If you're planning on shooting an independent 3D picture in the near future, just -- hold on. Wait. Take a breath, and ask yourself, "Will this film make 3D filmmaking look bad? Will it remind people of the bad horror flicks of the 70s and 80s? Will it, most importantly, disappoint James Francis Cameron?" Earlier this week, the Academy award-winning director sounded off at Mexico City’s technology forum TagDF about the current state of 3D, why Man of Steel and Iron Man 3 didn't need it, and how post-Avatar 3D films are cheapening the medium that he invented.
James Cameron didn't invent 3D? I'm sorry. He was talking as if he had.
When we think about the history of 3D filmmaking, we often refer to the early 1950s films, like House of Wax and Creature from the Black Lagoon (one of my favorites is Robot Monster,) but 3D films have been around for almost 100 years. What started out as a gimmick to draw audiences into theaters evolved into a sophisticated visual tool, granted, largely due to the work Cameron did on Avatar, and nobody understands that better than -- James Cameron himself.
Cameron definitely has a bone to pick with 3D filmmakers about not using 3D properly, even calling out recent big 3D action releases when he sat down to talk to director Alfonso Cuarón at TagDF:
The reason I say that Hollywood is not doing well is because it is automatic. For example, Man of Steel, Iron Man and all those movies should not necessarily be in 3D. If you spend 150 million on visual effects, the film is already going to be spectacular, perfect.
Wait -- didn't James Cameron resurrect the Titanic and sink it in a fake North Atlantic and build Pandora from the ground up for a sum of no less than $200 million each? I would say that's pretty -- spectacular. Why did those need to be filmed in/converted to 3D?
Also brought up in the discussion was the difference between shooting in 3D and converting to 3D. Cameron implies that the two are not equal, and laments about how after Avatar, every movie had to be in 3D (because Cameron made it so popular and awesome, you see.) We started seeing all of these 3D conversions, a lot of them bad -- and that just doesn't sit well with Cameron. But -- Titanic was converted and re-released in 3D.
Check out this video of Cameron speaking at TagDF. (It doesn't capture the full conversation, but you'll get the gist.)
Yes, James Cameron has a knack for helming visually remarkable films that create extreme worlds around seemingly normal people. I'll give him that. But his hubris and hypocrisy make his views on this subject laughable. Not only that, but his films are great because of the talented people who created the visual effects and developed the technology. His films would fall pretty flat if they relied solely on Cameron's screenwriting and directing ability.
Avatar changed 3D for the better. It helped evolve the medium from a niche sideshow attraction to a legitimate aesthetic device, and that's great. But, let's be real here. Film, especially independent film, is not about using the latest technology, casting the biggest stars, or bringing in tons of money. At least I hope not.
To me, film is about holding a mirror up to the human condition -- the human existence and guiding an audience through a narrative. Story is king, and whichever mechanism you choose to tell yours with, whether it's with 3D, a DSLR, a beautiful unknown actress, or through a non-linear narrative, is completely up to you. Those things don't necessarily make a movie great; a great story makes a movie great.
What do you think about James Cameron's comments? Do you agree/disagree? Where do you think 3D filmmaking is headed? Have you shot or are you planning on shooting a 3D film?