An Interview with Jaws Maquette Sculptor Mike Schultz (Part 2 of 2)
Here is the second half of my interview with Shark City Ozark’s Mike Schultz about his ongoing series of Jaws maquettes. In this half, Schultz talks about the responses he’s been getting about his Bruce maquettes from Jaws fans of all stripes, what he’s learned from working with the Jaws franchise, and the challenges and rewards that come with earning a living in the scale replica business. This half also includes a picture gallery of Shark City Ozark’s Jaws 2 maquette (a.k.a. “Brucette”), which will make its debut at the upcoming JawsFest in Martha’s Vineyard. (Photos courtesy of Shark City Ozark.) Read on….
Titans, Terrors and Toys: From what I've seen on your Shark City Ozark (SCO) blog, your Jaws maquettes and busts have been a big hit among Jaws fans. What kind of feedback have you been getting from the fans and movie prop collectors?
Mike Schultz: We have enjoyed receiving consistently positive and ecstatic feedback from our customers and fans. I’m proud to say that we have achieved a pure 100% satisfaction level, with nearly everyone writing back that their SCO shark is the crown jewel of all their collectibles. We have sold sharks to young children and people older than me, and we have sold to both everyday Jaws fans and famous Hollywood directors.
In fact, Mr. Greg Nicotero--from The Walking Dead himself--not only is one of our happiest customers, he actually commissioned us to build him a special scale Bruce Dry-Dock display stand. He loves his Nose to Tail (NTT) Bruce shark so much he actually molded and remodeled other variations of the other Bruce sharks. The on-screen sharks were all very different from each other and even from themselves, as skin padding, paint-jobs and mouth corrections were made throughout filming. We have been working with Mr. Nicotero since April 8 this year toward his future project of releasing a full scale and full length Bruce Shark display! I have a detailed article about this process that we will be posting on our Shark City Ozark blog very soon. We have already shipped to him our original prototype 1/12 scale 25 inch long Ultimate Bruce Shark, which he has laser scanned towards increasing it to a full 1:1 scale. (Editor’s Note: Click here to read the latest update on the SCO blog about the full-sized Bruce replica project.)
We are doubly honored to not only have been chosen by Nicotero and called into this project, but that it is our shark and our work that has been chosen as the best of the best for the project. What an exciting honor for our family, and I’m very excited to be involved in this process. This is also a great payment towards the many months of 16-hour shop days we’ve put in to make these sharks and molds and prototypes. The hard work is paying off finally for the entire family, and in ways we never thought possible.
Shark City Ozark's NTT Bruce Shark maquette, complete with
Dry-Dock display stand and scale-sized barrels.
Dry-Dock display stand and scale-sized barrels.
TTT: I've read that Jaws art director Joe Alves was really impressed with your Bruce replicas. Have any other cast and/or crew members for the Jaws movies commented on your work?
MS: So far, we have been pleasantly surprised every time that our phone has rung and the ID reads “California”. Mr. Alves was the first to call me. He had been kind enough to respond to many of our e-mails and he provided me with a great deal of information and materials for both Bruce and Brucette--the Jaws 2 shark. It has been several years since he first called me out of the blue, and it’s been at least since November 2011 since I last spoke with him. He has been very encouraging, guiding us to get these sharks just right. I am currently trying to begin a dialog with several other cast and crew members from the Jaws films, but so far it is slow going as many of them still do not know me well enough.
TTT: How supportive has Universal been?
MS: Sadly, I gave up on Universal four years ago. Much like George Sohn of Toynami told me last year, they make it nearly impossible to achieve anything of any value. It’s almost like they deliberately refuse to produce any marketable licensed Jaws materials that have any lasting value to them. George and I agreed to work with Universal at one point, but George got so disheartened in dealing with them that he wrote me and said that he swore to never, ever to deal with them again until they changed leadership. Universal desk-pilots and bean-counters may very well be the leading reason why there has been such a dearth of collectible licensed material for Jaws these last 30 years. They simply do not operate in any form or fashion like any of the other studios do. Many toy companies refuse to deal with them.
TTT: I'm sure that forming an association with the Big Bad Toy Store site was a major boost to your customer base. Have any other toy and/or movie replica distributors expressed an interesting in partnering with Shark City Ozark?
MS: Big Bad Toy Store has opened up a whole new world for us. They are affiliated with a large number of other retailers, especially in the orient where we do well. We are also partnered with Star Wars Toy Box, which has been very helpful for us. We are still trying to attract the interest of other big name toy and collectible producers, but so far the answer has been the same as from Toynami--namely, that few who have dealt with that particular arm of Universal Studios ever go back for another round of the same.
A lot has happened these last few years. It was a big deal when I got to be a guest speaker on that Comic-Con panel in San Diego in 2011. I sat with Hasbro on one side and Mattel on the other--and that was during my second year of making Bruce maquettes! Many artists spend their entire careers doing what they do and are not able to enjoy such exposure, and I give full credit to these sharks.
Who knows what the next year or release will bring us? Personally, I would give my left anything just about to partner with Hot Toys or Sideshow Collectibles so that they would distribute one of our sharks.
Mike Schultz with a Bruce bust at Comic-Con 2011.
TTT: During your research into the mechanical sharks, what was the most surprising thing you've learned about the Jaws franchise?
MS: Honestly, what surprised me the most was what I have learned about myself. Nobody has been successful at doing this for 30 years now because I do not believe many have the experience to this correctly. I believe that a few other passionate and experienced Hollywood effects artists could have done what I have been doing these last few years had this been their passion, and done better than me to boot. But I am surprised that I have had what it takes to do what I've been doing all along. I should have been braver and stepped out on a limb 10 years ago.
I guess the next big thing I have learned that was surprising to me--and this more directly answers your question--is the absolutely crippling level of politics involved in these Jaws movies, let alone marketing them. I stand amazed that any movie can be made successfully EVER, with the dead weight that passes for leadership in many of these production companies and studios. Everything rises or falls on leadership. It seems to me that anyone who is skilled at what they do for a living must spend far more time with inept leadership, or fending off gossip, or shouldering the griping and backstabbing, or pushing to do something correctly than whatever it was that they were actually hired to do. I applaud Alves, Roy Arbogast, Kevin Pike and all of the others who must have had to fight far more than we’ll ever read about to do what they did for the Jaws movies. They’re real champions in my book.
TTT: Now that you have committed to doing maquette work on a full-time basis, how have things changed for you and your family?
MS: One thing we had to do and are almost completed with is revamping our lives from the ground up. You see, what makes other collectibles so affordable that they are mass produced in China or Mexico. We want our prices to be lower, because obviously we can sell more with lower prices, but that’s not very possible for most people living in America these days due to the economy. So, what my family and I are doing is restructuring our entire lives from the ground up, in order to make ourselves more like China or Mexico!
What we have been doing all year is cutting our needs to the bone. It could all be summed up by asking this question, “How much money would you really need to survive if you could live mortgage free?” We have moved to a much smaller and simpler lifestyle, without many modern conveniences. We now live in a very small and much older house than what we used to enjoy, and our mortgage will soon be paid in full. Instead of city water, we live off of a well. It’s a very basic lifestyle, but we already are getting used to it and appreciating it. Instead of living in splendor and trying to pass the cost to our customers, we have taken a serious cut in luxuries to live more simply, and are passing the savings to our customers for all our future releases. It’s been good for us, and it will greatly benefit our customers.
TTT: After you finish your current line of Jaws sharks, what do you plan on doing next? Will you continue to produce movie replicas for collectors?
MS: YES! Some of the areas I want to move into soon are dinosaurs and superheroes. I already have a few prototypes in the works along these lines. There are so very many sectors of untouched fandom crying out to get their own collectibles that I feel I could stay busy for life just trying my hand here and there. But dinosaurs and their kind have always been near and dear to my heart. I would like to have 50 active products online, but the challenge is that each product has its own unique needs in terms of production materials. That range of products makes it difficult to maintain stock of everything needed for every separate thing.
We also want to add dramatically to our Reel Life Shark series as well. We have 29 additional Jaws and Reel Life Shark prototypes either complete or nearly complete that we desire to market. Each should have its turn in the spotlight, although I do not wish to spend another year or two making the same sharks every day, week and year so I cannot guarantee how long what we currently offer will remain on the SCO site.
We are serious about what we do, and we want to be doing this for many years to come. The two things that everyone wants are the very best and the very affordable. Keeping that in mind, we will try to juggle all the variables to provide both of these things to our customers through our products. Putting out the best shark replicas was good enough from 2008 until now, and we feel that the combination of putting out the best sharks at the most irresistible prices is the key to surviving and excelling into 2013.
Thanks for the interview, Mike! Keep checking the Shark City Ozark site for updates about their series of Jaws maquettes, which will soon include replicas of the mechanical sharks from Jaws 3 and Jaws: The Revenge. Shark City Ozark will be at JawsFest: The Tribute, which will be held at Martha’s Vineyard during August 9 – 12, where the Brucette maquette will make its official debut. See below for pictures of this amazingly accurate sequel shark maquette, which is a 1:12 scale replica of the platform "luxury" shark that was used during the filming of Jaws 2.