Behind-the-Scenes:

Article from Issue #019

"Jaws: Memories from Martha's Vineyard" - Book Review

[Get a "Behind-the-Scenes" look with George Taylor and his collection of rare photos, making-of videos, cast & crew interviews, and book reviews.]

We've all seen countless documentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, Mythbusters specials, and so on that feature Jaws so let's just assume there's nothing new to be seen, right? Only if you want to miss out on the hundreds of photographs and stories by the residents of Martha's Vineyard, the real life Amity Island! When the production crew took over the island, the locals welcomed them with open arms and took to their own cameras to capture the summer (all 159 days of it) that Hollywood took over. Since 1974, only the family and friends of those on the island have seen their pictures or heard their stories until the recent publication of Jaws: Memories from Martha's Vineyard.

Jaws: Memories from Martha's Vineyard book cover art.

What makes this book so unique is the fact that the content is entirely made up of contributions by the islanders that saw this now classic movie being made firsthand. Even the Limited Collector's Edition contains a DVD of 8mm footage and a 1" x 1" piece of the Orca II, both donated by the residents. I, personally, have never seen a movie or subsequent book that could sell on that premise alone. But where this book excels is in the quality and presentation of the interviews and the passion of it's subjects. Even Steven Spielberg, in his foreword, shows an appreciation for the community that had his back (though he was mostly unaware of it at the time) through the hectic production and still do to this day as proven by the amount of material that's been compiled.

Thanks to the openness of the sets, there isn't a single major actor (including Bruce the shark) or crew member that was able to dodge the shutters of the eager locals. You really start to feel like you were there back in '74 and now reminiscing with the family scrapbook about that big event that you were never a part of. That's partly because the familiarity with the characters that we've grown to love over the years but mostly because of the book's unique style that features the most candid look possible for this production. It absolutely takes you back to relive these moments through the resident's eyes (and in chronological order no less) and sucks you in to the excitement as it unfolded.

There was recently a major Hollywood movie shot in the next town over from us and I can guarantee that the amount of documentation in this book was not equaled even in this day of cell phone cameras and instant media sharing. Though it was just as big of a deal (if not more) for our town as Martha's Vineyard, there was something magical at play all those years ago that recognized the importance of this little shark movie by a young amateur director trying to leave his mark in cinematic history. Whatever the reason for the local's excitement and participation, all Jaws fans should be thankful for the fond memories that have been preserved in this wonderful book and the recognition by Moonrise Media of the need for such an account.

I can safely say that if you love "making of" books for the filmmaking knowledge, this is the best this year. While others may document the mythology of their particular movie better, Memories from Martha's Vineyard puts you on set of the production like no other. There's more insight than any new featurette that could come out due to it's attention to detail in contrast to the usual, already well-known, trivia. This is your first chance to hear the extras talk about unknowingly being filmed for authenticity until seeing themselves on the big screen the day of Jaws' release, to see the preserved signs reading "ROLL" and "CUT" that allowed communication between boats, to read the production drama from the viewpoint of the local newspaper. But if I were you, my concern would be whether or not this is my LAST chance to own this amazing book. Don't hesitate and risk missing out on the memories, especially at this price.

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If you have a behind-the-scenes picture, video, interview, or story that you would like to share, e-mail George at: george@cineweekly.com

- George Taylor -
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