Cameron was born in 1954 in Kapuskasing, Ontario,Canada, the son of Shirley (née Lowe), an artist and nurse, and Phillip Cameron, an electrical engineer. His paternal great-great-great-grandfather emigrated from Balquhidder, Scotland, in 1825.Cameron grew up in Chippawa, Ontario, and attended Stamford Collegiate School in Niagara Falls, Ontario. His family moved to Brea, California in 1971, when Cameron was 17 years old. He dropped out of Sonora High School, then attended Brea Olinda High School to further his secondary education. Cameron enrolled at Fullerton College, a two-year community college, in 1973 to study physics. He switched to English, then dropped out before the start of the fall 1974 semester. Next, he worked several jobs, including as a truck driver, writing when he had time. During this period he taught himself about special effects: "I'd go down to the USC library and pull any thesis that graduate students had written about optical printing, or front screen projection, or dye transfers, anything that related to film technology. That way I could sit down and read it, and if they'd let me photocopy it, I would. If not, I'd make notes." Cameron quit his job as a truck driver to enter the film industry after seeing Star Wars in 1977. When Cameron read Syd Field's book Screenplay, it occurred to him that integrating science and art was possible, and he wrote a 10-minute science-fiction script with two friends, titled Xenogenesis. They raised money, rented camera, lenses, film stock and studio then shot it in 35mm. They dismantled the camera to understand how to operate it and spent the first half-day of the shoot trying to figure out how to get it running. He was the director, writer, producer, and production designer for Xenogenesis (1978). He then became a production assistant on a film called Rock and Roll High School, though uncredited, in 1979. While continuing to educate himself in film-making techniques, Cameron started working as a miniature-model maker at Roger Corman Studios. Making rapidly produced, low-budget productions taught Cameron to work efficiently and effectively. He soon found employment as an art director in the sci-fi movie Battle Beyond the Stars (1980). He did special effects work design and direction on John Carpenter's Escape from New York (1981), acted as production designer on Galaxy of Terror (1981), and consulted on the design of Android (1982). Cameron was hired as the special effects director for the sequel to Piranha, entitled Piranha II: The Spawning in 1981. The original director, Miller Drake, left the project due to creative differences with producer Ovidio Assonitis, who then gave Cameron his first job as director. The interior scenes were filmed in Rome, Italy, while the underwater sequences were shot at Grand Cayman Island. The movie was to be produced in Jamaica. On location, production slowed due to numerous problems and adverse weather. James Cameron was fired after failing to get a close up of Carole Davis in her opening scene. Ovidio ordered Cameron to do the close-up the next day before he started on that day’s shooting. Cameron spent the entire day sailing around the resort to reproduce the lighting but still failed to get the close-up. After he was fired, Ovidio invited Cameron to stay on location and assist in the shooting. Once in Rome, Ovidio took over the editing when Cameron was stricken with food poisoning. During his illness, Cameron had a nightmare about an invincible robot hitman sent from the future to kill him, giving him the idea for The Terminator, which later catapulted his film career.