November 2009 - HBO First Look has featured many upcoming movies and they will present a 12 minute behind the scenes show on Avatar in early December. The first broadcast will be Wednesday December 2, with repeated airings through December 29. Click on the source link above for a listing of all 32 scheduled broadcasts of the Avatar.
Hero Complex will host 'Avatar' screening
with James Cameron and stars
November 2009 - Moviegoers everywhere will be able to see "Avatar" on Dec. 18 but the best place to see it that day will be at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, where director James Cameron and stars Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver and Zoe Saldaña will attend the screening and then be interviewed on stage by Hero Complex blogger Geoff Boucher.
The event is part of the awards-season screening series by the Los Angeles Times and The Envelope. You can find the full schedule of films and stage discussions right here. "Avatar" will be shown at 7:30 and the stage portion of the evening will begin afterward.
Check the source link above early next week for information on how to get tickets for the free event. First-chance opportunity for seating is for Hollywood guild members and Academy voters, but fans will be admitted into every screening as well.
Jim Gianopulos discusses Avatar
November 2009 - At the "Great Ideas" forum at the John Cassavetes Cine in Thessaloniki, Greece, partially sponsored by the Fulbright Foundation, the U.S. Embassy in Greece and Stavros Niarchos Foundation, co-chief executive of Fox Filmed Entertainment Jim Gianopulos talks about "Jim" Cameron's "Avatar," which he says he has seen dozens of times in various cuts, but not yet the 3-D version that will be seen in theaters, which is still being rendered.
November 2009 - The Avatar trailer has climbed 418% in the last five weeks since it appeared in Variety's poll, which shows a 'True Reach View Count' of 2,599,682. The Weekly Top Ten Online Film Trailers Chart shows the top-performing trailers of the previous week watched online.
Rankings are complied based on the following: each film's trailer(s) as well as cast interviews, behind-the-scenes clips and viewer responses, appearing on major online video sharing destinations. This chart focuses on as-yet unreleased films which are within 10 weeks of general release.
For our UK visitors:
Free exclusive Avatar t-shirt with this month's Total Film
November 2009 - Here’s the deal: Buy your January Issue of Total Film (on sale November 19th) at selected WH Smith’s and you’ll not only get the fantastic magazine – a Collector’s Edition, no less – and a luxurious, 32-page James Cameron supplement, but you’ll also bag yourself a free Avatar t-shirt! Click on the link above for participating locations.
New Coke Zero Avatar Commercial
SPOILERS: Glimpses of new scenes
November 2009 - And yet even more new scenes contained in this new Coke Zero commercial as fleeting as they may be. There is no video to embed, but you can check out the commercial provided by Coke Zero's Facebook page.
November 2009 - Of all the blockbusters due in December, James Cameron's 3D sci-fi epic Avatar will be subject to the beadiest scrutiny. Cameron's legion fans will be eager to see if he can match the combination of technical wizardry, spectacle and emotional depth of his Terminator films, his Aliens sequel and his magnum opus, Titanic.
The film industry will want to know if Avatar can match Titanic's success in the two areas that matter: cash and kudos. Titanic won 11 Oscars, tying Ben Hur's record haul. The most expensive film ever made, with a budget that vaulted to $200million, it also became the most lucrative, having taken over £1.8billion.
Most importantly, though, there's hope that Avatar will "save" film. The cutting-edge 3D technology Cameron developed for the picture may be the industry's best weapon against digital piracy, the biggest threat it has faced since the advent of television.
Can Avatar Defy the Odds and Succeed?
By C. Robert Cargill
November 2009 - Half a billion dollars. That’s what current estimates (though IMDB estimates are closer to $230M) are putting the budget of James Cameron’s new science fiction epic just north of (and I’ve long heard rumors of an even higher number). The resulting firestorm of head-scratching and navel-gazing was to be expected. Blogs everywhere have fired up, questioning the logic of making a film so expensive.
And if I were a betting man, I’d put money on the fact that James Cameron is laughing his ass off over all of it. After all, it was articles like these that littered the pages of magazines and the trades 12 years ago, heralding the release of the most expensive movie ever made! A movie so large it might never recoup its budget! As in the $200 million gamble that was Titanic.
Yeah, Cameron’s been down this road before. He’s directed a handful of the most expensive films ever made, all of which profited and most of which are considered modern classics. And what Cameron is doing here is nothing short of completely redefining the way we watch movies.
'Avatar': A Race to the Finish
Crews are speeding to complete James Cameron's
ambitious sci-fi tale on schedule
By Ethan Smith and Lauren A.E. Schuker
November 2009 - Less than a month before the scheduled release of James Cameron's new movie, "Avatar," some scenes from the costly special-effects extravaganza remain unfinished. Pressure to complete the project by the Dec. 18 release date has risen to the point where crews are working "24-8"—that is, eight days a week—said producer Jon Landau during a break from supervising the work in Los Angeles on Wednesday.
Mr. Landau said that around 30 minutes of the movie remain incomplete, with issues ranging from sound mixing to more serious aspects like visual effects. The total running time is likely to fall between 2½ hours and two hours 40 minutes, not including credits. The film is an ambitious science-fiction tale about a disabled soldier who leaves Earth for a planet called Pandora.
There, using mind-projection technology, the soldier lives and fights vicariously through a blue, 10-foot-tall body, or avatar, that closely resembles those of an indigenous humanoid species. Lest that futuristic scenario scare off anyone but die-hard sci-fi fans, there's a love story involving the avatar and a native female. "It's in the hectic last days of postproduction typical of any film of this size, but it's on schedule and preparing for its world-wide release," said Fox Filmed Entertainment Chairman Jim Gianopulos.
Jim Cameron: "Avatar" A Dream Come True
Director Tells Morley Safer He Thinks The 3D Will Forever Change Hollywood
November 2009 - (CBS) Director James Cameron has been waiting for this film his whole life. "Avatar," his upcoming 3D science fiction fantasy, embodies his childhood love of imaginary creatures and his obsession with pushing the envelope. And, he tells "60 Minutes" correspondent Morley Safer, it may help 3D finally catch on, changing film, perhaps all video, forever.
Cameron gives Safer and 60 Minutes cameras the first look at how he created "Avatar" for a segment to be broadcast this Sunday, Nov. 22, at 7 p.m. ET/PT. "I've been working up to this for a long time. This is the film that I always thought I wanted to make?," Cameron tells Safer. "I've loved fantasy and science fiction since I was a kid?I've been drawing creatures and characters and robots and spaceships since I was in high school."
60 Minutes stopped in while he was shooting a scene himself on a camera he helped develop to better shoot his 3D vision of "Avatar," a film about a paradise in outer space that is in danger of being despoiled by ambitious earthlings. He also took Safer to his office where he keeps a special film prop, the ship's wheel from "Titanic," the film that won 11 Oscars and anointed him a super-director.
November 2009 - Well, maybe just four minutes of it. And only on Xbox LIVE... but still... AVATAR! The new Movies on Demand service switches on for Xbox LIVE subscribers today, and to celebrate, four minutes of exclusive footage from James Cameron's upcoming film Avatar will be available to watch for a limited time.
Basically, you've got five days to watch the sequence - a thrilling chase scene, apparently - before it's taken off the service. "With the fantastic video experience of Movies on Demand on Xbox LIVE," says John Landau, the films executive producer, "we are so excited to be able to give Xbox 360 users a sneak preview of one of the exhilarating chase scenes in the movie before anyone else."
The Movies on Demand service itself features 100s of films from a wide range of genres. The movies are streamed in full 1080p HD, with 5.1 audio.
Sample of Avatar Soundtrack Available
The track "Into the Na'vi World" can now be heard online
November 2009 - The official site for the Avatar score has an audio sample of the track "Into the Na'vi World," composed and conducted by James Horner. You can also order the physical CD or the digital copy.
The track list includes 1:
"You Don't Dream in Cryo...."; 2: Jake Enters His Avatar World; 3: Pure Spirits of Fhe forest; 4: The Bioluminescence of the Night; 5: Becoming one of "The People" Becoming one with Neytiri; 6: Climbing up "Iknimaya - The Path to Heaven"; 7: Jake's First Flight; 8: Scorched Earth; 9: Quaritch; 10: The Eestruction of "Home Tree"; 11: Shutting Down Grace's Lab; 12: Gathering All the Na'vi Clans for Battle; 13: War; and 14: "I See You" (Theme From Avatar). Click on the link above to hear the sample track.k
Lewis to sing Avatar theme song
Leona Lewis has recorded the signature song for upcoming science fiction film, Avatar
November 2009 - The 24-year-old X Factor winner performs the tune that will accompany the closing credits. It's called I See You. Lewis could find herself with a global hit on her hands considering the anticipation around the film. James Horner and Simon Franglen - the men behind Celine Dion's Titanic hit My Heart Will Go On - are also on board to produce the song.
The much-hyped Avatar, directed by James Cameron, is being billed as an epic adventure with new standards of special effects. The director first conceived the film 15 years ago but back then the technology didn't exist to make it happen. Premiering in London in December, it tells the tale of an alien race defending their land against human invasion. It features Aliens actress Sigourney Weaver, as well as Sam Worthington and Michelle Rodriguez from Lost.
Lewis meanwhile seems to be back on track after being badly shaken by her recent assault at a book signing. The London born singer has just released Echo, the follow-up to her multi-million selling debut album, and also announced last week she's setting out on her first UK tour next summer.
TotalFilm's Avatar Extravaganza
Magazine offers a variety of Avatar features
November 2009 - TotalFilm Magazine seems to be the 'IT' place for Avatar for November. We had relayed their announcement a few days ago regarding their free Avatar T-shirt offer when you purchase their January 2010 issue, and now they offer up more Avatar goods both online and upcoming print.
Besides a Sam Worthington interview, they also have a mammoth nine webpage online feature called 'The Story Behind Avatar'. Also, they are offering an exclusive clip of Avatar, courtesy of LG's new Chocolate phone. For details on this offer, click here.
All articles in this section are excerpt highlights, click on the source link for the complete article.
MTV sets 'Avatar' webcast
Cast, Cameron to discuss film online ahead of network special
By Jon Weisman | Source: variety.com
November 2009 - MTV will present a live webcast of a roundtable with director James Cameron and other featured talent from the film "Avatar" on Dec. 3 as a prelude to a half-hour television special the network will air later in the month.
Thesps Zoe Saldana and Sam Worthington will join producer Jon Landau and Cameron on the webcast, to be moderated by MTV News managing editor Josh Horowitz. The 30-minute event, which will feature unseen footage from the movie, also will be shown on the "Avatar" Facebook fan page, with fans able to submit questions at either site.
The TV special, part of MTV's "Behind the Screen" series, will air Dec. 16, two days before the film's scheduled release date. MTV Networks exec veep of integrated marketing John Shea said discussions on the special with "Avatar" studio Fox began more than six months ago, saying the event reps the net's first standalone streaming webcast.
Fox Calls Claims Of Avatar's $500 Million Budget "Ridiculous"
By Katey Rich | Source: cinemablend.com
November 2009 - Even though they're heavily promoting the movie's groundbreaking special effects and painstaking, years-long production process, Fox is for some reason busy denying rumors that Avatar could have cost anything close to $500 million, when that number has popped up repeatedly in the press.
Responding to a New York Times article title with the on-the-nose "A Movie's Budget Pops From the Screen," Fox exec Jack Gianopulos called the $500 million figure "a ridiculous number."
Digital Spy quoted Gianopulos from his Reuters interview, saying ""There is no question [that it was expensive]. But viewed now, from the perspective of its completion and having seen it, it's a formidable work and money well spent." Presumably a few years down the line, once the book on Avatar has been written and nobody has anything to lose, we'll finally get the real story about the movie's budget.
Coke Zero Immerses Itself in 'Avatar'
Beverage giant engineers cross-media promotions to create a broad brand experience
November 2009 - Coca-Cola Zero has teamed with Twentieth Century Fox on a major worldwide promotional campaign for Titanic director James Cameron's upcoming epic, Avatar.
Slated to launch in over 30 countries, the partnership will give consumers access to exclusive and authentic content from the film in several innovative ways. The movie is set to premiere in theaters around the globe Dec. 18.
"Avatar shares the same aspirational, edgy and unconventional brand values as Coca-Cola Zero," noted Chip York, worldwide entertainment marketing director at the Atlanta-based beverage giant.
To provide consumers with inside details on the movie, the Coke Zero digital team worked with the studio and filmmakers to develop www.AVTR.com, which will feature regular "live" journalist reports from the fictional moon of Pandora, offering a sneak peek into the spectacular world of Avatar. Additionally, site visitors will be able to access exclusive film-related imagery, wallpapers, games and applications, along with regularly updated, real-time Avatar news.
New from the official site: Avatar Interactive Trailer
November 2009 - Go to AvatarMovie.com to download the application onto your desktop. It's loaded with additional profiles and info as you watch the trailer.Also, here's an article on the interactive application from Techland. . .
Avatar Exclusive: First Look at ‘Interactive Trailer’
By Steven James Snyder | Excerpt: techland.com
At noon (eastern) today, Twentieth Century Fox [unveiled] a fully interactive “Avatar” trailer – the first of its kind, built upon Adobe AIR software – that broadens the scope and detail of the upcoming James Cameron epic. While some pundits were quick to criticize the movie’s initial teaser trailer for revealing too little about the story, or the fictitious planet upon which the story takes place, this new multimedia interface gives us a greater sense for the heft and vision behind this war of the worlds.
Techland was given exclusive access to this interactive trailer late Monday night (as of noon, it will be available at avatarmovie.com). First, it’s worth noting that Fox intends to continuously update this trailer – and its accompanying media libraries – as we approach the film’s Dec. 18 release. And since this trailer doesn’t live on a web site, but on a user’s desktop, updates will be seamlessly distributed to those who have downloaded the Adobe AIR software. Steven gives commentary on some of the profiles, click on the source link above to read.
CNN's Jason Carroll interviews director James Cameron about his new film "Avatar."
November 2009 - In this CNN interview, James Cameron discusses how his exploration in the oceans inspired his design for the Alien world - specifically regarding bioluminescence.
Cameron emphasizes that the visual prowess of Avatar is not enough to make the film successful. He focuses on the importance of story, character, and the actor's performances.
Cameron also touches on the high amount of pressure of Avatar to succeed and how this challenge drives him. Go to this CNN page to see the video interview.
And below is another Avatar video from CNN.
Other Blockbusters Give Wide Berth to Avatar
Cameron's Avatar forces Chinese blockbusters to shift release dates
By Screen staff | Source: screendaily.com
November 2009 - Four Chinese blockbusters have changed their January release dates to avoid competing with James Cameron’s Avatar, which will go out on January 1.
Zhang Yimou’s remake of Blood Simple has bought its release forward from December 18 to December 11, while Hong King Universe’s The Storm Warriors has shifted its release to December 10.
Jay Chou-starring Treasure Hunter will be released on December 9 instead of mid-month as originally planned, snd Ning Hao’s road movie Wu Ren Qu will moved it release by three months to March next year.
Although Avatar is still obtaining its screening permit for China, it cinema circuit managers, including Beijing’s New Film Association and the Zhejiang-based Hengdian Cinema chain, have confirmed that the January 1 slot. The film expected to be released in 2D, 2D IMAX, 3D and 3D IMAX versions. Chinese cinema managers estimate that if all versions and screen formats are greenlighted for release at the same time, the film’s release will cover 80% of Chinese screens.
The end of year season is a peak time for major releases in China as it covers the Christmas and New Year holidays and extends to Chinese Lunar New Year, which is in February next year. The three month season generates between $200m to $300m in box office gross. Gao Jun, deputy general manager of new the New Film Association, said: “It is the first time in five years that such a heavyweight Hollywood film released in the year-end season. Its box office impact will be huge.” Sony Picture’s 2012 and District 9 and Disney’s G-Force are also due to be release in the country in November to catch the beginning of the year-end season.
NRJ - Avatar special and exclusive interview
with James Cameron
November 2009 - NRJ radio is an official sponsor for Avatar, the new film by James Cameron (Titanic, Terminator, Terminator 2 :Judgment Day, Abyss, Aliens), out in theaters on December 16.
Avatar is the blockbuster shown in 2D and 3D at the end of the year. To celebrate the event, NRJ will change all its scheduling with a special Avatar week-end, on november 7 and 8 2009.
For this purpose, James Cameron will talk about his new film, for the first time on a French radio station, and will give an exclusive interview to NRJ: he will reveal behind-the-scenes secrets of the film.
Actress Zoe Saldana (Star Trek) and the film's producer Jon Landau (Titanic) will be interviewed as well. Interviews of people in the street, right after the first images of the film were shown, will be aired over the week-end, so as to share the first impressions of the spectators. During that week-end, listeners will have the opportunity to win a meeting with the film's crew, on air and via the website NRJ.fr.
In early December, James Cameron, Sigourney Weaver (from the Aliens saga), Zoe Saldana (Star Trek) and Sam Worthington (Terminator Salvation) will be guests at the "le 6/9" programme (aired from 6 am to 9 am), host by Nikos (Aliagas), Mustapha (El Atrassi) and Flo (Florian Gazan) and at the "Mikl" programme. On November 7 and 8, a 4-minute report about the genesis of James Cameron's project, coming with never-before-seen images of the film, will be shown exclusively on NRJ.fr.
Giant Banshee invades Dallas Stadium
Fox launches major marketing campaign
November 2009 - Here's a snapshot of Avatar shown at the Dallas stadium where over 100,000 football fans got to preview the second trailer on the largest HD video display in the world. Fox's TV campaign also included airings of the 90 second TV spot trailer throughout the day with their Fox affiliates including the World Series.
With Avatar Day creating somewhat lackluster buzz for the film, this is a good sign that Fox is now bringing out the heavy marketing artillery to spread the word to the mainstream.
NFL events and the Worlds Series airing on television commands a hefty price tag for commercials and Fox clearly made a major investment by buying time slots on a day that usually results in a large viewing audience.
Four Reasons Why Avatar is Too Big to Fail
By John Scalzi | Source: amctv.com
November 2009 - I was forwarded this New York Times article on James Cameron's scifi flick Avatar, and how the production and marketing of the movie will likely cost a staggering half-billion dollars. The friend who forwarded it to me wrote, "is this film ever going to make its money back?" Sure, it could, and probably will.
Some of the answers are in the article itself: First, the half-billion under discussion is not being fronted by a single studio (in this case, 20th Century Fox); it's the entire outlay of cash, which includes funds from two other movie companies that between them are covering 60 percent of the production costs.
It also includes advertising deals where one company basically uses Avatar properties while promoting their own goods; the article notes Panasonic using Avatar clips as part of a $25 million effort to push its own home theater lines. To be clear, Fox isn't getting off cheaply; when all is said and done it's going to be on the hook for at least a couple hundred million dollars in production and marketing costs. If the flick fails, it will hurt. But there's a difference between being on the hook for a half a billion, and being on the hook for half that. Beyond that, there are other factors to consider.
First, there's a difference between 20th Century Fox spending a couple hundred million dollars (or so) in the production of Avatar, and, say, Warner Bros. putting $100 million dollars into The Adventures of Pluto Nash. Honestly, I try to imagine the pitch for that one: "We have a great idea! First, it's a science fiction comedy. Second, the star hasn't been hot in a decade except when he wears a fat suit. Third, the director has never had a hit that didn't star Billy Crystal and a herd of cattle. It can't miss!"
Winner of the Hugo Award and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, John Scalzi is the author of The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies and the novels Old Man's War and Zoe's Tale. He's also Creative Consultant for the upcoming Stargate: Universe television series. His column appears every Thursday.
Fox hedges its bets on the big-budget ‘Avatar’
By Michael Cieply | Excerpt: mydigitalfc.com
November 2009 - Can a movie studio make money on a film based on an original and unfamiliar story, with no Hollywood superstars, a vanishing DVD market and a price tag approaching $500 million?
That question looms large for 20th Century Fox and its 3-D science-fiction film ‘‘Avatar,’’ among the most expensive movies ever. Despite many skeptics, the studio thinks it can turn a profit, in part because the film’s creator, James Cameron, was the driving force behind the studio’s immense hit ‘‘Titanic.’’
But just in case box-office receipts for ‘‘Avatar’’ fall short, Fox has worked hard to hedge its large bet on the movie.
Despite the estimated half-billion dollars spent on its production and marketing, ‘‘Avatar’’ may carry surprisingly little financial risk for Fox’s parent company, News Corp., even if it disappoints. That is because of shifting industry economics, reliance on outside investors and help from a network of allied companies and in-house business units. Fox’s efforts underscore the ways studios generally have been able to minimize their exposure at a time of blockbuster budgets — albeit at the cost of limiting their profit potential as well.
The final cost of the film has not been tallied, as Mr. Cameron, who has worked on the film for 15 years, and his collaborators, as far-flung as Weta Digital in New Zealand, have yet to complete theirwork. Published reports have put the production budget at more than $230 million. But the price tag would be higher if the financial contribution of Mr. Cameron and others were included. When global marketing expenses are added, ‘‘Avatar’’ may cost its various backers $500 million.
Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopulos, the co-chairmen of Fox Filmed Entertainment, declined through a spokesman to be interviewed. Jon Landau, Mr. Cameron’s partner in their Lightstorm Entertainment production company, also declined to be interviewed. But ‘‘Avatar’’ did get a mention in a conference call Wednesday during which Rupert Murdoch, News Corp.’s chairman, discussed a surprise 11 percent earnings jump in the company’s fiscal first quarter, which ended Sept. 30.
Avatar: how they did it
Creating the 3-D film meant inventing
technology to give computer-generated
characters realistic human expressions
November 2009 - James Cameron gets an intense, visceral thrill from being in the vanguard of technological innovation. “It’s the same gene that makes me want to explore under the ocean, see things people haven’t seen before and bring them back with my tail wagging to show everybody,” he says.
Cameron introduced the first “motion capture” characters, in Total Recall, and the first human movements on a CGI (computer-generated imagery) character in Terminator 2; and he has again been working at the boundaries of digital technology to create the imaginary world and characters in Avatar.
Cameron and his technical collaborators — in particular Weta Digital, the New Zealand-based visual-effects studio owned by Peter Jackson, director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy — were reinventing the technological wheel as they were working on the film, which took four years to make. Although about two-thirds of Avatar has been created by a bank of computers — a virtual world — it was also filmed as a live-action shoot. The actors worked both on conventional sets and against “green screen” backgrounds, with the computers transforming them — in real time — into their Avatar characters.
Cameron believes that, for the most part, it will be impossible for audiences to tell what is real and what is virtual. “The film is the first true hybrid,” he says, “the most complicated thing I have ever done.” So, while the cinematic world of Pandora, the distant moon where most of the film takes place, is both computer-generated and real, the main characters, including Jake’s Avatar, and Neytiri, the blue, 10ft tall Na’vi princess he falls in love with, are acted by humans, their performances translated into CGI form.
The challenge, says Jon Landau, Cameron’s long-time producer, was to make those CGI characters “engaging and emotive. The real problem, for us, was creating the fidelity of a facial performance for the Avatar and Na’vi characters, creating a window into the soul through the eyes”. In previous CGI films, facial expression was captured by putting scores of tiny reflective markers on an actor’s face, which were reinterpreted by a computer into the facial expressions of the CGI character.
November 2009 - How long is it? That is the question about James Cameron's "Avatar," the science-fiction epic opening Dec. 18 that has been hotly debated for months, with rampant speculation that it would run over three hours. In fact, it will be well under that, at least in part to meet limits imposed by Imax technology.
The actual running time will be 150 minutes, which is two and a half hours, according to Bruce Snyder, president of domestic distribution for 20th Century Fox, which is handling the release of the movie. He said that may rise to 156 minutes when all of the credits are added on, but that would be the maximum running time.
That will allow for two showings each evening at theaters, most likely at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. That would also mean about three daytime showings, beginning at 10 a.m., for a total of five shows a day in each auditorium. Typically a theater operator needs half an hour between shows with the lights up to move people out and get the auditorium cleaned, and then another 20 minutes with the lights down for trailers, in-theater advertising and other promotions and announcements.
"Avatar" will start with midnight screenings and play around the clock at first, but that is expected to be the case only for the first few days, after which it will play a normal pattern of runs.
It is unclear exactly how many theaters "Avatar" will open in, but Snyder estimates it will play in 3D in about 2,500 locations on about 3,500 screens. It will also be available in about 1,500 other locations in 2D, where it could play multiple screens in each theater complex. That would indicate an opening on a minimum of 5,500 screens and possibly significantly more, and that's just in the U.S. It will also open in theaters in countries around the world.
The Story Behind Avatar
From Jim Cameron's brain to our cinemas...
By James White | Source: totalfilm.com
November 2009 - Following years of anticipation, bucketloads of hype, several trailers and an entire day dedicated to screening chunks of it, James Cameron's latest is finally about to hit our screens. Easily the most discussed film of the year, Avatar has been a long time coming, not least because Cameron first got the idea more than a decade ago. He's had to wait all this time for technology to catch up to his vision of a strange alien world and the war for its precious resources, and has invented a lot of it to push everything from cameras to 3D techniques forward.
Cameron: From Literature To Cinema
To get to the root of Avatar's genesis, you have to go back. No, back even further than James Cameron's first stab at cranking the film's story out of his pulsing, imagination-stocked brain. The young JC was a voracious reader, devouring SF literature like a story vacuum. "I spent all my free time in the town library and read an awful lot of science fiction. The line between fantasy and reality blurred," Cameron has said. "I read so voraciously. It was tonnage. I rode a school bus for an hour each way in high school, so I had two hours a day on the bus and tried to read a book a day.
"I averaged a book every other day, but if I got really interested in something it was propped up behind my math book or my science book all during the day in class." Eventually, that young, novel-obsessed child would grow up to be a slightly older, film-obsessed wannabe director who would get his cinematic start on B-movies before a fever dream about a killer robot helped launch him on a stellar career.
The Legendary Scriptment
"Welcome to JOSH SULLY'S world. "It is a century from now, and the population of our tired planet has tripled. Finally, drowning in its own toxic waste, starvation and poverty, the population has topped out at a nice even 20 billion. "The Earth is dying, covered with a gray mold of human civilization. Even the moon is spiderwebbed with city lights on its dark side.
"Overpopulation, over- development, nuclear terrorism, environmental warfare tactics, radiation leakage from power plants and waste dumps, toxic waste, air pollution, deforestation, pollution and overfishing of the oceans, global warming, ozone depletion, loss of biodiversity through extinction... "…All of these have combined to make the once green and beautiful planet a terminal cesspool."
Building The Tech
It's perhaps not that surprising that, like similarly the gadget-happy Robert Zemeckis, Cameron would be one of the earliest proponents of filmmaking capabilities such as 3D. For many years, 3D had been consigned to the dustin of history, written off as a gimmick best suited to 1950s schlock horror and bad Jaws sequels. But 10 years ago, James Cameron was still thinking about it.
Driven by frustration with current techniques - something he'd experienced first hand while making the Terminator 3D ride for Universal Studios theme parks - Cameron and former Abyss crew member Vince Pace challenged themselves to make something better - quicker, sleeker and easier to use. Part of his inspiration was a rough plan to shoot a Mars movie that would convince people to restart plans to explore the place (it's another of his big passions). He even planned to ride into space aboard the shuttle. Before he could take his camera to space, he tested it under the sea, and the results were stunning.
Between The Angel And The Avatar
It might seem now like Cameron leapt straight from getting the technology sorted beneath the ocean to dusting off the Avatar scriptment and seeing if it could still work as a film. In truth, while he did do that, he wasn't just working on Avatar. Nope, he had also purchased the rights to Manga series Battle Angel Alita. A few years ago, Cameron had decided to develop both projects side by side, shadowing Avatar in the code title Project 880 and dropping hints about Battle Angel.
Both films would employ similar technology, and the development of each would feed the other. Keeping his cards close to his chest (what's new?) Cameron began to drop hints that the Manga adaptation would be next. "We didn't have the new camera system at that time. We'll use it on the feature, which we're in pre-production for right now," he told IGN in 2004. "It's called Battle Angel and it's a big science fiction film. The differences are very minor, mostly in terms of usability. The viewer won't see any difference, though."
Tracking Down The Na'Vi (And Some Humans)
Technology is a wonderful thing, but it can't quite yet create human performance out of thin air (though we're sure Jim's working on that one too). No, to bring the characters of Avatar to life, Cameron required some actors. "We were making a $200 million-plus movie and it's all about the journey of one guy, Jake, and he’s in every scene in the film, from beginning to end. It all hangs on that one piece of casting," says the director.
Cameron saw hundreds of actors, established and unknowns, but he needed someone who fit the role. Then he saw Sam Worthington's audition tape with a scene in which he has one line, "Uh huh." "Sam had me at 'Uh huh,' " Cameron told the audience at the Australian Film Awards, where he was presenting a gong to his star. "He's an old-school tough guy, and that's what I needed for this film. “Sam is able to create a character that allows you to walk in his shoes. He’s so good at communicating his emotions without appearing to do anything.
Getting It Made
Avatar's shoot was long - a couple of years at least for just the physical aspect of production - and split between regular footage with some green screen work that was shot in New Zealand and work on the performance capture "volume" - a featureless space created in hangars in the Playa del Rey area just south of Los Angeles. The cast - at least when they were working as Avatars - were dressed in tight velcro suits with dots all over and cameras attached to their heads.
Cameras around the room also captured footage and uploaded it to computers, which spat out real-time (if basic) versions of the virtual world and characters for Cameron to see even as he captured shots. The raw cg-enhanced work would then be shipped off to various places, including Digital Domain and Weta digital to be turned into finished shots. Weta's name is an important one, since the company's stunning work on Lord Of The Rings was an inspiration for Cameron.
The Long Slog And The Comic-Con Challenge
“In the most important respects as a director, I’m 100 per cent done because the film is shot and edited,” Cameron has said recently. “My job for the next few months until we deliver at the end of November is more as a visual effects person, working to make sure that the shots look real, that they’re all up to an even standard.” “In terms of a film’s cut, the studio has seen it. They were pretty happy with it." "There are whole sections of the film that are actually done. It’s just a question of getting in some of the remaining scenes from what we call template level where it looks like a video game up to the level of photo-realism.
"All the template stuff was turned over to Weta like a year ago or in some cases, six months ago for the shots that will come in last. The process is quite labor intensive. I’m working 14, 16 hours a day but all the major creative decisions have been made.” But before that ever happened, there was the marking campaign to think about. The big problem with being such a perfectionist about your work is having to actually give it up for others to see, particularly if you're not sure it's ready.
Trailer Trashed And A Day To Remember
With so many films being made from toys or remade from old horror/sci-fi and other movies, Avatar is a refreshing change - a largely original idea. But even James Cameron realised the challenges attached. "It’s simultaneously one of the great strengths and one of the potential weaknesses. We have no brand value. We have to create that brand value," he explains. "Avatar means something to that group of fans that know this film is coming, but to the other 99% of the public it’s a nonsense word and we have to hope we can educate them.
Well, I shouldn’t say a nonsense word – it doesn’t mean anything specific in terms of a brand association. "And in fact there may be even a slight negative one because more people know about the Saturday morning cartoon, the anime, than about this particular film. We’ve got to create that brand from scratch. "On the other hand, ultimately, it is probably the film’s greatest strength in the long run. We’ve had these big, money-making franchise films for a long time, Star Trek and Star Wars, you know, Harry Potter, and there’s a certain sort of comfort factor in that; you know what you’re going to get.
As the old saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. In the case of Avatar's release and possible success, the proof will be in the release and whether it can catch the public's imagination beyond the core sci-fi audience. But Cameron, don't forget, has been here before. He faced the pressure of following up The Terminator with T2: Judgement Day. And then there was Titanic - bogged down with delays, technical problems, unhappy crew members, awful storm conditions and studio worries.
Moving a Mountain
By John Horn and Claudia Eller
November 2009 - Epic or epic failure? Game changer or the Great Hype Machine? All eyes are on "Avatar," and two of the top reporters in Hollywood, John Horn and Claudia Eller, check in with a survey of the sensation in a story that ran on the front page of today's Los Angeles Times. Here's an excerpt.
Inside a dark mixing stage at 20th Century Fox a few weeks ago, writer-director James Cameron, surrounded by nearly a dozen colleagues, stared at a clip from his upcoming movie, "Avatar," unhappy with the look of the precipitous peaks on the horizon. Circling the summits with a red laser pointer and speaking to his computer-effects team at Weta Digital in New Zealand via videoconference, Cameron came up with a Muhammad-like solution: Shift the mountains to the left.
"Moving a mountain," the 55-year-old filmmaker said, laughing, "is nothing." Such bravado might be expected from the man who declared, "I'm the king of the world!" during the Academy Awards 11 years ago, when his last feature film, "Titanic," collected 11 Oscars. It was the highest-grossing movie in cinema history.
Throughout his career, in films such as "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" and "The Abyss," Cameron has used eye-popping digital effects to create worlds and characters. But he never has attempted anything as creatively and commercially ambitious as "Avatar," a groundbreaking combination of 3-D filmmaking, photo-realistic computer animation and live-action drama that opens Dec. 18. "Avatar," a futuristic thriller, may be Hollywood's most expensive movie ever, and many in the industry fervently hope it will transform 21st century moviemaking the way sound and color did decades ago.