Sanctum‘sAustralian director Alister Grierson’s has one source of audience bait: James Cameron‘s name in enormous, bold font in the center of his billboards. The multi-Oscar winning director/writer/producer acts as an EP on this shipwreck of a film (pun INTENDED) about stranded (!!!) scuba divers. Sanctum is a not a Cameron film, it’s very much a project that he sat back on and lent his name to, but what kind of fool forgoes an opportunity to speak with James Cameron?

We were fortunate enough to sit down with the filmmaker to discuss his film. Check out the interview below…

You’ve clearly taken particular interest in water related adventure films, shipwrecks specifically. There’s talk that you’ve considered making a documentary on the subject…

James Cameron: We love shipwrecks. There are plenty of good ones still out there! The Ed Fitz is one I’ve wanted to explore because we have the technology and robotics to go inside and map the material and so on, but we’ve already done that with Titanic. It’d be great to go look for the Indianapolis, the other midway wrecks. The thing fore me is I’ve kind of had an epiphany over the last year, that I could do that kind of exploring which is really archeology slash history for the rest of my life, and have great fun doing it. But the aftermath of Avatar was that there was this really tremendous feet back from the environmental community.

I had an opportunity to help them put a spot light on issues that weren’t getting enough media attention. There’s a mission in this, I need to focus on that and quit exploring shipwrecks, quite frankly. I also feel like as a civilization we’re heading towards a cliff with issues of energy and climate change – these are thing that have concerned me for most of my adult life. I want do docs, if I’m going to put that time and energy in a doc, it should be on those subjects. It should do some tangible good in areas that I’m deeply concerned about – so shipwrecks are gonna wait.

Like the majority of your films, Sanctum features a story of survival…

James Cameron: Yeah, we wanted to do a survival story. We were researching the psychology of survival before we crafted the story. It was based on something that happened to Andrew, but we jumped off from that to tell a fictional story. Its based in true events, both the things that happened to Andrew and incidents that happenedon other cave diving exhibitions. Everything you see happened to somebody somewhere. In crafting the story we studied to psychology of survival. We wanted to get into that thing that happens inside people where they have to adjust to a situation that appears completely hopeless. Some people can make that adjustment, some can’t. Some people become more heroic then they could’ve imagined, other people who you think of as leaders can become quite cowardly. I think the appeal for audiences in general is to test themselves against the circumstances of the film. What would I do? I can barely breath watching this let a lone do it?

George’s moment of decompression sickness is one of the most gripping scenes in the picture, can you elaborate on what exactly DCS entails?

James Cameron: You got a bottle of coke, you pop the lid. Bubbles form, why? Because the cap was keeping the pressure on the gas that was in solution. When you scuba dive, you’re breathing gas under pressure, it goes into your blood. In solution, no problem, it’ll come back out slowly if you surface slowly. If you come up too fast it’s like popping that lid – bubbles form in your blood stream, lights out. So, that’s what DCS is. It manifests itself in extreme pain- all the things you saw George going through. It happened because they surfaced too fast. Every diver would know and think the movie is wasting too much time explaining it – but its very hard to bring an audience up to speed with that.

I think it’s safe to argue that you’re a bonafide diver/underwater explorer. Any crazy discoveries over the years?

James Cameron:  Absolutely. Almost anytime you dive you see something you haven’t seen before. Doesn’t mean science hasn’t seen it before, but the diver probably hasn’t seen it. If you’re observant there will always be some damn thing you haven’t seen before, some critter. When you dive in the deep ocean like we did on some of our exhibitions, you might see things that nobody has ever seen before – and we did!We imaged some creatures that when we came back and showed it to the marine biologists, they said “We don’t know what that is, sure wish you woulda caught it”it was 7 ft in diameter! How we gonna catch it?

The movie was almost entirely critter-free, any particular reason?

James Cameron: There aren’t many caves. We didn’t focus on that because we didn’t want it to be about that, about animals. We didn’t want people thinking we were leaning towards a monster story. We stayed away from the super natural other than a couple of shots of the Shaman to give it a little bit of an aura. But we weren’t saying there were demons or monsters in the cave. We wanted to make sure people understood this was a human story, a human drama of people trying to survive in a hopeless situation.

The entertainment industry on the whole will argue that you’ve revolutionized 3D film. What’s your honing process like along the lines of cameras?

James Cameron: Every time my cameras go out on a movie – in this case one of my own films, or others like Tron – every time they go out we learn something new. And we take what we know and put it into the next generation of camera. So we’re constantly improving, it’s like building a race car, racing it and running back to the shop and working with it some more, tinkering with it to improve it. We get a lot of feedback from filmmakers and directors of photography. The cameras are smaller, lighter, smarter, doing more of the work for the crew. What I wanna see is everybody able to use them. It’ll lift the entire market, I don’t want to just be associated with a few good 3D movies and have audiences say the other ones are crap. Everyone is gonna do their 3D slightly differently, the same way people deal with color differently. You have to think of 3D like color or sound, a part of the creative palette that we paint with. Not this whole new thing that redefines the medium. That’s why people get stuck.

The film has a nationwide release Friday, February 4th. Check back for the review!

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