Inspiration for Filmmakers: Spielberg Almost Quit “Jaws”

Spielberg Before the Beard and Hat

Steven Spielberg is a household name today, but 30 plus years ago he was a complete newbie on a film set. After “The Sugarland Express” his next movie project was a horror action movie called “Jaws”. Spielberg was only 26 years old and the movie shoot was a bona fide five star disaster. They started with half a script, mechanical sharks that kept malfunctioning, and a crew that didn’t trust this kid to finish the movie. Of course, history has shown that even a disastrous movie shoot can lead to a great movie.

This topic was recently brought back into the public consciousness in a Yahoo article. A couple years ago I found a book on Spielberg which was extremely inspiring. Why? Because most beginning filmmakers suffer from lack of confidence and experience. We tend to idolize our favorite directors like Spielberg, Lucas, and Zemeckis, and we forget that these guys were once young and inexperienced too.

The “Jaws” shoot inspired me because you learn that Spielberg at one point though maybe he was in the wrong business and nearly quit. Why does this inspire me? Because it shows the humanity and normalcy of a movie God. Every beginning filmmaker experiences challenges, doubts, and even maddness. Making a movie is a freaking crazy undertaking. And sometimes the pressure to create a movie is compounded when we hold ourselves up in comparison with more experienced filmmakers, imagining we are supposed to be perfect and not make any mistakes or have any troubles during production.

When you learn that “Jaws”, one of the most successful movies ever made, was thrown together in such a crazy fashion and nearly didn’t get made, it helps put things in perspective. So when you’re shooting your first movie and everything goes to shit, relax. Even Spielberg had problems at first. George Lucas had a stroke making “Star Wars”. Spike Lee’s first feature fell apart before he made “She’s Gotta Have It”.

To read more about “Jaws” check out this link to read “The Jaws Log“. It’s an in depth, detailed book about the shoot written by Peter Benchely (author of the novel “Jaws” and Carl Gottlieb, the screenwriter of the movie). It’s entertaining and informative for any aspiring filmmaker or movie fan.


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