SDCC: Rare panel with Cameron and Jackson on film's future

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

After a long day in Hall H featuring some of Comic-Con's most highly anticipated films and filmmakers, Entertainment Weekly ended Friday on a triumphant note with its Visionaries panel, in which directors Peter Jackson and James Cameron joined moderator Jeff Giles for an hourlong discussion about their work. The two filmmakers, each of whom was attending to promote other projects, discussed his current and upcoming slate while revealing tidbits about his own creative processes and collaborations.

The panel began unassumingly, with Giles asking deliberately softball questions to ease the two thoughtful filmmakers into a comfortable space where he could delve deeper into their collective creativity. But just eight minutes or so after they began, an odd-looking fellow with a supersoaker-like pistol walked on stage and asked for a drink of Jackson's water. He was quickly escorted off the stage, and neither the filmmakers nor the audience knew quite what to make of the spectacle, other than its momentary bizarreness.

Cameron reiterated his thoughts from Thursday about how Jackson's use of performance capture in the Lord of the Rings films, in particular the design of Gollum, proved to him that the technology had reached a point where he could fully realize Avatar on the screen.

Both directors talked about technological opportunities and limitations, but Cameron was most passionate about the idea of increasing frame rates for filming and projection, which he observed makes images sharper and more vivid.

Cameron and Jackson agreed that there's never been a moment in which they said something simply could not be done. Cameron used the analogy that he likes to lurk in the zone where something might be possible within a year or two, because that's when he feels he can do something unique. Jackson echoed the sentiment that it's part of the fun to find solutions to those kinds of challenges.

Both filmmakers also talked briefly about future projects. Asked about Temeraire, a Napoleonic-era book series about dragons, which Jackson recently obtained the rights for, he indicated it might be next on his schedule after he finishes the Hobbit films.

Meanwhile, Cameron said that the gestation period for the world of Avatar, rather than perhaps the idea for its story, lent itself well and easily to sequels if they're lucky enough to get the chance to do them. Cameron also talked about a prospective concert film to be shot for Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, but he said that thus far the only people who had used and taken advantage of his camera system were a few crews who used them to film sports—which, by his account, surpassed even their expectations.

As the panel came to a close, fans offered their appreciation for Jackson and Cameron's work, asking smart and mature questions of two filmmakers who have provided vast entertainment and creative fuel for the people who see their work. Announcing that the fellow who ambushed them on stage "had been taken to Guantanamo," Jackson ended the panel on a humorous note, once again prompting his audience to imagine a reality that sounds far more interesting than what was likely the reality.

(We'll have more later from Jackson about his upcoming film slate and District 9 from our sitdown at Comic-Con.)