The director - responsible for three of the four highest-grossing movies in history - has also made an impassioned plea for the new Government to retain the 20-25 per cent screen production rebate that brought him here in the first place with Avatar, saying it had directly led to thousands of jobs and well in excess of $500 million injected into the economy.
Cameron, 69, was the keynote speaker at Spada’s annual Screen Industry Conference in Wellington, revealing he now called the capital his home and regaled the crowd about his interactions in Kiwi life.
Cameron said he wanted to give back to the local industry, including helping foster a new generation of talent.
"I’m sort of speaking on behalf of a big international production, but I’m a resident here, I’ll be a citizen in a year and I plan on making all my films here in Wellington.
"I love working here. I love the people that I get to work with here.
"We’ve got to have the new people... I’m not talking just about writers and directors.
"I’m talking about the tradies, the craftspeople, the dolly grip, the crane grip. Those are all art forms in of themselves.
"They have to be trained coming behind that kind of heyday of Lord of the Rings films. You know, people are starting to get a little creaky in the joints," he joked, to laughter in the room. "We need some young blood."
Cameron is currently in post-production on the third Avatar movie, due to be released in late 2025. Another two Avatar movies are scheduled for 2029 and 2031.
Cameron is responsible for three of the top four highest-grossing films of all time: Avatar (2009), Avatar: The Way of Water (2022) and Titanic (1997).
He said the pandemic had hurt the New Zealand film industry.
"Our doors were closed for a long period of time. We were slower than a lot of other countries. Now those other countries had a lot more Covid-19 deaths than we did.
"I’m not saying we didn’t play it right but it’s been harder for us to come back from that."
Cameron said he loved the capital.
"I love being a Wellingtonian. I love telling all my pals back in the States that it’s the windiest city in the world. Really, no shit, the windiest city in the world."
He said he loved walking in Wellington, including on the waterfront with his wife, Suzy Amis Cameron.
They often met somebody they knew or somebody who was working on Avatar.
He said the only time anyone approached him was when there was a "pre-existing connection".
"I notice that when people recognise they’d be mortified to be rude, ‘intrude’ on my day ... or they’ll just walk by and go ‘Hi Jim’. It’s cool, right? It’s like a big small town."
Cameron, who spoke for almost an hour on stage with TVNZ’s John Campbell, spoke of what sparked his love for maritime - and specifically underwater exploration - growing up in Canada, and his stellar movie-making career.