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March 15, 2007
First look: 'The Shark is Still Working'
It is not hyperbole to say “The Shark is Still Working” is the most important document of a Steven Spielberg film to come out since Laurent Bouzereau’s landmark works on “Jaws” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” back in the late 1990s. Both Bouzereau’s “The Making of Jaws” and “The Making of Close Encounters” were thorough examinations on the productions of those watershed Spielberg films, and to this day they remain touchstones of the form as well as essential time capsules of the films.
“The Shark is Still Working” builds on the strengths of these documentaries, and yet, it is a wholly different beast that will prove to be as studied and cherished as Bouzereau’s early works, or other revered documentation on Spielberg’s film like Carl Gottlieb’s “The Jaws Log,” Bob Balaban’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind Diary,” Derek Taylor’s “The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark” or Phillip Schuman “Making of Raiders” film.
I’ve been keeping a wonderful secret for a long time now, and the time has come to share it with fellow “Jaws” finatics. I have seen “The Shark is Still Working.” I have seen it many times and it is everything “Jaws” fans have been waiting for. And it’s high time that all “Jaws” fans are able to see this essential documentary.
The common studio wisdom would seem to be, “Why would we want to release another documentary on ‘Jaws’?” Universal learned the hard way how important “Jaws” and documentation on the film is to its dedicated fans (the very fans who come with cash in fists to purchase most any officially licensed “Jaws” item that hits the market). When the original “Jaws” DVD was released in 2000, fans of the film were dismayed and perturbed to find out that the bonus content included a pared down version of Bouzereau’s “Making of Jaws.” Universal wisely corrected this poor decision with the 25th anniversary release to DVD when they presented the documentary in its full form for the first time ever since the Laserdisc release in the 1990s. Fans were extremely grateful, and we had no regrets repurchasing the film on DVD.
It is these very same fans that demanded Bouzereau’s uncut work that have an insatiable appetite for information on all things “Jaws,” not to mention hordes of general audiences who still find themselves caught in the thrall of Spielberg’s timeless blockbuster. “The Shark is Still Working” will sate this appetite, and even a glimpse around the ‘Net or in circles where fans discuss “Jaws” would show that there are many who have been waiting impatiently for well over a year for this film to be released. As we reported a few weeks back, the film is completed and being shopped to Universal as we speak. It’s now up to Universal to realize the importance of this documentary to fans that have been anticipating it for so long.
If you’re one of those fans that has been waiting, I guarantee I’m about to make your wait that much more insufferable by explaining why this film must become a part of your “Jaws” or Steven Spielberg collection.
First, the obvious reasons that are well known online by this point. Despite the fact that we’ve seen numerous “Jaws” documentaries throughout the years, few of them can compare with the comprehensive roster of “Jaws” cast and crew who participated in “The Shark is Still Working.” Steven Spielberg, Roy Scheider (who also provides warm narration throughout the documentary in his instantly recognizable and inviting voice), Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary, Carl Gottlieb, Peter Benchley (in his last on-screen interview before his passing), Joe Alves, Bill Butler, John Williams, Richard Zanuck and David Brown -- practically any cast and crewmember that you could think of that are still traipsing on the mortal coil gave their time to discuss the film’s production and legacy. It’s true that many of these key artists also appeared in previous documentaries, but the brilliant thing is that, unlike many documentaries that followed in “The Making of Jaws’” wake, “The Shark is Still Working” doesn’t concern its entire running time with treading the same ground that Bouzereau so ably chronicled in his work. Certain familiar stories may be broached in “Shark is Still Working,” but there is a wealth of information from the cast and crew that will delight fans to no end. This is truly exciting when you consider the fact that many of these folk have been talking about “Jaws” for over three decades now. And yet, “The Shark is Still Working” director Erik Hollander and writer James Gelet had a rock solid grasp on how to draw out unique stories previously unshared. This is largely due to the fact that you’ll likely meet no bigger fans of “Jaws.” These guys know the film, its legacy and the coverage of both its production and said legacy inside and out. As fans themselves, they know what that their fellow fans are tired of the repetitive coverage of “Jaws” in recent years, and they also know that there is still plenty to document if only the right questions are asked and the right approach is taken.
It’s the approach of “The Shark is Still Working” that builds on previous work and surpasses it in scope. While most studies of “Jaws” are content to retread those familiar tales of the troubled production and triumphant release, “The Shark is Still Working” moves far beyond the production with an exhaustive survey of “Jaws’” place in popular culture since 1975. It is these sections where the film truly shines. It starts with the film’s marketing. Ever wonder who painted the classic “Jaws” one-sheet? You’ll spend some time with the artist in “The Shark is Still Working.” Still have that ominous, sonorous growl of the narrator on the film’s trailers in your head (“There is a creature alive today”)? After visiting him in “Shark,” you’ll have a face to put with that voice. Ever wonder about the final resting place of Quint’s less-than-seaworthy tug The Orca? Steven Spielberg tells all.
“The Shark is Still Working” is not content to stop with the film’s release, though. It takes the ever-continuing “Jaws” story to the present age with comprehensive coverage of the years of sequels, spin-offs (Universal’s cherished “Jaws” attractions at the theme parks), and merchandise, all things that serious fans cherish delving in to. These topics aren’t breezed through like so many previous documentaries do either; rather, they’re examined in the kind of detail that fans truly appreciate, without going into a minutia that could turn general viewers off.
The film also devotes sections to talking with professional filmmakers that Steven Spielberg’s work inspired, including genre favorites like Robert Rodriguez, Bryan Singer, Eli Roth, Kevin Smith and Greg Nicotero.
Segments are devoted to talking with creative professionals that have all been touched by the muse that is Spielberg’s film, as well as “Jaws” also inspires many creative fans working in various other media at other levels of professionalism and fandom, including artists that paint and sculpt, perform in live “Jaws”-inspired stage shows and films or even publish websites devoted to the film.
And while the muse may have not touched them creatively, “The Shark is Still Working” also highlights the incredible passion the film has inspired in everyday fans that know the film perhaps better than even some of its creators. Fans who collect “Jaws” memorabilia, fans that have gone on to work in marine biology, or fans that share in healthy, warm friendships from around the world through fansites and events like 2005’s “Jaws Fest” (which is covered extensively in the film. If you missed out on the fun, here’s your chance to see what the Fest was like!)
It is through segments like these that the legacy of “Jaws” truly comes alive and can truly be appreciated. No other documentary on the film offers the breadth and depth of historical and current information on all that the legacy of “Jaws” has wrought, and you’ll be captivated at the rich history on display in this documentary.
One of the most astounding things is that this truly exhaustive, nearly all-inclusive study of all things “Jaws” never wears out its welcome. The cut currently being shopped to Universal runs at a very healthy three hours and 14 minutes, making it the longest documentary ever devoted to “Jaws.” Not a minute should be excised from the film, however, as fans will agree that “The Shark is Still Working” goes by in a blink of an eye. Part of that is due to the pacing and construction of the film, part of it is due to it’s dynamic visual appeal (the film is full to the gills with ultra-rare clips and photos from the “Jaws’” production and release) and part of that is due to the fact that the documentary’s participants, be they the “Jaws” filmmakers or everyday “Jaws” fans, truly discuss fascinating things that “Jaws” fans will revel in.
So there it stands. “The Shark is Still Working” is without a doubt one of the most comprehensive and indispensable works ever created to document one of Steven Spielberg and Universal’s most revered films. It is an essential work that belongs in all “Jaws” fans’ DVD libraries, and any studio should be jumping at the chance to get this work in to your hands.
To help show Universal your enthusiasm, I implore our readers to join in the conversation at the newly launched official "The Shark is Still Working" forum at the film's official site, and of course, our forum here at SpielbergFilms.com.
Finally, enjoy these production photos (some of them exclusive to SpielbergFilms.com), courtesy the filmmakers. Take note that the final shot of the "Shark" producers with John Williams was photographed by none other than Steven Spielberg himself!
A Universal Picture
A Zanuck/Brown Production
A Steven Spielberg Film
Released June 20, 1975
Running Time: 2.04
MPAA Rating: PG
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Domestic Gross $261.2 million
Overseas Gross $210.6 million
Worldwide Gross $471.8 million
Academy Award, Best Editing
Academy Award, Best Sound
Academy Award, Best Score
Golden Globe, Best Original Score
Grammy Award, Best Album of
AFI 100 Greatest Movies List, #48
AFI 100 Greatest Thrills List, #2
Academy Award, Best Picture
DGA Outstanding Directorial Achievement
in Motions Pictures
Golden Globe, Best Motion Picture - Drama
Golden Globe, Best Director
Golden Globe, Best Screenplay
WGA Award, Best Screenplay