It is easy to get discouraged when working on any long-term project. While there are days when everything flows smoothly, the occasional setback can derail my well-laid plans and prevent me from moving forward.
Whenever I hit a slump, I recall the story behind the making of JAWS.
In 1973, the late producer David Brown, came across Peter Benchley’s novel Jaws and spent an entire evening reading the book. He and fellow producer Richard D. Zanuck agreed that it was “the most exciting thing that they had ever read” and purchased the movie rights. Later, Brown said that if he had read the book twice, he would never have made the film.
They reluctantly hired a young, unknown director named Steven Spielberg and set a shoestring budget of $3.5 million and a shooting schedule of 55 days. The budget escalated to $12 million and it took 155 days to film the movie. The 26-foot mechanical shark was never tested for use and sunk to the bottom of the harbour on its first day in the waters off Martha’s Vineyard.
This setback was actually a blessing in disguise. When Spielberg realized he wouldn’t have too much working footage of the shark, he used shots, music and dialogue to create an eerie and tense vibe. The music score by John Williams has become one of the most recognizable pieces of music ever created for a film. Whenever I watch the movie, I am always aware of the shark’s presence.
In addition to the technical problems, Spielberg had to deal with bickering between actors Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss. Author Peter Benchley disapproved of the film’s climax and was booted off the set.
The rest is movie box office history: JAWS became a big summer blockbuster and the first film to break $100 million in box-office totals.
Memorable quote from David Brown: Under no circumstances face the facts.