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Disruptive technologies have driven but not changed the fundamentals of storytelling, says James Cameron


By Jessica Davies, News Editor

May 29, 2013 | 3 min read

Disruptive technologies have shaped and driven, but ultimately not changed the fundamentals of storytelling, according to film director James Cameron.

Speaking at SapientNitro’s Idea Exchange (iEX) event in London on Wednesday, Cameron said pioneering technology has played a critical role in his films from Terminator 1 and 2 to Titanic and Avatar, resulting in a "dynamic entanglement" between technology and narrative.

Disruptive technologies including motion capture techniques used in Avatar have taken film making to the "cusp of the possible" and recognising what that is at the right time is vital to tech-driven stories, he said.

Technology has advanced to the stage in which anything is now possible, the only limitation being imagination, according to Cameron. "My consistent driver is curiosity," he added.

In an effort to highlight his own major contribution to the evolution of special effects within movies, Cameron presented a number of clips from his films, especially concentrating on the 'pseudopod' scene from The Abyss, the T1000 from Terminator 2 and the alien landscape of Avatar, of which he is currently making "at least" two sequels.

Although technologies have altered the face of traditional film-making they have caused filmmakers to evolve the process rather than change the essence of what they do, according to Cameron. "Innovation sparks ideals and further innovation, but the fundamentals of storytelling haven’t changed.

"There still needs to be a beginning, middle and end and they need to communicate powerful emotional experiences," he said.

"I am always looking for the unexpected," he explained while discussing the special effects process of Avatar. "We're at a point where we can pretty much do anything we can imagine so the limitation right now is imagination," he added when asked whether he as driven by the use if technology within his films.

He also said human decisions and artistry are at the heart of pioneering changes in technology, and that will continue to be the case when it comes to crating compelling stories and “connect” in a shared humanity invoked through storytelling.

Asked whether technology could ever take over directing films, he responded in the negative. "I've been saying this for a long time now that human minds make images first and then we use all the tools to craft it. The artistry is still there and it's still human based."

The two worlds of technology and exploration are both joined by a common thread – and that’s the storytelling, he added.

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