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Avatar & The Way of Water: From The Mind of a Nature Lover, Deep Sea Explorer and a Pioneering Filmmaker

Tshakti |Friday, 16 Dec 2022 - 1:56 AM

Avatar-feature-1 (2)
Avatar-feature-1 (2)

Did you know that it was a dream that led filmmaker James Cameron to create the world-famous Avatar franchise?

A 19-year-old youngster once saw a bioluminescent forest in his dream one night and he was so inspired by the other worldly imagery that he took some colour pencils and oil pastels to lay it out on a paper. He held the magic that his mind unveiled so close to his heart that he aspired to make it a reality someday. Then in 1995, after he became a filmmaker, he looked to tell a story that happens on another planet and he incorporated his bioluminescent forest concept into that story and developed what is widely known today as James Cameron’s Avatar.

“Every piece of nature photography I’ve ever seen, every moment that I’ve spent in a forest up in Canada where I grew up, catching frogs and snakes, just wanting to be one with the forest. My time under water as a Scuba diver, spending hundreds of hours all over the world, seeing amazing colours and reef fish and various creatures… inspiration for Avatar came from all over the place, from my whole life,” shared Cameron when asked about the source of his thoughts behind his magnum opus. Not just that, he said that the film is also rooted in his “strong sense of outrage and injustice about what was happening to the natural world, to the indigenous cultures around the world, and what had happened to them historically during the colonial period, concern about the state of the world, the state of nature, cultural disconnect from nature and a lot more.” As a matter of intrigue, the film’s title, which means the incarnation of a soul in flesh, and the blue-skinned creatures, were influenced by his interest in Hindu mythology.

Avatar-feature-1 (1)

Being familiar with CG animation after making Aliens, The Abyss and Terminator films, and co-founding a visual effects facility called Digital Domain along with his colleague and special make-up effects creator Stan Winston, who is popular for his work on the Terminator, Predator and Jurassic Park franchises, Cameron thought, in 1995, that maybe it’s time to materialise the story of Avatar and asked his team to break down the logistics. But his team assessed the film’s technological needs and remarked “You’re basically out of your mind. We’re not going to be ready to do this for years.” So, Cameron had no choice but to wait for nearly 10 years for the technology to catch up with his ground-breaking vision. In the meantime, the nature lover dived into some deep ocean expeditions, during which he aided in the development of a few underwater videography technologies and a 3D Fusion Camera System.

Again in 2005, the futurist went back to his story of Avatar. He read the script once and decided “That’s it. This is my next film.” Then he spent a year and a half reshaping the script, designing the world, and building the tools and technology necessary to make the film. After having everything ready, Cameron approached 20th Century Fox production company to ask for $10 million funding to do a proof-of-concept video, which is like a demo to prove that his idea can be materialised. Between the possibility of making a never-seen-before $200 million movie or not taking the first step to test the uncharted waters, Fox chose the former and made history by championing an idea that went on to change the course of cinema forever. It was during the filming of the proof-of-concept video that the pioneering filmmaker and his team came up with the Image-based facial performance capture, which was a novel invention and made many things possible for bringing Cameron’s vision to life. He didn’t just wanted the audience to see the world of Pandora, but he wanted them to experience it, and that desire led him to kick-off a revolution in motion graphics and 3D animation as well.

When Avatar finally released on December 18, 2009, the whole world was in awe of the film’s transcendence. The world of Pandora inhabited by the blue-skinned indigenous species called the Na’vi, it’s unique biodiversity and ecosystem, the Omaticaya clan’s way of life and their deep connection with the nature, the giant Hometree, the floating mountains, bioluminescence of the forest and the Tree of Souls, Jake Sully’s self-discovery and his story of love with Neytiri, and for the people of Omaticaya, heart-wrenching conflict between the Na’vi and the RDA (which also underlines the Man vs Nature conflict)… everything made an unforgettable impression on the viewers minds, irrespective of age, race, religion or nationality. How did they do it? There's a whole library of videos and documentaries online to see the making of Cameron's motion picture par excellence.

Avatar went on to become the world’s highest-grossing film, and it still remains to be, till date. Following its phenomenal success, James Cameron announced the production of four sequels to Avatar in association with 20th Century Studios. Now, after 13 long years, the Academy Award-winning filmmaker returned with the second instalment in his film series — Avatar: The Way of Water — which is releasing in theatres in more than 165 languages across the world, on December 16, 2022.

Let’s take a ride, this time under water, into the world of Pandora and then try to get into the head of a filmmaking genius, Mr James Francis Cameron. We see you!

Updated date:  Friday, 16 Dec 2022 - 12:59 PM

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