Jaws: Memories from Martha’s Vineyard by Matt Taylor

(2012-11-18)

Jaws: Memories from Martha’s Vineyard by Matt Taylor, with a foreword by Steven Spielberg

Expanded 2nd edition. Released September 2012 by Titan Books

ISBN: 9781781163023

312 pages

£34.99/$49.95

Review by Mark Yon

Earlier this year, the seminal Spielberg movie Jaws was re-released in cinemas, in a new pristine cut (ready for its release on Blu-Ray). Originally released in 1975, it was the first blockbuster from Spielberg, who then went on to film Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Perhaps not unexpectedly, then, we have the release of this lavish (and heavy) book to accompany the re-release.

The book is more than a reminder of the film. It is a record of the making of a classic film on the New England island of Martha’s Vineyard. Not only do we have a foreword by Spielberg on the importance of the location in setting the scene for the movie, but the book has interviews with production designer Joe Alves and screenwriter Carl Gottlieb about how the film was developed. For this new second edition, there are sixteen pages of photos never seen before, including storyboards from Joe Alves and photos from crew members’ private photos.

Through 312 large format, heavy stock pages, the reader gets an idea of how innovative the making of the film was.  There are newspaper clippings, photos, interviews from many of the production staff, pages from the script. It is thoroughly researched and quite exhausting in its detail but (kudos to Matt!) always interesting. I was expecting to be a little disinterested by reams of technical detail but this was not the case. The accounts reflect the humour, the enthusiasm, the hard work involved and the exasperation of working on a film, and as such should be required reading for any budding film maker. 

The film was, by many accounts, not an easy one to make, with problems on location and with the mechanical shark prop, budget overruns and scheduling issues, amongst many others. The book does not gloss over these issues, and as a result shows how difficult such a film can be to make. (It also made me realise how difficult making any film involving the ocean can be, which is probably why we don’t see that many!) In the days of filmmaking before ‘everything was done in a computer’, it is a summation of the craft of old-fashioned filmmaking.

This is not cheap, but it is a lovely book. Recommended, not just as the ultimate memoir of a legendary film from an influential director, but as a study of how a film can come together, even when it seems all the odds are against it. As good as Paul M. Sammon’s Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner (one of my favourite ‘how-the-hell-did-they-make-this-film?’ books.) 

Made me rush off to find my old copy of the film....

Mark Yon, October 2012

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