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Meet: James Cameron

Film Writer, Director and Producer
Lightstorm Entertainment

photo of James Cameron

Born in Kapuskasing, Ontario, Canada, James Cameron grew up in Niagara Falls. He moved to Brea, California in 1971 where he studied physics at Fullerton College while working as a machinist and, later, a truck driver. Setting his sights on a career in film, Cameron quit his trucking job in 1978 and raised money from a consortium of dentists in Tustin, California, to produce a short film in 35mm. He served as producer, director, co-writer, editor, miniature builder, cinematographer and special effects supervisor on the production.

His work on the short film led to a position at Roger Corman's New World Pictures in 1980 on "BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS." In the frenzied world of low-budget guerrilla filmmaking, Cameron found a home on the production where he could wear many hats again, miniature builder, model unit DP and matte painter. Most importantly, he became the art director of the picture's main unit and found the energy of the set exhilarating.

Determined to direct, Cameron parlayed his Production Designer job on a subsequent Corman film, "GALAXY OF TERROR," into a stint as a Second Unit Director. When the production fell behind schedule, Corman asked him to shoot some dialogue scenes with principle cast. Finding the work with actors exciting, Cameron began preparing a script for himself to direct.

Cameron wrote "THE TERMINATOR" in 1982, hoping to couple his effects and design experience with a low-budget high-impact vehicle that could find independent financing. After two years of starvation, Cameron finally brought the film before cameras as a Hemdale/HBO co-production released by Orion. Though costing only $6 million, the film received international acclaim, appeared on numerous ten-best lists, including Time Magazine's, and made over $80 million worldwide.

While waiting for financing for "THE TERMINATOR," Cameron wrote two scripts to keep busy. In a three month period Cameron co-wrote (with Sylvester Stallone) "RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II" and a first draft of "ALIENS," the sequel to the 1979 science fiction classic, "ALIEN." "RAMBO II" later became an international mega-hit grossing over $250 million globally.

After the success of "THE TERMINATOR," Cameron agreed to direct "ALIENS" and plunged into production in 1985. The film was shot in England and released in Summer 1986. It received seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Actress for Sigourney Weaver. The film won for Best Visual Effects and for Best Sound Effects. "ALIENS" grossed over $180 million worldwide and ranks as one of the highest grossing R-rated films of all time. As a result, NATO, the National Association of Theater Owners, named Cameron Director of the Year in 1986. Time Magazine also featured the film on its cover.

Cameron wrote and directed his next project, the underwater epic, "THE ABYSS," in 1988-1989. The film took 18 months to complete and required the creation of two freshwater filming tanks, which totaled over 11 million gallons. It starred Ed Harris, Michael Biehn, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and received four Academy Award nominations. "THE ABYSS" won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects and grossed $110 million worldwide. Aside from being one of the most physically grueling and technically complex productions in history, "THE ABYSS" blazed a new trail for visual effects with the creation of photo-realistic computer animation unlike anything seen previously.

Next, Cameron co-wrote "POINT BREAK" with Kathryn Bigelow from an original script by Peter Iliff. Cameron served as Executive Producer on the film, while Bigelow directed. The film, released in Summer 1991, made close to $100 million worldwide. Subsequently, it topped the video rental charts for five weeks.

Concurrently with the pre-production of "POINT BREAK," Cameron completed the script "TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY" and began production in Fall of 1990 serving as writer, producer, and director.

"T2," as it came to be known globally, was completed in less than 12 months and became a new high-water mark for action- and visual-effects photography. Building on techniques pioneered in "THE ABYSS," Cameron worked with Industrial Light Magic to create computer animated images far beyond anything previously seen or imagined. The visual tour-de-force, coupled with the mega-presence of Arnold Schwarzenegger, propelled the film to over $500 million in worldwide grosses. Ancillary revenues, including worldwide video, TV and merchandising, brought the total revenues of the film close to one billion dollars.

In addition to box office success, the film received six Oscar nominations, of which it won four, for Make-up, Sound, Visual Effects and Sound Effects Editing. It also received the Ray Bradbury Award for Dramatic Screenwriting, five Saturn Awards for the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror and six MTV Movie Awards. "T2" also won the People's Choice Award as Favorite Motion Picture and took honors as the Video Software Dealers Association Awards and the first annual Laser Disc Awards.

Carolco Pictures produced "T2" in association with Cameron's production company, Lightstorm Entertainment. Subsequent to "T2," Lightstorm left the Carolco umbrella, and by May of 1992 Cameron had completed finance and distribution deals with Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Pictures, Jugendfilm in Germany, Nippon Herald in Japan, and Artisti Associati in Italy. He plans to produce two to three films a year, one of which he will direct.

In February 1993 Cameron formed Digital Domain, a visual effects and digital production studio with Academy Award winning character creator Stan Winston, renowned special effects studio executive Scott Ross and IBM. With the digital revolution firmly in hand, the company offers a full range of special effects services for feature films, television, commercials and simulator attractions and reserves the right to create its own intellectual properties for interactive entertainment and education.

Digital Domain's effects first appeared in the film "TRUE LIES," the Arnold Schwarzenegger/Jamie Lee Curtis action-comedy, in July 1994, which Cameron wrote, produced, and directed. "TRUE LIES" also served as the flagship film for Cameron's Lightstorm Entertainment, the first film under the company's multi-year worldwide distribution agreements. Currently, the film has grossed over $360 million globally.

With "TRUE LIES" Cameron had created an impressive body of work in the short span of five films. His vision and influence did not go unnoticed, for in March 1995, NATO, the same organization who awarded him the Director of the Year Award early on in his career, presented him with the Producer of the Year Award. In addition, the Laser Disc Association presented him with the Laser Beam Award for selling 500,000 units of his critically acclaimed laser discs.

In 1995, Lightstorm Entertainment produced the Kathryn Bigelow ("POINT BREAK") directed feature, "STRANGE DAYS," starring Ralph Fiennes and Angela Bassett with a script by Jim Cameron and Jay Cocks.

December 19, 1997, "TITANIC" was released. James Cameron wrote, directed, and produced the picture, which went on to gross over 1.5 billion dollars worldwide. "TITANIC" received a record-tying 14 Academy Awardİ nominations. It went on to win eleven, including Best Picture and Best Director.

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