Watching one of Jamie Benning’s “filmumentaries” is like watching one of your favorite movies with the ultimate commentary track. That’s because Benning spends months and months picking over every last scrap of behind-the-scenes material—from deleted scenes to alternate takes to story boards to, yes, director’s commentary tracks—and strings the best of it together into the full-length story of the making of the film.
“Inside Jaws,” his follow-up to the excellent Indiana Jones filmumentary “Raiding the Lost Ark,” took Benning 16 months to put together. And it shows: The Spielberg commentary alone is cut together from several different interviews spanning more than three decades. Some of the best moments find the cast and crew disagreeing with each other—and even themselves—across the years. Screenwriter Carl Gottlieb first says that it was actor Roy Scheider who improvised the movie’s most famous line, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” But in a later interview Gottlieb tells how he came upon an account from Roy Scheider, from around the time of the making of the film, in which Scheider says that it was in the screenplay.
The documentary also finds its own angle on the story, incorporating Benning’s own interviews with many of the locals recruited for the film’s cast and crew—like Tom Dunlop, who recalls how, after getting turned down for a spot as an extra, he snuck onto the set and managed to make his way into “probably five or six different setups and shots.” Dunlop caused quite a bit of trouble with that bit of mischief—the production was having enough headaches already—but in this summer of World War Z and The Lone Ranger, this Jaws documentary is also one more reminder that even the most troubled productions can still make for great films.
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