How the story behind the making of “Jaws” can motivate you through a hard (re)write (or really anything)
It’s Shark Week and I love “Jaws,” (I re-watched “Jaws” and “Jaws – the inside story,” so I’m a happy camper), so it’s a shark related post today. 🙂
Gasp! Can you hear the theme music?
~~^~~ (that’s a shark fin emerging from waves, in case you couldn’t tell)
Making the movie “Jaws” was an odyssey for the cast and crew. While re-watching the documentary “Jaws – the inside story,” I was reminded of how much was endured to bring the epic film to life and ultimately, how it was all worth it.
The odyssey of writing a book is similar to many of the problems that were faced in bringing “Jaws” to life –
1) The shark didn’t work:
Ugh. Isn’t this always the case? You have a great plot twist or evil character that you’ve envisioned. Yet every time you try to put it down on paper, the words you’ve written (or worse, blank pages) give you a giant raspberry. :p Boo.
How did Spielberg deal with having the star monster constantly on the fritz? A lot of times, he doesn’t show it at all – there are shots of waves, views of swimming people from below the water, and that creepy-ass, John Williams music. He also spliced in real-life footage of sharks and had a whole team dedicated to working his mechanical sharks. So see – there’s always a work around and sometimes, it ends up much better than anything you ever planned in that tidy outline.
2) “Jaws” went well past its original filming schedule and way over budget:
“You’re still working on that novel?”
“Geez, how many drafts are you going to do?”
Stage whisper: “She’ll always have a half-finished novel on her iPad.”
It doesn’t matter if someone says these things to you or if you mutter them under your breath – it’s not helpful. Alas, the writing process takes time – and we all write at different speeds. I wish I could write faster. My pace is what I would call glacial, if the glacier constantly questioned itself and periodically went backwards.
If you feel like a project is dragging on, take a deep breath, do one of those neck stretches, and then dive back in. Keep at it until you’re finished – at least you don’t have studio execs calling and threatening to cut your funding….so, it could be worse. 😉
3) “Jaws” had a young, untested director, who had nightmares of being fired or ruining his career as a result of the movie.
That’s you, kid (and me too). Whether you are actually young and untested (or just untested), writers constantly doubt themselves. I hate that doubt – it’s annoying. But, in some ways, that doubt can help you. It makes you go back to edit (re-edit, then re-re-edit), to work at your novel until the words sing.
The next time you’re suffering through a rough patch of writing, editing, or whatever – just remember that Spielberg suffered through making “Jaws.” But when he was finally finished, its success surpassed everyone’s expectations.
So, get back to work! 🙂
Side note – what’s your favorite line in “Jaws?”
Mine is a toss up between the often quoted: “We’re going to need a bigger boat.” And the amusing (and fitting for my genre), “wanna get drunk and fool around?” 🙂