Jaws Fest to return to Martha’s Vineyard in 2012

The iconic image from the movie poster is now linked to Martha's Vineyard. — Photo courtesy of Universal Studios

Following the success of Jaws Fest 2005, an event billed as a three-day celebration of Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws,” the mid-1970s blockbuster filmed on the Vineyard with Islanders in many roles, JAWSFEST: The Tribute, is planned for August 9-11, 2012 on Martha’s Vineyard.

The first Jaws Fest on the weekend of June 3, 2005 coincided with the 30th anniversary of the movie, and the turnout was greater than the event’s organizers had hoped. A total of attendees is illusive because the event was spread across the Island and tickets were not required at many of the activities, estimates range up to and beyond 4,000.

Susan Sigel Goldsmith was co-director of the event in 2005, and she is producing the 2012 event. She said this week that she expects next summer’s JAWSFEST: The Tribute to be even better.

“This year we have more time to plan and a better knowledge of what to expect,” Ms. Goldsmith explained. “We’ve already got a number of the connections to do the licensing that needs to be done and a number of connections with the families and VIP’s (guest speakers with some involvement with the film). The fans have been chomping at the bit for another event since the last time. We’ve got a lot of great ideas, but it’s a major production, and we want it to be top notch for the fans.”

Ms. Goldsmith likens the devotion of some of the followers of the Mr. Spielberg’s “Jaws” to “Trekkies,” the die-hard fans who attend Star Trek gatherings, and she promises a great experience for those who may have missed the 2005 Jaws Fest and new things for those who attended.

Some of the events already scheduled include discussions with cast, families, crew, and locals who were involved in the making of the film; Jaws Tribute, a multimedia tribute to Peter Benchley, Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and others involved with Jaws who have since died; a treasure hunt built around locations where filming took place; live re-enactments of some favorite “Jaws” scenes, a museum-quality display of private collections of “Jaws” photographs and memorabilia from the filming; and an outdoor screening of he movie.

One of the highlights of Jaws Fest 2005 was an appearance by the late Peter Benchley, who wrote the book on which the movie was based.

“Peter made it last time. It was his last major public appearance, and it was amazing,” Ms. Goldsmith said this week, recalling some of the backstage stresses with which she coped in 2005.

“We had an afternoon session at the Tabernacle with Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb [who co-wrote the screenplay for Jaws, acted in the film, and has since released a book and documentary on the production], and they were talking about writing the script and how it happened with the translations from the book to the movie and their interactions. It was a wonderful session.

“The fans heard that we were inviting Peter Benchley, and that he was coming, but we didn’t have a confirmation yet. I emailed Peter, and his first email back to me was livid, saying ‘You’re using my name as leverage for your event.’ I had already gotten in touch with those fans and told them it was not true that Peter had confirmed and that they were killing our chances of having Peter attend. I apologized to Peter, but we established an email dialogue, and by-hook-and-by-crook, we got him to come. It was really special.”

The finale to the 2005 event was an outdoor screening of “Jaws.” The crowd’s enthusiam knew no bounds.

“Before the screening of the movie in Owen Park, we were at another location, and we got a call from the Vineyard Haven police, who were working with us very nicely, and they said they needed us there. There were tons of people who were way early, and Universal Pictures was giving out these great towels and people were camping out hours and hours before what we had anticipated. When we got there that night, you could barely walk through the crowd. They were all across the lawn and packed across the cement. I looked around, and here was a thirty-year-old movie, and much of the crowd were under thirty, and I thought wow. The connection that has been made across generations is really fabulous,” said Mrs. Goldsmith.

Among those who have yet to confirm their attendance are the film’s composer, John Williams, actor Richard Dreyfuss, and director Spielberg.

Ms. Sigel encouraged business people to begin planning for the August 2012 event occurring in a notably hectic time of year on the Island.

“We’ll have a Jaws store with our merchandise, but also merchants on the Island can participate. We’re trying to make this as collaborative for the Island businesses as possible and integrate them into our programs as much as possible,” Mrs. Goldsmith said.

For information visit www.jawstribute.com.