Saturday, January 9, 2010

James Cameron and Me

As I have often noted, it is frequently my lot to work with the right people on the wrong projects. Case in point: James Cameron. I just saw Avatar yesterday, in 3D, at the Hollywood Bowl, and it was an absolute knockout. If you want to know what it looks like to have $500,000,000 on the screeen, see it. I've worked with Jim, but not on Avatar. No, not on Titanic either. Or The Abyss or any of the Terminator movies for that matter. I worked on Piranha Part Two: The Spawning. I don't remember how many sound effects editors there were on that picture, but I was the last one.

Whatever I was getting paid -- if I was paid -- wasn't enough for me to quit my daytime security-guard job, so I'd come in at about three in the afternoon every day, by which time everyone was horribly behind in their work, so I was treated as a hero for bringing in another pair of hands.

I was in charge of laying in screams and chewing sounds, of which there were plenty. Jim was a perfectionist even then, and not satisfied with the quality of recorded chewing noises, we made our own. We filled a big tub of mushy oatmeal, and slapped a wooden spoon in it. We took pinking shears -- those fabric scissors with lots of criss-cross teeth -- and cut through sheets of cardboard as quickly as we could. When we matched up the sloshing oatmeal and the chomping cardboard, the effect was sickeningly convincing.

Of course, the movie itself wasn't all that convincing. The premise was that somehow piranhas had been crossed with flying fish and grunions, so you now had piranhas that could fly, and spawn on land. Sure, see it. But see Avatar first.

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