The three “Avatar” sequels that James Cameron intends to film simultaneously are obviously monumental tasks unto themselves, but there’s even more to making them possible than shooting them back-to-back-to-back.
As Cameron explained to the Hero Complex Film Festival (as transcribed by /Film), the project required three studio approved scripts, which is why he took an entirely different approach to writing the next adventures on Pandora.
When the director announced his plans to film all three movies at once, the news came with a team of writers — Josh Friedman, Rick Jaff and Amanda Silver, and Shane Salerno — that would each take on co-writing duties with Cameron on one of the planned films.
What we didn’t know was that when he was developing the stories with the writers, Cameron didn’t clue them in on which specific film they’d work on, instead keeping everyone in the dark and creating a “highly collaborative, fun experience” like a television writers’ room. This is essentially how Vince Gilligan worked through “Breaking Bad.” He was the keeper of the keys but worked closely with a team of writers to refine the story, before handing off individual episode scripts to specific scribes.
“What we did that was unique was we sat in the writing room for five months, eight hours a day, and we worked out every beat of the story across all three films so it all connects as one, sort of, three film saga,” Cameron said. “And I didn’t tell them which one was going to be there’s individually to write until the last day. So everyone was equally invested, story wise, in all three films.”
The team started with 1,500 pages of notes that Cameron wrote himself about the details about Pandora and its different aspects of life. Turning all of those ideas into three films is what the writing team spent five months doing.
Considering just how good television has been for the past decade, it will be interesting to see what effects this kind of approach can have on film.
The first “Avatar” sequel is set to open in December 2016.