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Compromises: Jaws

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How creative compromise could have killed "Jaws."

Little Stevie Spielberg has thrice fallen asleep face-down in the water during the battle scar monologue and nearly drowned each time. He is happy that shooting on his film Bruce: A Shark's Tale is coming to a close, especially since he believes it to be a flop and is eager to move on to scripting 1941, a film he is certain to prove a far more successful endeavor.

It's time to shoot the big action sequence, in which Bruce the Shark gnaws his way through the wreckage of the heroes' vessel and martyrs the mighty Quint, Shark Hunter Extraordinaire, with his razor-sharp maw.

Just as they light the boat and ready the props, one of the film's producers marches over to Steven's side.

"Steve-O," the Producer says, slapping Spielberg on the back so that his spectacles spill down the bridge of his nose. "The execs have spoken. They think 'A Shark's Tale' is a horrible title, a horrible title! And they think it will turn audiences off big time. They're even less enamored of the main title."

"'Bruce?!'" Stevie shrieks. "They don't like 'Bruce?!' Why not?"

"It's too endearing," the Producer says by way of explanation, as he gestures for a team of interns to come in and switch out the red letters on the film's clapboard. "They're afraid people will find it too cuddly and mistake the picture for a third-rate rip-off of Benji."

"But it's a lynchpin, that's what they call him!" the young director cries.

"Can't be helped, Stefan. Can't be helped. BUT!"

"Yes, I'm listening."

"They've suggested something that's fail-safe, something that'll work like gangbusters."

"Well...?"

The Producer leans in to Steven's ear and, with elegant gesticulation, and a smooth tone akin to a songstress, he whispers, "The Fiiiin."

"The what?"

"The Fiiiiiin," The producer purrs again.

Steven shakes his head. "No way. No way that will work."

The Producer's expression sours. "Well, you've gotta change it and that's that."

Spielberg stares off for a beat, drumming the tip of his nose contemplatively. Then the proverbial lightbulb goes off. "JAWS! That's what we'll darn well call it! JAWS! Who can escape the clutches of...JAWS!"

The Producer nearly jumps out of his slacks at the suggestion, dollar signs appearing where his pupils used to be. "GENIUS! You've got a winner, kid!" And then, after a moment, he collects himself, wiping the sweat of excitability from his brow with his money clip. "Okay, I'll let you get back to work. We're all expecting great things, Steve-O!"

Spielberg inhales deeply, the breath of a victor. And just then the Effects Department heads over with a limp rubber artifice in their hands, a massive dark gray noodle with blackened slits forming three great slash marks on either side of its hefty bulk. Were it not for the merciless indigo eyes glued to its stern, young Steven may not have recognized it as the villain of his movie.

"What the fuck is this?!" he howls. "You guys should be in the water by now! Why does that thing look less alive than Rudolph Valentino's prick?!"

"Because, sir, we can't get it working. The motor burned out."

"But we're over schedule! We're burning daylight! We haven't a prayer! What can we do?!"

The Effects Guys stare on, afraid to blink but unable to conjure a single rational solution.

Slow Fade.

Fade Up.

Cue suspenseful music. Cue FX track. Cue the pitiful cries of a grown man as his extremities are surrendered to the beast.

Foamy saltwater floods the corners of the frame as...two slender, hairless male arms hoist the flaccid Bruce into the bottom of the frame and dump him over the side of the triturated ship. Then an ominous cord is struck as...Robert Shaw slips and slides down the screen and into the unforgiving cavern of the monster's fanged mouth.

The beast does not move and, after some time, Mr. Shaw barks, "Who's got the bourbon?!" He swallows his pride in one fell gulp and uses both hands to shove himself into the rubber apparatus, a sickening crack emanating from his spine as he folds his body forwards to camouflage himself behind the gnarled, blood-stained teeth of the immovable killing machine.

Smile, you sonovabitch!

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