Learn from all experience, not just the failures

It was not quite 3 years ago when the New York Times announced that James Cameron had signed on with 20th Century Fox to direct Avatar.  I wrote the following not long after that announcement.

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You can – and most definitely should – learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others, but it is also important to remember that you can learn quite a bit from your past successes.

James Cameron’s most recent film was Titanic, released 10 years ago. From the New York Times story ‘Titanic’ Director Joins Fox on $200 Million Film is the following account:

The making of “Titanic,” Mr. Cameron’s last full-blown Hollywood feature, was the stuff of movie legend. The film, released in 1997, went far over its planned cost to become the most expensive production that had then been made. But it went on to become a historic success, taking in a record-breaking $1.8 billion at the worldwide box office, and also winning 11 Oscars, including an award for best picture.

Mr. Cameron said that he had taken care to avoid the problems he encountered on his last gargantuan production, and that he was already four months into shooting the nonprincipal scenes by the time Fox gave final approval to the project today.

— ‘Titanic’ Director Joins Fox on $200 Million Film

I must admit to being a huge James Cameron fan (my personal favorite of his is The Abyss), so I was happy to see that he is finally directing another feature. But what struck me most in this article was Cameron’s recognition that even though Titanic was a huge (HUGE!) success, there were things that could have been done better. While it is hard to talk about “mistakes” when you have $1.8 billion in box-office, there are still things that can be learned.

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I’m curious to hear how Cameron thinks he did in avoiding the pitfalls from Titanic, and what new ones popped up for him to work around.

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