'Avatar: The Way of Water' producer Jon Landau on changing the world through storytelling and film

ByNzinga Blake, Shako Liu & Rachel Schwartz  OTRC logo
Thursday, March 9, 2023
Storytellers Spotlight: 'Avatar: The Way of Water' producer Jon Landau
"What I wanted for audiences coming away from 'The Way of Water' was a sense that inside of them is the ability to make a difference."

LOS ANGELES -- Jon Landau learned to appreciate at a young age how the power of storytelling can impact people's lives. Now, as a producer on "Avatar: The Way of Water," Landau is using cinema to help audiences realize they can help change the world around them.

"My interest in storytelling and movies started very early on," Landau told On The Red Carpet. "My parents were producers; they owned independent movie theaters. And in one of those theaters one day, I went to see a movie called 'Mary Poppins.' And that movie allowed me to escape the outside world of New York City and go to this magical place where I got to see someone draw chalk on concrete, and that world come to life. And I will always remember that."

From the fantastic world of imagination created in "Mary Poppins," Landau went on to see how his parents used their power as producers to help expose new audiences to the events shaping society in the 20th century, from the Holocaust to the Civil Rights Movement.

"When my parents decided to produce a documentary about the late Martin Luther King, now this was the 1970s, it was really the first time that my eyes opened to the power that a movie could bring to a global audience," Landau said. "And what they wanted to do was to reveal the story behind the man; what had gone through, not just through Martin Luther King, but through the whole Civil Rights Movement, and he was the lens into that. And I saw the impact that it had on people who had not been exposed to any of the atrocities that had gone on in society, and how it, you know, opened their eyes to what was going on. And hopefully, they lived their lives differently after seeing the movie. And if a movie can do that, it's something amazing."

Long before introducing audiences to the world of Pandora in "Avatar," Landau worked with James Cameron to produce "Titanic," which he sees as a story of hope.

"It showcases that, even in a tragic moment, no matter how desperate the situation is, that life can be better ahead," he said. "That's the story of Rose. Rose lost the love of her life in the frigid waters of the Atlantic. But she goes on to live a full and rich life."

Now with "Avatar's" latest installment, "Avatar: The Way of Water," Landau continues to see storytelling as a way to inspire audiences to have hope and take an active role in building our future.

"What I wanted for audiences coming away from 'The Way of Water' was a sense that inside of them is the ability to make a difference."

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