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Avatar crew are feeling blue

In my basket of go-to stories, there’s one about my former life that I consistently roll out.

The time I walked into famous Hollywood director [and South Wairarapa resident] James Cameron.

That’s basically the story. It’s not a classic three-act feature, but I promise you, it gets plenty of airtime.

Before I was a slave to the news, I was a slave to blockbuster films.

Completely by accident, but with no shortage of nepotism, I joined the Visual Effects [VFX] industry in Wellywood.

Five years passed in the blink of an eye so that when I emerged in 2021 like a malnourished goblin from the darkened cinema rooms, my 30s were unnervingly close.

My time in VFX as a ‘production person’ meant I spent most of my days running around [literally] with a laptop chasing up unsubstantial CG elements for my artists, so they could hit their targets, so we could send shots to the director, so that we could receive feedback and do it all over again the next day.

After 10 hours of cutting laps around the warehouse-sized building, I would spend my evenings buried in spreadsheets and databases – eyes too close to the screen, neck strained, a spine so curved it rivalled the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

And it was at the end of one of these days that I made physical contact with Cameron.

Charging out the door, yelling something [witty and amusing] over my shoulder to the receptionist, I ran straight into a slight, grey-haired man.

We both apologised – me profusely, he in a quiet North American accent.

And it was at that moment my brain clunked into gear, and I recognised who he was.

Throwing in a few more sorries, I ran away.

And that is my story – truly one for the ages.

This fit of nostalgic reminisce was prompted by a story from former Times-Age reporter Soumya Bhamidipati.

Soumya was speaking with a couple of the New Zealand cast members, including renowned actor Cliff Curtis, immediately after a preview screening of the much-hyped Avatar sequel.

Cameron, or “Jim” as they referred to him, was a real “pied-piper” in cinema, someone that knows how to push the audience’s emotional buttons.

It’s an apt description – Titanic destroys me, every time.

It has been five years since the Avatar sequel was shot, and seeing it on screen in its entirety apparently moved the actors to tears.

Their tears will be far from the only ones in this production.

It requires little to no imagination to see the waterfall of tears elicited by the post-production schedule.

The past three months have certainly been hell for those in VFX.

Production and artist alike working 80, 90, 100 hour weeks, sleep-deprived, delirious, the endless sound of coffee grinders echoing in the kitchens, punctuated by the odd hysterical laughter.

I remember those feverish days on other films. It was a time referred to as ‘the trenches’ with only the slightest trace of irony.

And it was the people on the hamster wheel that I’ll be thinking of when the movie opens in two weeks’ time and their sweat, blood, and tears when the reviews start rolling out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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