The Jaws Log, or, Learn The Movie Industry with One Book

This is The Jaws Log.

One of the many amazing things about The Jaws Log - besides the other, arguably more important amazing things mentioned later on - is that it was first published in 1975. Alert film fans will know that 1975 was the year Jaws itself was released. Why is this amazing? Well, considering The Jaws Log is a 'warts 'n' all' behind-the-scenes book, which details, amongst other things, several actor's drinking and womanising problems, huge disasters with the production and the inner workings of a studio system, it remains remarkable that author Carl Gottlieb felt comfortable publishing it, let alone that Universal, Steven Spielberg and several others seem to have been happy for him to do so.

It is also amazing that someone allowed it to be called The Jaws Log. Whilst Jaws: A Selection of Amazing Anecdotes or How Spielberg's Jaws Was Made (Including The Bits They Didn't Want Me To Tell You About), may have been deemed too cumbersome, they are at least better and more descriptive than its current moniker, which gives the impression that you might be about to read an attendance register.

Thankfully, this proves not to be the case. Gottlieb's book is comprised along the dual lines described above. On one level it is a collection of behind-the-scenes anecdotes, of the 'remember when I fell into the water' kind. These are harmless enough titbits for fans. Flesh on the bones of the history of a favourite movie, context and depth behind the stars and the challenges they had to overcome. Did you know that Spielberg wanted to take two loaded shotguns with him on to the service boat, for example? Probably not. He was only stopped when the crew threatened to mutiny if he did. Oh yes, some of this stuff is golden, nutcase-like reveals of the on-set lives of movie folk.

Of much greater worth though, aside from the anecdotes and the pulling back of the mesh curtain which normally protects stars and actors from so harsh a gaze is the view The Jaws Log provides into the logistics of a living film production. Ever wondered why film credits run on to so many pages, featuring so many people who 'surely', can't have done that much? You won't after reading this. Most jobs are described in miniature detail, and the background behind why they were needed even more so. It is a look into the process of making a film which is rarely afforded to mere mortals and the effect is compelling. Like or loathe the characters, it is difficult not to respect the achievements involved in bringing every small facet of a production together to make a film.

Re-released with Gottlieb's added notes in 2001 for the film's 25th anniversary, The Jaws Log now once again finds itself pushed into the limelight as Jaws arrives on Blu-ray, in a new digital era where seemingly nobody worries about the chemistry involved when celluloid meets salt water. In this respect too, The Jaws Log is a snapshot of the movie industry, its changes, its adaptations, its location in a new world.

An early anecdote details how Robert Shaw, staying in a house on Martha's Vineyard with his wife and butler (butler!), woke one night to find that he was being shot at. A slightly crazed local, who thought the house empty, had decided to take pot-shots at windows. Luckily, Shaw, wife and butler (butler!) escaped unharmed, and the house suffered merely cosmetic damage to windows and tiles. The point is this: how long would it take TMZ to make it to the scene now if Brad Pitt was shot at whilst on location for his latest film? In 1975 it was successfully swept under the rug, until Gottlieb swept it out again, a far time away from when some juicy photos of bullet holes may have made someone a packet.

And yet, the ultimate success of the book is that it also speaks to the timeless nature of Jaws, the trends and industry norms it started, the new process of the movies that it establish, which still lives today. Spielberg's battle with the studio has echoed through countless productions. Gottlieb's wrestle with the script (re-written day-by-day as filming happened). The 'strategy' behind the release, which eventually became Hollywood norm for blockbusters. The Jaws Log is essential reading in combination with your Blu-ray. It brings things full circle, joins past and present, uncovers old tricks and new secrets. It is, if you like, an attendance register of film-making components through the ages. Perhaps not such a bad title after all.

The Jaws Log: Expanded Edition is out now, published by Harper Collins.
Jaws was released on Blu-ray in the UK on 3rd September 2012.


  1. There's nothing better than Hollywood gossip- well the real industry gossip at least. Good review, I think I'll have to check this out soon.

    1. Well worth it. Very interesting read, for gossip and film-making insight.