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    Jaws – Changing the Film Industry Forever Essay

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    In this essay, I am going to be talking how Steven Spielberg’s film, Jaws, impacted the film industry. I am going to do this by talking briefly about how his childhood impacted on his films, an overview of the film, shooting and the cast, music, criticism and marketing. In addition I will explain how Jaws had a cultural and industrial impact on blockbuster films today. Steven Spielberg is one of the most influential and recognized directors in the world. He is known for his top grossing films in the box office.

    Steven Spielberg has made an immeasurable impact and has influenced the film industry today, “I’d love to go to school and have a normal life, but I don’t see any professor at Yale being able to teach me more than Steven Spielberg”(Shia LaBoeuf). Steven Spielberg was born on December 18, 1946 in Cincinnati, Ohio. As a child he was always interested in directing films. He spent his childhood in Haddon Township New Jersey, where he saw one of his first films in a theater. Throughout his early teens, he made amateur 8mm films with his friends.

    In 1958, Spielberg made a 9-minute 8mm film called “The Last Gunfight”, for which he won his ‘photography merit badge’, “My dad’s still-camera was broken, so I asked the scoutmaster if I could tell a story with my father’s movie camera. He said yes, and I got an idea to do a Western. I made it and got my merit badge. That was how it all started”, (Spielberg’s interview with a magazine). Over the next 10 years, he went on making films, which had amateur releases, till 1968; where his first theatrical film ‘Amblin’ got released, where the film had a budget of $15000.

    Spielberg directed Jaws In the summer of 1975, Jaws made people all over America think it was unsafe to get into the waters. Known as ‘The Monster of Hollywood’, Jaws completely changed the way Hollywood made and released big-budget movies, Jaws was the first motion picture to break the $100,000,000 record in the box office passing movies such as The Sound of Music and Gone With the Wind. Jaws is considered the first real blockbuster as it was such a massive success, even creating a new path for Spielberg.

    Spielberg in an interview with Hindustan times said, “The movie was fulfilling at so many different levels. Every aspiration I had of bringing Lincoln back to life was exceeded by the response from critics, students, and educators The box office taking far exceeded anything I had dared to expect. ” Plot The film’s plot is highlighted around a series of various shark attacks, which occur in a fictional beach town called Amity. Once a peaceful, summer tourist attraction, the town of Amity is terrified by the recent news of sea monster lurking in their waters.

    To protect the citizens and visitors of Amity, Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Schneider) tries to close the beach but is stopped by the Mayor who is afraid that attracting fear and panic will prevent tourists from visiting, therefore destroying the community’s main source of payment. As many attacks continue to occur, locals are finally convinced that the water is a threat to their safety, and decide to hire a local shark hunter to destroy the monster. Quint (Robert Shaw) asks Brody and a marine biologist Matt Cooper (Richard Dreyfus) to help him on his mission to sea.

    As chaos develops, Quint is killed during the shark’s attack on the boat, and to save Cooper and himself, Brody murders the great white shark and survives. Jaws charmed audiences by taking them on a journey that had never before been experienced in a movie theatre. This was done by its innovative; impressive special effects, a complex set design and a powerful thematic score. Modern blockbuster films such as the Transformers can attribute their commercial success to reflecting the epic and revolutionary conventions seen in Jaws

    Jaws motioned the birth of what is now known as the ‘summer blockbuster’, when it became the highest grossing film of all time in the summer of 1975, it earned a spot in cinematic history. Even 39 years later, the film has still not lost its charm and has developed what is known as “high concept” filmmaking. Jaws was the first film to use wide release distribution in addition to a high-budget marketing campaign. Flooding the market with high budgets and over the top scenarios set today’s blockbusters. Jaws established ‘high concept’ filmmaking; furthermore it had a cultural and industrial impact on blockbuster films today.

    Shooting and Cast Before Jaws, movies were never shot on the ocean. Hollywood studios just simply tossed a boat in a tank and green screened it. But Spielberg wanted reality. While shooting the film, many of the cast and crew had almost been killed by drowning and boating mishaps. Rough waters made it impossible for filming. Most days, once the crew had assembled into place and waited out on boats, Spielberg just had 2 hours of afternoon light to shoot. The angry locals left dead sharks on the production office’s porch, as they got fed up. Studios worried the film wouldn’t work. People in Hollywood were saying that Spielberg was finished.

    But he was determined to finish his movie, shark or no shark, “I thought my career as a filmmaker was over. I heard rumors… that I would never work again because no one had ever taken a film 100 days over schedule. ” Producers wanted Spielberg to hire someone to train a great white shark-which is impossible. Spielberg played around with rubber props before deciding the only solution was to build a remote controlled 25-foot mega shark; that could swim, leap in the air and chomp on human prey. Every special effects company in Hollywood said this task was impossible. Spielberg then bribed the special effects ‘guru’, Bob Mattey.

    Mattey was famous for designing the giant squid in the 1954 film, ’20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’, Mattey guaranteed Spielberg that he could build the perfect monster. Spielberg avoided choosing the cast, as he wanted to avoid hiring any big stars, or as he put it, “I didn’t want to work with anybody who been on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine. ” Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw made less money combined than any of the names of the producer’s wish list. Spielberg added that in his plans, “the superstar was gonna be the shark. ” Music The theme is probably the suspenseful momentum of the trailer and the film.

    Created by John Williams, the score (the film music) creates a sense of excitement, anxiety, and fear. It acts as a warning sign of the shark and prepares audiences for an attack. In an interview with Steven Spielberg, he explains the impact of the score by stating: “I think the score is clearly responsible for half the success of the movie’’. He also stated; audiences who watched the film before the score was added, they did not respond that well as the audiences who watched it following the national release. Justin Wyatt explains the influence of a film score by stating: “The song score has become a marketing tool.

    A record not only synergies within the film, but reaches out to the core youth market that the film wants to attract. ” Because the score had such an impact on the film and the promotional success, it became a large contributor in the branding of the picture. The unforgettable score will be associated with sharks and the film that started it all. Criticism What was special about this is film, is how it hardly got any criticism. But the ones who did complain about the film, complained about this was not a horror movie. A reviewer said, “Lately, I saw Jaws rated as one of the top 10 horror movies.

    I got confused for I didn’t remember it as that good; thus,I decided to rent it to see if I discovered something new. Quite honestly, I ended up disappointed because this time I watched it from a much more mature, less sensationalistic, and more critical perspective. The result? I found it utterly boring!. ” Jaws being classed as a horror caused many debates, as some people were very against this. “The shark wasn’t really horrifying or threatening but it looked pretty fake”(A critic). The shark was another problem as many people who watched the film complained about it looking fake.

    Marketing The widespread marketing campaign brought the remarkable success for the movie; which revolutionized the entire film marketing industry. Using strategic branding, eerie music and unique graphics create the mystery of a shark. The films marketing campaign gained support by enhancing audiences’ curiosity. Universal spent $1. 8 million promoting Jaws. $700,000 was spent on national television spot advertising. Zanuck Brown(producer of the film) and Benchley (the author of Jaws) told the radio talk shows to promote the paperback edition of the novel and upcoming film.

    More merchandise was created to take advantage of the film’s release. In 1999 Graeme Turner wrote that Jaws was accompanied by what was still “probably the most elaborate array of tie-ins” of any to date: “This included a sound-track album, t-shirts, plastic tumblers, a book about the making of the movie, beach towels, blankets, shark costumes, toy sharks, games, posers, sleepwear and more”. American film critic, James Hoberman, describes Jaws as, “on a ruthless notion of the movie as a roller coaster” (1994). With elements of disaster, adventure, male bonding and horror films, Jaws gave rebirth to the adventure film genre.

    Even though the plot of the film was simple, it was not simple enough to be easily predictable. By using many different “red herrings”(something, especially a clue, that is or is intended to be misleading or distracting), the writers achieved an extreme degree of suspense. “Spielberg keeps a lightness of touch[and] makes the action-adventure sequences in the film’s last third truly exhilarating”(Rowley). Spielberg created this nerve-racking suspense by using the ‘Hitchcock-esque’. This is the method where the shark was not revealed until 80 minutes into the film.

    Whereas if many other directors and films would try and approach this method, it would not work, as you had to be very accurate on when to use this method and this was one of the first films which grabbed everyone’s attention. Spielberg was one of the first directors of that time to pull this off. To this day, Jaws’ film poster remains as a cultural icon and has inspired many film campaign posters. The film’s brand is created by the thrilling design that outlines a unanimous meaning for what the movie is about. The poster features a young girl swimming in the water, unaware that she is being stalked.

    Right below her is a gigantic great white shark coming to her with its mouth open, ready to attack. One of the reasons the poster is so impactful is because of the inequality of the two figures: Chrissy (the girl on the poster) is small, ignorant, and in an unfamiliar territory, whereas the shark is large flesh eating monster and is in control of what is happening. Above Chrissy; is the film’s title in large, red, bold letters, which makes it look like she is trapped between the title and the shark, which increases the feebleness of the swimmer.

    The poster succeeded in creating widespread attention by creating fear from looking at the poster as we can all related to the fear of being attacked by a shark. Jaws revolutionized the entire film industry, as it was the first movie to use a national television-marketing exhibition. The television spots were shown twenty-five times per night for two nights before the film’s national release. In a thirty second window, the trailer was able to make an huge amount of suspense by featuring a underwater camera angle which showed the shark’s point of view, the Jaws theme song and an ominous voice-over which narrated an eerie narration.

    The use of first-person camera angles made it the most appealing part of the trailer. Spielberg was clever using this method as, by allowing viewers to feel as if they are in the scenario, they will develop a sense of familiarity with the film and thus generate interest. “The subjective camera is the purest instrument of torture at a film-makers disposal. It is the means by which audience is most comprehensively and viscerally implicated in the onscreen action’’ (Gilbey). In conclusion, Jaws in many ways is held responsible for changing the way of filmmaking and film marketing.

    Jaws created the genre what is now known as high-concept film and established an entirely new era of cinematic art. It also became the first motion picture to make over 100 million dollars in box office sales, making it the best selling movie in 1975. Because of its success, studios started making more high-concept and high budget films such as Star Wars and Superman. When their films were sponsored, studios were influenced by the marketing campaign of Jaws and applied aggressive and repetitive advertising strategies to design record-breaking openings. Many modern thrillers and action films tried to use the same sense of excitement and trill.

    This proves that the entertainment factor is not only dependent on how much visual “candy” is shown, bur how much feeling you can create by the little amount possible. Jaws is a prevailing piece of cinematic work that shows originality, innovation, creativity and entertainment and to this day reminds audiences to beware of the water. “There is a creature alive today who has survived millions of years of evolution without change, without passion, and without logic. It lives to kill – a mindless eating machine. It will attack and devour anything. It is as if God created the devil and gave him Jaws. ”


    Spielberg, Steven

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