Official SUNY ESF DLA Off-Campus Blog

hollywood + landscape by t.devlin
November 15, 2010, 2:04 pm
Filed under: Martha's Vineyard 2010

How Hollywood Changed the Island Forever

Filming for Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster thriller Jaws began in 1974 on the island, with locations mapped out below.  The various film locations across the island were pulled together to form the fictional resort island of Amity.  As one of the first real blockbuster films in the movie industry, Jaws put Martha’s Vineyard on the map well before the Clintons and Obamas decided to vacation here.  Spielberg selected the landscape of the island to film because it was a real New England beach the public could identify with.  The setting on an island added to the thrill of being surrounded by water knowing terror could strike at any minute.  The idyllic natural beauty of the island is the main attraction, not the built elements.

Perhaps one of the most challenging parts of filming was the repeated mechanical failure of the shark, named Bruce.  Bruce had previously been tested in studio pools and corroded and malfunctioned when it came in contact with the salt water causing Spielberg to adapt his filming strategy.

Check out the original trailer from the movie below –

Many locations on the island visible from the trailer are still well visited today.  While there are no formal tours of film locations or kiosks full of Jaws paraphernalia, the film has had a lasting presence on the island.  Many island residents were extras in the film, and paid $5 a day to run from the ocean in terror.    While many island residents are tied to the film and some have Amity set memorabilia in their homes, it is readily apparent the island wants to be known for its whaling history, iconic camp ground cottages, literary heritage, and natural beauty, not for being the location for one of Hollywood’s greatest blockbusters.  While Jaws went on to win three Oscars and a Golden Globe, every film location in the landscape was required to be fully restored to the state it was in before filming.

Here is to hoping you may one day have the opportunity to swim in the waters where Jaws once terrorized thousands of beach-goers,



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