In a film masterpiece, a scene is characterized by getting it right.
I will say it above –jaw is a perfect film. It’s one that you can watch over and over and learn something new from everyone. Many call it one of Spielberg’s best. It’s a monster movie based on humanity and relationships. It looks nice. That handy shark still holds – yes, still scary.
I could go on and on On a recent reprint, I was really impressed with a particular scene and the way it demonstrated so many basic things that the movie worked well overall, especially the writing and showing. I want to dive deep into this scene (sure in ours Anti-shark cage) and take away a few important lessons.
At this point in the film there were two attacks, including the one on the beach with the famous dolly zoom on Brody. A bounty was placed on the shark, which caused an influx of eager fishermen to Amity. Oceanographer Matt Hooper has arrived and after examining the remains of the first victim, discovered that it was a giant ogre. Suddenly they learn that a team has caught a tiger shark that they believe is the big one.
Here, with the arrival of Brody and the Mayor, let’s jump into the middle of this scene, then I’ll go into all of the reasons why it’s so amazing.
One thing i love jaw is his energy. You have all these frenetic scenes with characters moving under extreme pressure, talking about each other. It’s amazing and really keeps the tension at eleven.
I’m not saying you have to do the exact same thing in your own scripts, but if you find that your scenes aren’t in the mood, try something simple like adding some movement to your characters. Do you have to sit seven pages in a stagnant conversation? Or maybe they could move between places?
Aaron Sorkin used this method for the representation in so-called “go and talk“But he uses it because it works every time.
In this scene, you have characters everywhere. Brody pulls Hooper away from a conversation to meet the mayor. The mayor is so distracted that he immediately moves to look at the shark. Hooper steps aside with Brody to tell him bad news. The mayor comes back and hears them. Meanwhile, background actors are constantly moving around the men.
Even Brody, briefly walking away from Hooper, is a great beat. Roy Scheider didn’t have to do that. But it’s a wonderful moment of deliberation and further visual evidence of the pressure the character is under. He would like to turn his back on this whole situation and be done, but he won’t.
Will all of this move cost more and be harder to shoot? Yes, definitely, especially if you change locations. But will it be more electric? Yes absolutely.
Become an expert on blocking. Encourage your actors to come up with suggestions on where they would move organically in a room and record coverage accordingly when possible. As a result, you have scenes that are more exciting to watch.
If you are a writer, you should love conflict! Conflict is the fuel that keeps the engine of your story running. Without conflict, your characters will not be stimulated to act or change. Without conflict, they will have no obstacles in their journey and the plot will fall flat.
It’s also fun to watch conflicts.
And it’s fun in this scene!
The audience knows just like Hooper that this is not the shark we’re looking for. But it’s great to see him try to explain this to the locals who don’t understand anything about “bite radius”. You only see one big shark. Hooper is about two seconds away from being slapped in the face here.
We see conflict again when Hooper tells Brody the same thing. At first he is sure that they have the right shark. We have dueling opinions and overlapping dialogues.
As a writer, remember this: when you resolve a conflict, throw another one at the characters in its place. Once the characters come to the conclusion that there may be more than one shark nearby, what’s next? Hooper wants to autopsy the shark for safety. The mayor refuses to allow this and does not want a grotesque representation of human remains.
There are also levels of conflict in this scene because all characters have different motivations. The mayor wants it to be the right shark so that everything can get back to normal on the island. Brody wants the same thing, but because he wants everyone to be safe. Hooper disagrees with both of them because he believes otherwise, has specialized knowledge, and needs to be certain before reaching any conclusion.
These contradicting motivations also shape the performance of the actors. You can hear it in Murray Hamilton’s hissing lines as Mayor. He doesn’t want a scene. He cares what it would look like if there were human remains on the dock.
Mmm. Layers of conflict. I eat it like a delicious lasagna.
That conflict is broken off and replaced with a muted form of conflict when a bereaved mother arrives to confront Brody.
Also give your scenes a three-act structure
Many beginning writers struggle with the basic building block of a film, the scene. How do you write a scene How do you make sure your scenes matter?
As mentioned, conflict will be an integral part. That doesn’t mean your characters have to fight. This can be an internal conflict if the character is wrestling with a decision or a new way of thinking. This can be a physical or mental barrier to your character. Whatever it is, make sure your character is fighting something.
Also, to get really detailed, you can think of the structure of a scene that has the same three-act structure as your entire movie. Take your character on a mini journey in just a few pages. You can make sure that your scene ends in a different place (physically, emotionally, mentally) than it begins. In doing this, you are making sure that your story is actually moving forward.
What does the character learn in the scene? What is changing in your world? What will you do now?
These jaw The scene is a great example of three miniature acts. Brody enters the scene enthusiastically and basically hops with the mayor right behind it – they caught the shark! Now everything will be ok! Act one.
Until Hooper pulls him aside. This is actually not the shark. We have to keep looking. Reversal. Act two.
Then Mrs. Kintner arrives. She hits Brody, upset that he knew about the shark but did nothing about it, which resulted in her son’s death. Confrontation. Act three. (Should she beat the mayor? Probably.) Brody faces the human consequences of all of the city’s bad choices.
I’ll also notice that this beat drastically changes the tone and energy of the scene. Everyone walks quietly. It gets quiet. After the movement of the past few minutes, we have a new kind of conflict here. The scene becomes much smaller and more focused.
It’s not actually a break in tension, it’s a gear change, but it’s still important to point out that you should vary your levels in your own writing. If you have a lot of big, quick, and loud moments, make sure you give your audience moments of calm, relief, and calm as well.
The scene dissolves into this tone, with a much calmer and darker tone. All of the characters end the scene in a different emotional location, with much less certainty about what will happen next. The crowd dissolves.
What’s next? Keep learning from jaw
We’re not even touching on things like editing and cinematography, which are also an important influence on this scene. Most of all, it’s a story about people and how they interact, collide, and come together. Remember to build your own stories on a similar foundation.
But as I said, I could talk about it jaw I will leave you with more lessons from this work of art for hours.
It can teach you how to create tension. You can also learn from the heartbreaking table scenes. And here are lessons from the cinematography of jaw.
Seen jaw recently? What lessons have you learned from this? Let us know in the comments.