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Discover what made the future: Jaws

Ever wondered why music alone can make you feel edgy? Blame Steven Spielberg and ‘Jaws’.

A 26-year-old Steven Spielberg noticed an unpublished Peter Benchley novel in the offices of a company he had just made a film for and couldn’t put it down. This led to his role as director in the classic film ‘Jaws’. John Williams received an Academy Award for the score, which was later ranked as the sixth-greatest score of all time by the American Film Institute. You will recognise this tune immediately as the alternating pattern of “E and F” or “F and F sharp” that signalled the end for whoever found themselves in the water at that time.

‘Jaws’ follows a giant shark terrorising beachgoers in a small town and the hunt that follows. Benchley wrote the first drafts of the script and Carl Gottlieb rewrote the script to arrive at what would become ‘Jaws’. The film was shot mostly in a vineyard and partly in the ocean, and was regularly delayed due to malfunctions with the famous pneumatically powered mechanical sharks. This led Spielberg to his ingenious thought to imply the sharks’ presence more. The real shark footage came from the Dangerous Reef in South Australia where a short actor was used in a small shark cage to make the sharks appear larger.

It was also characterised by the intentional avoidance of a lot of big stars who Spielberg thought would corrupt the story and not give Jaws it’s personal, “It could happen to me”, feeling. Red was avoided in scenery and wardrobe to make the shark attacks more shocking.

The release reached a momentous (at the time) 450 screens on release and was supported by a $1.8m marketing budget – never seen before. It is now considered one of the greatest films ever made but it nearly fell short, reaching a record 100 days and almost double the initial budget. Many crew members referred to the movie as ‘Flaws’ and Spielberg didn’t attend the final shoot because he believed he was going to get thrown in the water.

He has not attended a final day since.

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