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What's Your Spielberg Moment?

  • Since doing this On The Lot thing, I’ve been pondering the films
    that had the most effect on me.  Steven Spielberg is a prolific
    filmmaker, but one of his first, JAWS, really sucker punched my
    imagination awake.

    I love Spielberg’s films - from Saving Private Ryan to Close
    Encounters of The Third Kind - so many movies of visual brilliance and
    great content. But I have to say, Mr. Spielberg, you ruined the water
    for me.

    I was a mere 5 years old when JAWS came out, in 1975. Remember the
    TV ad where there was just lot of black water and the “duh-dum” theme?
    Then at the last minute the shark jumped out? OH MY GOD…I was literally
    sitting inches away from the screen - as little kids did in those days
    - and nearly wet my pants. From that moment on, anything resembling a
    shark sent me into a tizzy. Forget about learning how to swim - the
    blue of the pool reminded me of sharks, and the fact that I couldn’t
    see 360 degrees around me in the water, along with the panic response
    of not being able to breathe - well, no hope was had for me becoming an
    Olympic swimmer. Or even a floater. Hahahaha…

    And large bodies of water - NO WAY! I could barely step into a fresh
    water lake without imagining the shark jumping up on land and chomping
    me in half. To be near the ocean almost made me cry.

    If you remember the late 70’s/early 80’s JAWS-A-THON - one after
    another - and all the marketing that went along with it, (you could not
    even buy a gumball at the skating rink without it having a JAWS image
    on it), there was no getting away from that damn shark. And given my
    overly active imagination, I could not get JAWS out of my psyche. It
    represented all that I feared, and then some.

    My family had a running gag with this fear. First of all, I was born
    in LA but grew up in northern Ontario, Canada. NO CHANCE OF SHARKS
    THERE! So it was a bizarre phobia, in the land of ice and snow. My
    older brother kept me out of his bedroom by keeping the movie poster on
    the back of his door. My younger sister liked to put the JAWS trading
    cards under my pillow. My mother let me stay up late to watch SNL and
    would laugh when I covered my eyes during the “Land Shark” bits. It was
    out of control.

    I ventured to watch it, through my fingers, several times during my
    teens. Sometimes I could take seeing the shark, most times I couldn’t.
    It was truly embarrassing. In my early twenties, I forced myself to
    watch it, and wow, that shark looked kinda fake. But it still scared
    the pants off me.

    Then, in my thirties, (where I am now - 36), I watched a rental of
    Deep Blue Sea. THE WHOLE THING. Alone. Late at night. Somehow, it
    wasn’t nearly as scary to me as JAWS. Scary, but you saw the sharks too
    much. I could handle Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. Even came to
    respect and love Great Whites for their jumping abilities and swimming
    power. I understood sharks don’t really like to eat people - they spit
    them out whenever they do take a chunk, thinking surfers look like
    seals. But JAWS…nah…

    So I decided to go swimming with the sharks in the Bahamas.
    Stewart’s Cove, to be exact. Snorkeling above a frenzied gaggle of reef
    sharks. I was able to do it for 15 minutes. Not bad for a selachophobic.

    But you know what finally got me over, mostly, my fear of JAWS?
    Being a filmmaker, specifically a shooter and editor. Because now, when
    I watch a film I’ve seen a couple of times, and I’ve seen JAWS about 30
    times at least, I start to take it apart shot and editing-wise.

    To Mr. Spielberg, I’m sure you’ve heard this a millions times, but I
    want to say thanks for scaring me so much I needed to know how it was
    all done. So thusly, JAWS became part of the reason I’m a filmmaker
    today. It fed into my vivid imagination and forced me to explore dark
    corners. I’m 95% selachophobia free, but don’t ask me to ride the
    Universal Studios JAWS boat thingy. Not gonna happen. I’d rather scuba
    dive with the real thing.

    What’s your Spielberg moment?