James Cameron’s First Flop Didn’t End His Career
I am super inspired by this horrible movie called “Piranha 2: The Spawning. ” Why? Because it was directed by James Cameron, a household name in blockbuster movies. It’s a horror movie about flying fish that attack people. Here is a clip:
So why the heck does this crap inspire me? Because so many aspiring filmmakers become control freaks, perfectionists, and cowards when it comes to just making a feature film. In fact many talented movie makers keep making shorts and going to festivals and never just shooting a darn 90 minute thing that they could sell or have people watch together on a Friday night.
Most people have the same common fear, that a bad feature will end their career before it starts.
Cameron is a great example of the reality of the film business. Making a bad feature, even if it really really sucks… is better than making a brilliant short. As he says, “you can leverage that and call yourself a director” even if the movie sucks. It’s also inspiring to allow yourself the experience of making a feature and knowing that over time you can get better and better.
And you can do the exact same thing, even if you don’t think you are “talented” or “connected” in the film biz.
Cameron is also a great example to follow because he never went to film school. In fact he read a lot of books at the USC library and just started shooting stuff. In a late 90s interview, when asked if kids should go to film school Cameron said:
One of the best things that happened to me was that I didn’t go to film school. I used to go down to the USC library and read everything. I’d Xerox stuff. I made my own reference library of doctoral dissertations on optical printing and all that. I really studied technical stuff formally. But I didn’t study film aesthetics because I figured it becomes too solipsistic. It’s just about other movies. You need training; you need mentoring. And you need life experience. I was living life for a few years, hanging out with my druggie buddies down in Orange County, and studying physics and doing a lot of reading and traveling. So you have something to say, and some real-world experience that’s not just based on other movies.
The main thing is just picking up a camera and making a film. That’s the most important thing. People say, “How do you get to be a filmmaker?” I say, “Go home, pick up your video camera, and make a film.” Well, it’s on video, it doesn’t matter. But it’s an image; you’re deciding what goes into that image. People say, “Well, where am I gonna get the money?” Fuck the money. Get some people and just make a film. Because if you make a film and you put your name on it that says “Directed by,” even if it’s the worst piece of crap in the world and cost no money, everything after that, you’re a director. You’re just haggling over your price, you know what I mean? [Laughs.] And the budget. It scales up from there, but you’ve defined yourself in that role. If you can’t define yourself in that role to yourself, then you’re just chippin’ away at it, not really doing it.
The full interview is available here: http://www.industrycentral.net/director_interviews/JC01.HTM
Cameron’s advice is great.
Unfortunately, a lot of great filmmakers will tell you to just go grab a camera and make a movie, but few will tell you how, especially in the modern age of filmmaking. That’s why I created Film School Secrets. It will show you exactly how to put together a real movie and get on real film sets and start learning like a pro from day one, even if you have no experience.
We cover in practical detail everything from the script to building a filmmaking team to using the internet for distribution. We don’t guarantee anyone will become as big as James Cameron, but we do guarantee this course will give you the very best start on your path to being a filmmaker.
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