Art as Inspiration: How James Cameron’s Life Changed After 2001: A Space Odyssey

The 13-year-old bookworm from Ontario was inspired after seeing Stanley Kubrick's 1968 masterpiece.

Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) inspired 13-year-old James Cameron so much that he saw it several times during its theatrical run.

James Cameron was a 13-year-old bookworm from a suburb of Niagara Falls, Ontario, when a film came out that would change his world.


He had always been interested in the sciences — specifically the oceans and the creatures that lived within them — but science-fiction books were also a passion.


So when 2001: A Space Odyssey released — a film based on a familiar story from one of those books — Cameron knew he had to see it opening week in Toronto. Despite the film triggering a case of vertigo, he was changed forever by what film could achieve.


Years later, when James was a 22-year-old truck driver, he would research many of the revolutionary techniques that created the film, learning how to achieve them himself, as told in the premiere episode of BLOCKBUSTER: THE STORY OF JAMES CAMERON — the award-winning "biopic podcast" series, starring The Walking Dead's Ross Marquand, from filmmaker and journalist Matt Schrader.



You can subscribe and listen to BLOCKBUSTER free on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, and all other platforms. BLOCKBUSTER is winner of Adweek's Creative Podcast of the Year, and earned two Webby Honorees and NYF Radio Awards, including for Best Podcast Miniseries.


Front projection was one technique James learned about at the University of Southern California's film school. He would photocopy research to create his own binders of filmmaking techniques.


"It’s a film that I love," Cameron told The Star as recently as 2018. "It had an had an enormous, enormous impact on me.”


Then, he saw another film: Star Wars. As he left the theater, James vowed he'd make Xenogenesis, a script he and friend Randy Frakes had been writing.


In the next few months, James, Randy and friend Bill Wisher raised money from some dentists to create a short film that would be their "calling card." It employed a handful of then-innovative techniques, but failed to land them the jobs they'd hoped it would.


Instead, James brought the film to an interview at New World Pictures, a small studio that made low-budget "B-movies," owned by producer Roger Corman. Some of the crew sat in to watch Xenogenesis, and were blown away by the detail.


James was hired on the spot to work in New World Pictures' prop department, where he began to impress his supervisors, as well as Roger Corman himself.


You can subscribe and listen to BLOCKBUSTER free on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, as well as all other platforms. BLOCKBUSTER is winner of Adweek's Creative Podcast of the Year, and earned two Webby Honorees and NYF Radio Awards, including for Best Miniseries.


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