Cameron heads to New Zealand to film all three Avatar films at once

After confirming the he is working on three Avatar sequels, director James Cameron has announced that the three movies will all be filmed in New Zealand, according to a recent interview with the Associated Press. The first film is tentatively scheduled for December 2016, with the sequels scheduled for December 2017 and December 2018, respectively. All three films will be filmed in New Zealand back-to-back-to-back.

The original plan was to film two sequels, but in August Cameron announced that he instead sees the story as four movies, continuing the story that began with 2009’s Avatar. All three movies will be filmed in 2015 over a nine month (or so) period, with the rest of the time dedicated to post-production and any potential reshoots. By filming all three films at once and then doing the rest back-to-back, Cameron hopes to keep the total budget down. He refused to offer an official budget estimate, but hinted that it would be under $1 billion, taking into account inflation. The first film, which was also filmed in New Zealand, cost nearly $240 million. As part of the deal to film in New Zealand, Cameron is expected to spend over $500 million in in the country, while the government will pick up 25-percent of the tab. 

Cameron went on to talk more about the plot, and confirmed that a significant portion of the next film will be underwater, but not the majority of the film as was previously thought.

“There’s a fair bit of underwater stuff. It’s been inaccurately said that the second film takes place underwater. That’s not true,” Cameron said. “There are underwater scenes and surface-water scenes having to do with indigenous ocean cultures that are distributed across the three films.”

Actors Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana are confirmed for multiple pictures, and Cameron stated that the next films will expand the scope. Cameron also said that both Sigourney Weaver and Stephan Lang will appear in some form. The first film focused on the moon of Pandora as seen through the eyes of Worthington’s character Jake; the next three films will focus on the extended family.

“[The first film] was very Jake-centric. His story seen through his eyes. We spread it around quite a bit more as we go forward,” Cameron claimed. “It’s really the story of his family, the family that he creates on Pandora. His extended family. So think of it as a family saga like ‘The Godfather.'”

The films will explore other groups within the Na’vi culture, and introduce new life forms as well. When Cameron first began talking about the sequels, he suggested that the series could explore the rest of the solar system Pandora inhabits, but that scope seems to have been refocused on Pandora.

“It’s going to be a lot of new imagery and a lot of new environments and creatures across Pandora. We’re blowing it out all over the place,” Cameron said. “At first I thought I was going to take it onto other worlds as well, in the same solar system, but it turned out not to be necessary. I mean the Pandora that we have imagined will be a fantasy land that is going to occupy people for decades to come, the way I see it.”

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