Deep seas, Design, Dark Knights and blending: James Cameron interview

Canadian filmmaker James Cameron was part of the team that won the 2012 Australian International Design Award of the Year last Friday night (20 July 2012) for the Deepsea Challenger Submarine. Before accepting this award, he spoke exclusively with Appliance Retailer editor Patrick Avenell about design, invention, Batman and his favourite appliance.

It’s a big effort to travel here for the Awards – why is it so important?

I came here because I thought it was so wonderful to honour my team. With this award you’re able to give them something that I can’t do. I can praise them all day long — I know what they went through in order to create this vehicle, I’m just so proud of them.

This is a great opportunity to draw some attention to what they did and what was done — right here in Sydney — with Australian engineering and design talent.

What are your thoughts on the Australian design experience?

I didn’t know what to expect in terms of what kind of talent pool was available, and what we found was very, very good engineers that knew their software and knew their design work. They knew their finite element analysis, but most of them had never worked on a submersible before; on a manned vehicle before. That didn’t bother us at all, we welcomed the opportunity of having people coming from outside that culture and looking in and saying, ‘Why did you do it this way? Why wouldn’t you do it this way?’, and what they didn’t know actually benefited them, because they were not mired in a certain perception of how do to things, and I think it sparked a lot of innovative thinking.

How much did you spend on the project?

A fraction of what a government project would have spent to do the same thing.

Compared to one of your movies?

A very, very tiny fraction of one of my movies, but that’s other people’s money – I like [spending] ‘OPM’ rather than my own money.

Did you learn anything from this process that could be used in consumer products?

[Cameron reflects on the other finalists] All these other things are products, our Sub is not a product unless you want to pony up some major dollars — it was obviously an experimental, prototypical vehicle, but what emerges from it is technology, like our new syntactic foam. We are marketing that under the name Isofloat, and it’s patented.

We’ve patented a number of other bits of technology within the greater vehicle project: our fibre optic through hole penetrators can withstand up to 30,000 PSI (pounds per square inch) — there will probably be applications for that — whether it’s in industry or other deep ocean vehicles or in aerospace

We believe that materials and products will come out of the kind of investigation we are doing, even if we’re not taking orders to sell Deepsea Challenger vehicles.

The Dark Knight Rises director Christopher Nolan has chosen not to make his films in 3D — what are your thoughts on that?

I think it’s great, it proves that cinema is still an artform and it’s not a process of a bunch of suits in an office figuring out what is art and what isn’t.

You’ve got artists who have opinions: some people like to paint a certain way, some people like to do photography in black and white.

For me personally, Chris Nolan’s decision to shoot in IMAX and to go for resolution versus spatial depth is a highly defensible position as an artist, he’s just reacting subjectively to what he sees and what he likes, and God bless that kind of diversity, but it’s also not his position to dictate what other people should do either, or where the industry should go. Every 3D projector is also a 2D projector, so it’s not like we’re closing any doors on anyone’s aesthetic.

Have you seen The Dark Knight Rises?

I haven’t seen The Dark Knight Rises, I’m dying to see it, I’ve been on the move the last few days. The lines must be around the block: I think I’ll wait until it dies down in a few months from now.

Are you an avid film watcher?

Oh yeah, and I love it when the film community celebrates something that is a phenomenon like that and gets excited about movies and the possibility of movies. I don’t mean just the moneymaking possibility but the power that movies have to get an entire global culture excited: that’s pretty cool.

What’s your favourite appliance?

My favourite appliance right now is my Vitamix blender. You could blend a bowling ball with that thing: it’s unbelievable. You could stick anything in that thing and it will blend it up.

Right now I’m on a completely plant-based diet — no meat, no dairy — so I put celery and spinach and fruit and everything in it and I drink these green smoothies and it gives you unbelievable energy; it’s really astonishing what you can do with these things.

James Cameron is also quoted in thisAppliance Retailer article: 3D TV take-up is sluggish but a 3D iPad will change everything: James Cameron

James Cameron is widely regarded as the most successful filmmaker of all time. His credits include Avatar, Titanic, The Abyss, True Lies, The Terminator and Aliens.

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