Like Jaws? You Should See the ‘Filmumentary’ Version
I know I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I was becoming increasingly interested in documentaries. Being one of the few areas of film I have yet to journey into, I found myself in unfamiliar waters, trying to figure out where to start or what to watch. With my regular movies, I know the ones I should see. I have many top 100 lists I can consult, or find a film by a familiar or favourite actor. Not really knowing what to look for but knowing I’d like it to be about film, I stumbled across a documentary called Inside Jaws.
What I expected was to see Steven Spielberg telling me all about the production, interviews with the still-alive members of the cast, possibly some old footage and deleted scenes. While I can be picky with my audio commentary, I find it insightful in many ways. I especially like it when the writer is available, since it gives me a sense of the many challenges that can occur when adapting a written piece to the screen. All of this, my past experiences and my expectations, made me optimistic about the documentary. What I found, however, or what Inside Jaws was and is, is not a documentary at all. It is, in fact, a Filmumentary.
If this is a new term for you, good. It was for me as well. In fact, I suspect it was invented by the creator of the Filmumentary, Jamie Benning. What Inside Jaws actually is goes far beyond audio commentary and documentary. What you see in Inside Jaws is the entire film of Jaws, including well-labelled deleted scenes and alternate takes, sometimes more than once, as well as any and all audio commentary that any of the involved parties have made about the film.
Take for example the first seven minutes of the film. In a normal audio commentary, you have people commenting on the current scenes, vying for attention from each other, and often including only the big names. People get off topic, wait their turn, and the rhythm is lost.
In the first twenty minutes of the filmumentary, however, we hear snippets of straightforward commentary from just about everyone, carefully found and overlayed by Jamie Benning to suit whatever scene is being shown. In the critical first scene where Chrissie goes out swimming and is attacked, we not only hear from Steven Spielberg. We hear from Susan Backlinie, the woman who played Chrissie. We hear from the sound recorder, the director of photography, the screenwriter, the location scout, even Richard Dreyfuss. We see how the scene actually worked through production photos worked in between scenes, we’re shown how the first attack is orchestrated with complex underwater cables. We hear the different reactions and challenges to the scene from everyone involved. Nobody talks over anyone else, nobody rushes to get their point out before the scene changes. Every choice and edit Jamie Benning makes only enhances the viewer’s experience and understanding of the film, without getting in the way of the film itself.
The best news is that Jaws isn’t the only film to receive this special treatment. Benning has also done the same to Raiders of the Lost Ark and some of the Star Wars films. I cannot suggest this enough: watch them. You will love it. Watching these filmumentaries will make you an authority on these films in a way you never have before. Jamie Benning deserves to be congratulated for putting together such a wonderful piece of movie media together. Never mind that, he should be awarded. One thing I do know for sure is that his talents are guaranteed to make someone either very jealous or very attentive. He deserves all the praise he receives for this kind of hard work.