Tell ’em I’m going fishing: Dustin Meadows and friends reel in a recreation of ‘Jaws’
The comedian spent a portion of the pandemic remaking the Steven Spielberg classic, which you can watch for free online now
Dustin Meadows first saw “Jaws” as a young child, and the 1975 thriller left such an impression on the comedian that to this day he still refuses to venture more than 15 feet into the ocean.
“Back in 2018, when my fiancée and I went to Santa Monica beach, I think I waded in maybe 10 feet from the shoreline and I was like, ‘This is as far as I go,’” Meadows said recently by phone.
In the years since that first viewing, Meadows has revisited the movie with regularity, catching screenings at local theaters (Studio 35, Gateway Film Center, South Drive-In) and even unpacking it in more academic terms while deconstructing the flick in college, where he minored in film production. “It’s kind of nuts to have a monster movie where you hardly see the monster, and you really don’t fully see it until over halfway through,” Meadows said. “And the script is really good. … It’s a really well-paced movie, which is something I rarely say about movies that stretch past the two-hour mark. It’s just amazingly well-done.”
For those reasons and more, “Jaws” seemed like a natural fit when, a few months into the coronavirus pandemic, Meadows, who has been vocal about the importance of taking time off to absorb the unfolding global catastrophe, started to feel that familiar creative tug, which led him to the idea of recreating a famed movie scene-for-scene.
“The pandemic has challenged me and a lot of other comedians and artists I respect to express themselves differently, whether it’s through other mediums or just in changing up how they do things,” said Meadows, who participated in a handful of virtual comedy events but has no immediate plans to return to live stages. “For me, I realized I wasn’t going to be doing a lot of stand-up … so I thought maybe I could remake a movie. And then it got in my head that ‘Jaws’ could be fun.”
For the ambitious project, Meadows invited a number of friends both in Ohio and across the country to contribute, splitting off scenes and giving each creative team carte blanche on how to approach it. As a result, the completed film has a lovably patchwork quality, combining scenes filmed with human actors with “animated” sequences populated by various Pez dispensers, Legos or Barbie dolls. In one early scene, a contributor spends several minutes explaining his initial ambitious plans for the shoot, which included procuring a shark from Chicago, which he said later ate the footage, leaving him with nothing. In the end, he records a video apology and reveals a tattoo on his arm of Jaws eating a young boy.
“The only real hard and fast rules we had were a few costume things so that it would be apparent throughout which character was which,” Meadows said. “Beyond that, the idea was never to remake it faithfully. It was to have some fun with it, and to give it our own little twist.”
In one scene, for example, Meadows altered a monologue so that the dialogue referenced the events of the movie “Deep Blue Sea,” and there are a handful of mentions to living amid a pandemic, which was something Meadows initially resisted but that became impossible to avoid as life amid COVID-19 has continued to drag on.
“Initially what I told everyone was to avoid references to [the coronavirus] for fear of dating ourselves, but that was also when I thought this would be over by the fall,” said Meadows, who initially hoped to release his take on “Jaws” last Fourth of July, and then on Halloween, before giving up and realizing months more would be required to finish the project, which released earlier this month and can now be viewed on YouTube. “And the longer I spent on it the more I was like, ‘OK, I don’t care about dating myself. I don’t care about avoiding references to things that are going on right now, because at this point how can you not?’”
While Meadows encountered a number of hurdles throughout the production, including some contributors dropping out, which required him to recreate more scenes than he initially intended, these might have paled in comparison to the concept of shooting the majority of a film that requires the constant presence of the ocean within a landlocked state.
“It was fun seeing what everyone’s solution was," Meadows said. "For a couple of my scenes we drove down to Senecaville to shoot on the lake there. … And some people substituted a bathtub for the ocean, or got really creative using a blue tarp to represent the water.”
Had the production stretched on much longer, Meadows could have filmed some of his scenes oceanside. In late June, the comedian will depart Columbus with his fiancee, Michelle Weiser, for a long-planned move to Los Angeles, where he intends to pursue comedy, in addition to film work.
“We’re both very excited, especially since we got a place locked down way earlier than we thought we were going to, which was one of the big hurdles,” said Meadows, who was forced by COVID-19 to delay the move a year. “I never thought I’d find myself saying this, but I am going to miss a good chunk of the people here, and I’m going to miss some things about being in this city. It’s been nice to spend a little more time here before moving on to that next step.”
Watch the collaborative remake of "Jaws" below.