Transcending Cinema cc: James Cameron

December 22, 2009
Thinking long and hard about how he got to be a part of something this transcendent

Thinking long and hard about how he got to be a part of something this transcendent

Did you see “Avatar” this weekend? If not, please, just drop what you’re doing and go see it. Don’t even read the rest of this post. As much as I’d like to say that this post is transcendent, more than just a blog post, it’s really just a blog post. Whereas with “Avatar,” we’re talking about something that transcends being just a film; it’s an event, a cultural experience, a cinematic landmark. And see it in 3D at the IMAX for god’s sake. It’s well worth the 14 dollar price of admission that transcends being just a cheap date night.

Now, one thing this film doesn’t do, like “Paranormal Activity,” is send the marketing message that “big ideas trump big budgets.” After all, it did cost $400 million to make and market. But both movies are reminders that, for some films, you just have to be in the theater. Say all you want about how awesome blu-ray is; it’s not sufficient for these flicks. But while I was enamored with Paranormal Activity’s marketing and communal experience, it didn’t leave me in awe like “Avatar” did. I left wondering what was next for film and I don’t often do that. And, yes, this is a “big budget” project, but it is also undeniably a “big idea.” 

James Cameron last made a movie 12 years ago. That movie was “Titanic” and it won best picture and, to date, is the highest grossing film of all-time. Finally, I can understand what took him so long to release his next movie. Twelve years, though? In this great Wired article that you really ought to read instead of this, Joshua Davis writes on why it took so long: “The answer is that it’s not easy to out-Lucas George Lucas. Cameron needed to invent a suite of moviemaking technologies, push theaters nationwide to retool, and imagine every detail of an alien world.” It was also because he didn’t yet have “the holy grail of cameras,” which was needed to deliver this epic in both 2-D and 3-D.

Please read the Wired article for more details on Cameron’s incredible journey of getting “Avatar” on the big screens that included getting theater chains to adopt new technology, but my central point here is that we do not run across something everyday that will change the way things are done forever. MTV changed music. Barack Obama delivered one of those moments in the last year. Twitter and Facebook have changed the way we communicate. That Apple “1984” ad may have changed the way we advertise. The list goes on. But not that far. As marketers, we all strive for campaigns that will change the way our clients and marketing campaigns are looked at and done, respectively. “Avatar” has changed the way we experience movie going and upped the ante for just what is possible in pop culture. 

Did you see it? Am I just a film nut? Or better yet, what are other campaigns, events or moments that can be considered transcendent and just how do you know when you’re on to an idea that is capable of reaching that level?