How a Mentor's Words Made a Huge Difference to James Cameron #RolexandCinema | SENATUS

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How a Mentor's Words Made a Huge Difference to James Cameron #RolexandCinema

16 November 2020

By Christian Barker

For James Cameron, his Rolex has always been a symbol of the enduring quest to discover the unknown. This counts not only for his work as a filmmaker but also as an explorer and Rolex Testimonee.

Not only does Cameron use and test Rolex's tool watches to the very limit of their performance, but he is also a passionate believer in mentorship who cites several experiences in this area as pivotal moments in his career.

Rolex Testimonee James Cameron and his Rolex Deepsea
His Oyster Perpetual Rolex Deepsea in Oystersteel with a black ceramic bezel and an Oyster bracelet
features a D-blue dial and large luminescent hour markers.
Waterproof to a depth of 12,800 feet (3,900 metres) with a unidirectional 60-minute rotatable bezel,
the Rolex Deepsea is amongst the ultra-resistant divers’ watches
engineered by Rolex for deep-sea exploration. Find out more.

As befits the director of Titanic and The Abyss, Cameron is an enthusiastic explorer of the ocean's depths. He has made a dozen submersible dives to the wreckage of the ill-fated oceanliner while working on his top-grossing, Oscar-sweeping film about the Titanic.

Subsequently, he was spurred to go further, co-developing a state-of-the-art sub that could dive to the earth's deepest point, 11km below the Pacific Ocean's surface in the Mariana Trench.

The Pinnacle of Professional Divers' Watches
The Rolex Deepsea was built to go far deeper
than what an unprotected diver
has, will, or can ever go.
It was first released in 2008, and a decade later,
has received a significant movement upgrade
and changes to its design for 2018.

On this epic 2012 expedition, dubbed the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE, the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER submersible carried an experimental divers' watch, the ROLEX DEEPSEA CHALLENGE, on its robotic manipulator arm on the exterior. The timepiece worked perfectly throughout the dive at extreme pressures, confirming Rolex's position as the leading brand in waterproofness.



Conquering The Deep with Rolex 
How Rolex has met the demands of human exploration of the ocean with cutting-edge diving technology, from the Oyster Perpetual Submariner, Sea-Dweller to the depth-defying Rolex Deepsea.
Read Our Story


It's said that there's a same kind of intense environment, similar high "pressure" atmosphere on Cameron's sets, making mega-blockbusters such as Aliens, Avatar, Terminator and its sequel, Judgment Day. But the Canadian director takes a mellow approach to mentoring. "You can't force it on them. They have to want to hear what you have to share," he said. "The best way is to provide an environment to let them create within, and if they want your help, they'll ask for it. And if they don't, it's better to just stay back."

In an interview with Rolex, Cameron credited a high-school biology teacher at his alma mater in Niagara Falls, Stamford Collegiate, for first encouraging his passion for theatre.

"Mr McKenzie encouraged us crazy, fringe-type kids to express ourselves," Cameron said. "My school had never had a theatre arts programme so we created one. We would stay after school for hours to create a stage, put in lighting, build sets to put on plays. He created the framework and let us go."

The early supportive words of Ian McKenzie, who died in the 1980s, clearly struck a chord with Cameron. "He came up to me in the hallway one day and he said, 'You have unlimited potential,'" recalled Cameron. "When you're 14 and somebody tells you you have unlimited potential, that's a really cool thing to hear."

Cameron, who struggled at a school that was "jock-oriented", is living proof that teachers can have a critical effect on a student's future by providing support, mentorship and belief at just the right moment.

But it's not only in childhood where we benefit from this sort of encouragement. At various stages throughout life, Cameron said, "There's a torch of creativity that gets passed down and there's you standing there. You've got that torch in your hands for a moment. At a certain point you have to pass that torch on, and someone exploding with ideas and with passion and things to say that are relevant to their generation will take that torch and run with it."

Inspiration and information aren't solely transferred from the old to the young, or the master to the apprentice. "One of my favourite filmmakers was Stanley Kubrick," Cameron said, by way of example. "I made a pilgrimage to his house in England and got to tell him how important his work was to me. But he didn't want to talk about his old stuff. He was making a new movie called A.I. and wanted to pick my brain about how we did the visual effects in True Lies because he knew that there was this new thing with digital composites."

Cameron recalled, "I literally spent the day mentoring Stanley Kubrick. It was the most surreal experience. Stanley was like a sponge. Here is a guy who was almost 80 and still open and childlike, and all about the craft, all about learning how to do it and do it better."

Like fellow Rolex Testimonee Martin Scorsese, and numerous other leading filmmakers, Cameron got his start working for trailblazing producer, Roger Corman. It was a challenging environment, Cameron said, but one where he could learn the craft and rapidly advance from building special effects models and painting backdrops, to directing a feature film.

Despite now being one of the most successful producers and directors in Hollywood, and notwithstanding a reputation for perfectionism, Cameron still likes to create an experimental, collaborative environment on set.

"There's this idea that the auteur shows up with a perfect vision, but it doesn't work that way," he said. "Even somebody like myself who writes my own material, I come in with an out-of-focus picture and then I work with the artists to refine that picture. Getting the feedback from other artists is the important thing. I love to surround myself with the most talented people available and then just riff, just jam, like a jazz combo."

In Cameron's view, creatives owe a debt to those from whom they've learnt — and to those who'd learn from them. "We build on the shoulders of the people who came before us," he said. "We see the example, it excites us and we say, 'I want to do that', or my version of that. Then we have to pass on what we know to a new generation."

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