Before he became a director James Cameron created these stunning matte paintings for John Carpenter. Cameron is one of the greatest directors working today, and his short filmography is stuffed with some of the best science fiction movies ever made. However, before he directed his first feature movie Cameron worked in visual effects, as a miniature model maker and an art director.
Most notably during this period, Cameron served as one of the visual effects artists on John Carpenter’s dystopian action movie Escape from New York. Escape from New York released in 1981, a year before Cameron’s feature length directorial debut.
While working on Escape in New York, Cameron helped to create some of the matte paintings which served as the VFX background of New York, during some moments in the movie. And, those matter paintings of New York are absolutely stunning. Check them out for yourself below:
Whenever someone in our industry tries to rip on James Cameron I show them he did the fucking matte paintings in Escape From New York, you’re not gonna win this one pic.twitter.com/rbZvJW5oPp
— Aaron Stewart-Ahn (@somebadideas) December 3, 2022
It’s no surprise that the director is a man of many, many talents. However, the extent of his painting ability to help create this ultra-realistic backdrop is hugely impressive.
Before CGI became commonplace, matte paintings were regularly used to create backgrounds or establishing shots that were otherwise impossible to achieve. For example, matte paintings are used famously on the first Star Wars movies to create the surface of the Death Star. They were also used extensively in David Lynch’s science fiction movie Dune, and regularly served to establish alien worlds in the Star Trek series.
After working as a VFX artist, Cameron made his transition to directing. It was then that he made the original Terminator movies, Aliens, Titanic, Avatar, and the upcoming Avatar 2, cementing himself as one of Hollywood’s most essential directors and changing the cinematic landscape along the way.