True to the original Jaws novel by author Peter Benchley, Steven Spielberg’s screenplay included a startling scene where the giant shark feasted on the film’s main character – a grizzled diver named Hooper.
Spielberg created the visual effect by hiring a scuba diving stunt midget. By filming the diminutive diver next to a 16-foot Great White, the shark appeared to be a 25-foot monster.
Or at least that was the filmmaker’s original plan.
After shooting the scene off the coast of Australia, the film crew phoned Spielberg. They were ecstatic about the footage they had captured when the shark became enraged after catching its gill in the cable that connected the miniature cage to the boat.
But there was just one problem. The midget was not in the cage when all that happened.
Spielberg purportedly said—at least initially—that they couldn't use it. Without the mini-Hooper in the scene, they couldn’t kill him off. And in an era before the technology of computer generated imagery – the footage was useless.
Unless, of course, they scrapped their original script and let the main character live – which is ultimately what they decided to do. They killed a subplot in order to ensure the survival of a blockbuster movie.
This is not an example of making lemonade when life gives you lemons
There weren’t any lemons. They could have simply shot the scene again–this time with a small person in a tiny cage. Making movies requires usually requires multiple takes. They do it all the time.
But the scene would have been mediocre compared to the film they shot with the pissed-off great white. So they scrapped their specific goal of feeding Hooper to the sharks.
If we focus too much on killing off our hero, we may lose sight of the more important goal of making a great movie. The minor goals need to consistently serve the super goal – otherwise they can undermine our ultimate success by throwing our primary objective to the sharks.