'Avatar's James Cameron Wrote 3 'Avatar' Films Simultaneously & We Want It To Stop
James Cameron needs to calm down. It's been clear since the first Avatar movie that he wanted to be the Peter Jackson of blue forrest people, but this just sounds exhausting: Cameron wrote all three Avatar sequels at the same time. So, yes, we'll definitely be getting three of them. And everyone will be very, very tired by the end.
Cameron described the experience of writing three epics simultaneously at the Los Angeles Times' Hero Complex Film Festival, noting that there was such a big workload he had to bring in a bunch of other writers. That's not unusual for a big Hollywood feature, but it's interesting to hear him compare the experience to his work on Dark Angel, and television in general:
We tried an experiment. We set ourselves a challenge of writing three films at the same time. And I could certainly write any one of them but to write three in some reasonable amount of time – we wanted to shoot them together so we couldn’t start one until all three scripts were done and approved. So I knew I was going to have to 'parallel process' which meant I would have to work with other writers. And the best experience I had working with other writers was in television when I did Dark Angel. The television room is a highly collaborative, fun experience.
And he certainly sounds psyched about what he describes as "groundbreaking storytelling" methods, supposedly to couple with the groundbreaking effects the first Avatar was famous for.
But what we did that was unique was we sat in the writing room for five months, eight hours a day, and we worked out every beat of the story across all three films so it all connects as one, sort of, three film saga. And I didn’t tell them which one was going to be there’s individually to write until the last day. So everyone was equally invested, story wise, in all three films.
So, for example, the guy that got movie three, which is middle one of this new trilogy, he now knows exactly what preceded and what follows out of what he’s writing at any given moment. We all consider that to be a really exciting, creative and groundbreaking experiment in screenwriting. I don’t know if that necessarily yields great scripts but it certainly worked for us as a process to get our minds around this kind of epic with all these new creatures, environments and characters and all that.
Certain blockbusters are, in a way, starting to look more and more like crazy-high-budget television these days: The Hollywood Reporter recently described Marvel head Kevin Feige as the "showrunner" of the Marvel universe. And as the dictators of the mythology and through-line of all these movies, people like Feige and Cameron kind of are like mega-budget showrunners. It'll be interesting to see how that plays out for a saga like Avatar, which audiences haven't really thought all that much about since it swung into movie theaters in 2009.