An Intimate Evening with James Cameron and Avatar Science Advisors


Hey Avatar and James Cameron Fans,Click for Beckman Auditorium Info

I arrived in the Los Angeles area for WHR business on Tuesday April 27, 2010 precisely on time according to the “Five Minute Rule”.

What is the Five Minute Rule and what was the WHR business? Well the title of this news report gives the second answer. The Five Minute Rule is one of courtesy and respect in that when conducting business, whether personal or otherwise, never arrive more that five minutes early and never arrive more than five minutes late!

Click to visit 20th Century FoxThe WHR ‘Gate’ destination? The Beckman Auditorium on the campus of the California Institute of Technology located in Pasadena California where Twentieth Century Fox had sponsored us to see and meet none other that the creative genius James Cameron of motion picture fame.

Caltech Beckman Auditorium

The Caltech campus is a fantastically beautiful location for such an event. We include a few images from the environs as illustrated below.

Caltech Campus Beckman Causeway

Caltech Campus Beckman Environs

Caltech Campus Beckman Environs

If you are reading this far, you are most likely an aficionado of science fiction in general and James Cameron in specific. If you are not, well what can we say other than some Wormhole must have ‘Gated” you to the wrong planet and you can leave now!

Known for movie making history dating back to 1978 as a writer before the ground breaking 1984 movie “The Terminator”, followed in 1985 by “Rambo: First Blood” and 1986 with  “Aliens”, 1989 “The Abyss”, 1991 with “Terminator 2 Judgment Day” and involved in all “Terminator”production, including the characters in the “Terminator: Sarah Conner Chronicles TV series, and who can forget that he was the creator of the much loved “Dark Angel” series as well 2000-2002?

Everyone should remember James many accomplishments including the Academy Award sweeping 1997 blockbuster “Titanic” and the return of The Terminator in T-3 in 2003.

Further, on the event horizon are a number of new projects which include a re-make of the 1956 MGM Classic “Forbidden Planet“, a re-make of the 1966 classic “Fantastic Voyage” and “Terminator 5“!

Of interest is the Home Tree Initiative, where James Cameron has set a goal of planting one million trees to spur the public imagination with regard to raising awareness to counter the effects of global warming.

Avatar Home Tree Initiative

It goes almost without saying that his latest master stroke is the recently released to Blu-Ray and DVD of the 2009 computer character / “real life” movie characters mixture, Avatar!

Some fours years in the making at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, Avatar, Pandora, The Na’vi and the rare super conductor “Unobtainium” are all virtually household words across the entire planet Earth.

James Cameron Avatar at Caltech Beckman

And that is why WHR was there, to discuss James Cameron’s magic which has continued unabated for over 3 decades with no signs of letting up. In fact WHR will bring you some details of “Avatar 2” now in the development phase!

WHR was honored to be among a select group to be invited as Press to man the “Red Carpet” meet and greet line illustrated below.

Red Carpet at Caltech Beckman that is blue

We were also graced not only with an opportunity to meet Mr. Cameron, and discuss Avatar, but were allowed to ask specific questions about where “Avatar 2” may be headed in the future. (The movie has not been named and Avatar 2 is only a coined phrase used during the course of the intimate evening invested with James Cameron and four very special guests at the California Institute of Technology).

Pictured below are the Press set up before guest arrival.

Press setting up prior to guest arrival

Before delving into the details of Avatar and the fabulous potential in the future of “Avatar 2”, let us share the wonder of the four technical geniuses who we were also able to meet and chat with prior to the panel discussion.  These meetings occurred prior to the “Red Carpet” arrival of James Cameron and were wonderful all by themselves!

Avatar Panel Moderator Dr. Robert Hurt:

Dr. Hurt may be perhaps best known by the general public for his acclaimed ITunes podcast series “Hidden Universe” now available for more than two years. Dr. Hurt is much more than a “podcaster”.

Avatar Panel Moderator Dr. Robert Hurt of Caltech

An astronomer with the team at Caltech, he is famed in the science fact community for his interpretation of scientific data and relays his findings to the general public and the media. An articulate individual, Robert is the genius who transforms the observations from the Infrared Spitzer Space Telescope into visual imagery that all who love science fiction and fact have come to love in stark contrast to the turmoil permeating today’s world.

During our time with Dr. Hurt, we had the grand opportunity to discuss his love of Avatar but also his knowledge of NASA. My specific area of inquiry was whether he knew the scientists at the Houston Space Center, the Space Shuttle team, and if he was aware of the PhD and award winning Dr. Rajiv Kohli (one of many professional supporters of WHR) who played a leading role in the Shuttle wing repair kit in case of damage during lift-off. Dr. Hurt responded that he was aware of the program, but that as there are thousands of scientists in the NASA program and his role did not allow him to interact with all the contributors to the United States Space Program.

An eloquent individual well suited to public relations he was a perfect choice to moderate the evenings panel about the science fact versus science fiction in Avatar. I was quite impressed with Dr. Hurt’s presentation and deportment.

Dr. Jess Adkins:

An expert in Oceanography and Climate science, Dr. Adkins earned his PhD at MIT. After his accomplishments at MIT, Dr. Adkins followed with  post doctoral studies at Columbia and the University of Michigan he joined Caltech and ultimately was fully tenured holding joint appointments in the both the Geological and Planetary Sciences as well as the Engineering and Applied Science Divisions.

At one time a self declared drifter in the sciences, it was his time at the University of California Santa Barbara that lead to his dedication to underwater studies culminating in the doctoral thesis “Deep Sea Corals” which earned him a PhD that he is well deserving of.

Avatar Panel Specialist Dr. Jess Adkins
I found Dr. Adkins a very personable individual also well suited to interfacing with the media and general public. He had a smile on his face during the inevitable questions by some media such as his favorite science fiction movies and series. We will have more on Dr. Adkin’s affable personality during the panel discussion which occurred later in the evening.

Professor John Grotzinger:

Chief scientist for the Mars Rover “Opportunity”, Professor Grotzinger is an expert in the areas of geochemical, geologic, and geochronological sciences. As a member of the Mars Rover Science team, John was part of the team effort which proved the discovery of water on the planet Mars in 2004.

Avatar Panel Specialist Professor John Grotzinger

Now a lead scientist, Professor Grotzinger is in fact the Chief Scientist for the Mars Science Laboratory currently scheduled for launch in 2011.  The Mars Science Laboratory is a fantastic experiment that will “in-situ” search for traces of carbon and life on Mars. Currently John is the “Fletcher Jones” Professor of Geologic Science at Caltech.

Obviously an expert, his insight during the panel was outstanding. My question for Professor Grotzinger in the Red Carpet greeting line was related to which part of Avatar he liked best. As an expert in geology it was no surprise that he focused on “Unobtainium” and the geology thereof.

Dr. Jared Leadbetter:

Joining the team at Caltech in 2000 after a tenured position at the University of Iowa as NSF (National Science Foundation) as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Biosciences Related to the Environment, Dr. Leadbetter focuses on Special Project Research at Caltech.

Avatar Panel Specialist Dr. Jared Leadbetter of Caltech

His area of expertise focuses on the interactivity between microbes and bacteria as they relate to animal life. His singular emphasis in recent history is the symbiotic interactions between termites and the bacteria in their digestive systems during the formation of bio-fuels which sustain their species. His fascinating research is internationally acclaimed in several well known scientific journals, notably “Nature and Science”.

With his PhD in hand, he has played a major role in symbiotic studies that helped form the foundation for many areas of science that were formerly  mysteries to both the scientific community and the general public. What I found particularly fascinating during his time in the “Red Carpet” was that he could relate to the discussion that a symbiotic relationship of some sort in Avatar where the Na’vi lived in a corrosively toxic atmosphere, but must have been protected by something otherwise they would have disintegrated on Pandora.

Avatar Scientific Celebrity Recap:

I was quite impressed with the stamina of these fine individuals while they interacted with the in media in the Red Carpet line. Each individual invested a fair of time interacting with the Press and where quite open to off topic discussion such as what their personal favorite or most detested science fiction TV or movies were.

Quite interestingly while several knew of episodic series such a Stargate Universe, Caprica, and Fringe, the most favorite of all was Star Trek  the original series and Star Trek: The Next Generation. When I asked if they followed the current genre, each expressed interest, but like any dedicated scientist, they simply did not have time. Perhaps the most interesting aspect that was quite interesting to me was my question to panel moderator Dr. Hurt.

A true fan of the original Star Trek, I asked him if he had seen the  re-mastered version released with new special effects a few years back. Robert’s response was swift: I hope “they” did not stabilize his favorite indoor scenes where the cameras rock back and forth to simulate the attack sequences or the battle scenes?

I assured Dr. Hurt that only the special effects areas (ship flying through space, Tholian web, exterior battle phaser and photon torpedo’s and the like had received the “upgrade”.  He was quite relieved at this and indicated that he would be interested in obtaining the original Star Trek re-mastered version under such circumstances.

At this point the event handlers motioned that the scientists were to retire for refreshments before the evening Avatar panel as James Cameron had entered the receiving line. As they departed it was more than obvious these gentlemen were part of the scientific “backstop” of Avatar and I looked forward eagerly to the Avatar panel.

James Cameron on the Carpet:

First the “Red Carpet” was not red, but was instead Avatar blue. Most fitting since the Na’vi and the theme of Avatar is indeed decidedly  composed of wonderful tones of blue as illustrated above. James Cameron on the blue carpet is pictured below.

James Cameron on the Red Carpet Caltech Beckman

The Press contingent was separated into three divisions. First was major local television broadcasting led by ABC affiliate channel 7 of Los Angeles and a local cable broadcasting firm from Orange County. The second division were scientific magazines and the Caltech science radio show and a scientific periodical whose name I did not catch.

Last but not least, were the digital Press contingent with Ms. Alicia Hollinger of the Hollywood Reporter whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the Creation Entertainment 2009 Los Angeles Stargate convention, two erstwhile gentlemen from the legendary Starlog magazine and WormholeRiders News Agency. As previously stated I was honored to represent our international team of journalists by being invited to such an exclusive event.

James Cameron on the Red Carpet Caltech Beckman

Anyone familiar with a “Red Carpet” receiving line knows that each media outlet has a specific place marked behind velvet and gold posts. Each are expected to wait patiently “on their mark” until the guest of honor visits for their chance to meet and greet James Cameron personally. Time is allotted for each Press representative to chat with the evenings special guest, the man of the hour, the famed creator Mr. James Cameron pictured below with the Caltech scientists.

James Cameron and Caltech Scientists

What I noticed as I snapped images and captured a bit of video was that Mr. Cameron was extremely comfortable with the Press. All during the never stopping and likely blinding Klieg lights and flashes of cameras and the attention he so richly deserves, Mr. Cameron was smooth and polished. I was more than impressed with his composure under such circumstances.

When our turn came, James was not only eloquent but done right friendly. The time the celebrity invests with each reporter is directly tied to how comfortable he or she is made to feel while being questioned during the greeting ceremony. We were told that our time would be limited as is befitting such circumstances, but I was surprised that WHR received several minutes with Mr. James Cameron. I will not steal the thunder of Starlog or The Hollywood Reporter, as such is not good form nor the action of professional media. Please read their own news blogs in that regard. Thank you.

What astounded me was that he not only accepted my business card, but James stopped and did a double take for a second or two, read it and said matter of factly; “Oh the WormholeRiders!”. He gave me a nod, and placed the card into his breast pocket motioning me to go one step further and ask a question.

What I noticed about the other media is that several had apparently forgotten business cards and I saw a few raised eyebrows when I shook his hand being the new digital media outlet at the event.

At this  point I asked James directly about “Avatar 2” and whether the obligatory “Space Voyage” sequence would be included or whether or not the next movie would start with an underwater sequence?

The question is relevant  since the foundation of how Earthlings had travelled at .75 the speed of light to the region of Alpha Centuri some four (4) light years from Earth to the gas giant (where the orbiting moon of Pandora is located) is now firmly established?

James chuckled and said that I was getting a little ahead of him in that he has not even written or approved a script yet, but that was an interesting idea. After we shook hands the staff motioned that it was time for photo ops with James and the families of the scientists and other dignitaries present from Caltech and the Beckman Auditorium at the California Institute of Technology.

Before proceeding to the reason for the evening, the scientific Avatar panel with James and the scientist’s, included below are a two of these photo opportunities for your pleasure.

James Cameron and Caltech Scientist family

James Cameron, Caltech Scientist Prof Grotzinger family

The Avatar Panel – Highlights:

As is almost customary at such events, the Avatar panel in the California Institute of Technology Beckman Auditorium started a touch late, and went a bit over. In fact about 15 minutes over due to a technical glitch during the screening of select clips from Avatar that stimulated the panel discussion.  The panel did not even react to the glitch and proceeded to the subjects at hand, the science behind the science fiction of Avatar.

The Avatar panel of James Cameron and the four scientific experts discussed the true real life facts which provided the foundation to the science fiction in Avatar and where the second movie will go. It was absolutely fascinating. Discussion and debate focused on whether or not the second Avatar would be a prequel or a follow on or perhaps both.

The Press had been told that the panel would go some 30 minutes after the introduction of the panel members themselves. In fact the Avatar panel was nearly an hour in duration after the introductions.

No one present including the Press was allowed to take flash photography. However WHR will bring the details about the Avatar panel to you in our second detailed report about James Cameron,  Dr’s. Hurt,  Leadbetter, Adkins, and Professor Grotzinger veClick to visit WR_Systems (Kenn) on Twitterry soon.

Thank you for reading  and come back for more on James Cameron and Avatar!

Best Regards

10 thoughts on “An Intimate Evening with James Cameron and Avatar Science Advisors

  1. Great experience, dude! thanks for this great article! Wow… it’s very wonderful report.

  2. Hey Karen,

    Thanks for the nice comment. James Cameron and science team of Dr’s. Hurt, Leadbetter, Adkins and Professor Grotzinger were fabulous. I very much enjoyed covering the event.

    Best Regards

  3. How exciting. I have to watch the movie yet. I’ve loved James Cameron’s other movies, so I don’t see why I wouldn’t love this, too. Wish I could have seen it in 3-D. Babysitter issues.

  4. Good job Kenn!

    I found a slight spelling error… Your first mention of the Na’vi is spelled Da’vi. 🙂

    Great report though! I can’t wait to read more about the panel.

  5. Great article! I went to the event and really enjoyed it. Can’t wait for the next report!

Comments are closed.

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