This catapulted his filming career for The Terminator.
After much of his filmmaking success, he relived his adventurous love for the sea. His latest expedition in a submarine, called Deepsea Challenger, plunged nearly seven miles down to the deepest place in the ocean, the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific.
Cameron is a genius, a natural-born guru for high-tech, blockbuster special-effects movies, and to some, even an asshole, but an asshole with a cause.
“I’m not a perfectionist. I’m a greatest. I only want to do it until it’s great.”