I was listening to NPR’s TED Radio Hour while flying last week, and I came across a really interesting interview with filmmaker James Cameron.
Cameron got involved with deep see exploration after filming the opening scenes for his blockbuster Titanic. I always assumed his involvement with submarine exploration was incidental – he made Titanic, and in shooting scenes of the wreckage, fell in love with the deep ocean, and continued pursuing it as a hobby. I discovered in the interview that deep sea voyages weren’t incidental to the making of Titanic, but the making of the movie was instrumental in furthering Cameron’s exploratory ambitions. That is, Cameron made the film because he desperately wanted to take a manned submersible to the bottom of the sea, and he didn’t know of any other way to make it happen.
Cameron had a dream, but his skill set and career were not apparently aligned with its realization. Someone good at making popular movies has no clear path to living the life of Sir Edmund Hillary. Yet Cameron wouldn’t let his dream die. He needed a lot of money, information, and collaboration to make it happen. He says in the interview (paraphrasing), “I didn’t know how to get anyone to fund an underwater expedition. I did know how to get studio execs to fund a movie about Titanic, and I convinced them I needed to visit the wreckage for some of the shots.”
One of the highest grossing films of all time turns out to have been a pretext to get one director into an expensive submarine. Cameron is thought of as a film guy, through and through. But in his interview, it was clear that he thinks of himself as an explorer, and making movies is just one of the powerful tools in his arsenal; an instrument that helps him further his explorations. He has since gone on many expeditions, and has personally been deeper than any human ever has.
There are a lot of things to ponder in this story. The thing that sticks out to me is Cameron’s creativity. More creative than the movies themselves is the way in which he used them as a means to get to an end seemingly unconnected to film. He had a goal, he had skills and connections, and rather than just assume artists aren’t equipped to be explorers, he found a way to use what he knew to access a world he didn’t. That’s creativity.
What do you want to achieve? What means are at your disposal? What are some unlikely ways you might be able to use what you know as an instrument to achieve what you want?