Recently, I’ve been following the little company that could deliver HUGE – Shark City Ozark, or SCO Collectibles. Being a giant fan of the film "JAWS", I quickly discovered that no one makes ‘em better than SCO. I have been granted the opportunity to interview the principle owner, operator, sculptor and artist, Mike Schultz. Mike gives us a peek not only at what it’s like running a small company and manufacturing right here in America, but also what he’s got in store for us, long and short term. As a bonus, They’ve given us an exclusive first look at their incredible 1/6 scale (you read that right!) Nose-to-Gills bust!
Just when you thought it was safe to start saving money again…..
CC: Mike, can you start off by telling us a little about Shark City Ozark, how it got started, and your role with the company?
SCO: You bet, and thank you so much for this interview and all the work you’ve put in to it. To be very blunt, Shark City Ozark never would have happened unless I died almost two years back. Misdiagnoses had led to a wrong prescription that ultimately ‘shorted’ my heart out. Over a two month period I died on five separate occasions.
It was during all of this, and the year-plus recovery afterwards that my wife and I finally woke up to the fact that you really don’t get many second chances in life. Heck, most don’t get first chances…
There is so very much more to life than just being a proper parent and supporting the utility, credit card, and insurance companies…
So, we finally got up the nerve to selfishly shoot for a dream together! About that time we became acquainted with a (now) good friend by the name of Fred Stine who runs what I consider the best JAWS related forum/site called Operation Orca. He guided us along a more practical route to getting these designs out to the fans.
Fred’s now an integral part of our team and in fact has been doing some phenomenal marketing work which in a round about way helped us get in contact with you.
We knew that we wanted SCO (www.sharkcityozark.com) to happen and we knew that we had ‘The Shark’ dimensions perfected. We also knew there was a VERY strong fan base, so we stepped out and just went for it.
Sure, some had tried this before and failed, but that was because they just couldn’t get the shark right. As far as I know, and according to Mr. Joe Alves himself (the original designer of ‘The Shark’)
We’re the only ones to ever reproduce this shark
‘right on the money.’
Ironically I also happened to get laid off with several other co-workers during that period due to down-sizing. For us, just as for many Americans, finding employment was literally impossible, so the old adage that ‘pressure makes diamonds’ played out very true for us. It was sink or swim from the very start.
We’ve put every waking moment and every last cent into making our shark and our little American family business work. But there’s still lots of work to do. I like to think of us as the little farm that could…and can.
CC: Your first official piece, the Bruce NTT (nose to tail), was very well received, and seems to have sold through rather quickly. Do you plan to reissue the piece one day or perhaps move on to creatures from other films?
SCO: We actually have several new pieces almost ready to release for pre-order as I write these responses.
And I have another 11 shark related projects in various stages of development for both the Jaws-Shark fan community, and for those fans of real-life sharks.
NTT was so successful and so well received that we’re now able to look at doing many more projects for fans of this genre that might never have been made possible otherwise. Our original goal with NTT which was to stimulate the finfan community and to help us get the ball rolling. So far the ball seems to be rolling along in the right direction.
As a litmus test, I firmly believe that SCO’s NTT shark absolutely proves that there’s a very Large and very Solid fan base for this type of movie related shark – IF and only IF – done at this extreme level of accuracy. I also firmly believe that our NTT shark replica absolutely proves that fans will whole heartedly invest in movie shark replicas, but only when they are done correctly. Get it wrong and No Sale!
So very many have attempted to replicate these sharks and have stumbled that the fan community had already accepted the idea there would never be a movie shark collectible with intrinsic accuracy above the comic-’tub toy’ level. Believe me, what the world does not need is yet another awkwardly inaccurate shark toy or model.
What I’m trying to say in a nut shell is… we’ve proven that if you make it ‘perfectly-Accurate’ then they will come…
For now, the NTT molds are in our ‘vault’. At this time there are no plans for a re-release in the foreseeable future.
I believe we still maintain a wait list that a collector may sign up on to get a chance at owning a ‘pre-ordered’ NTT that someone wasn’t able to finish paying for. Due in part to the confusing economic times being forced on our country; some fans have suddenly found themselves laid off from work like I was, and as a result a few have had to cancel their orders. When this happens that numbered NTT is made available to those on the wait list.
CC: I think that’s exactly how I got mine. Now, Bruce is clearly meant to represent the mechanical shark from the classic movie “JAWS”. It’s not a licensed piece (and being a shark, doesn’t need to be), although it can safely be said that it is the most accurate 3D representation of the creature ever made.
Is licensing through Universal something you’ve ever considered?
SCO: We considered the Universal Licensing route briefly but found it too cost prohibitive. We asked if they wanted a profit share deferred deal but they wanted an up front chunk of money we could not afford. It would have been nice to be able to market our shark design with the JAWS logo plastered on it everywhere but after weighing the pro’s and con’s and lack of a working budget we decided to sludge through the viral W.O.M. trenches with a generically named ‘shark’ and see if we could find interest via a grass roots campaign. If folks recognized the shark then we might have a chance. The gamble seems to have paid off.
Joe Alves supports my efforts, and we do not use the singular word JAWS to label our one-of-a-kind individually created artistic representations. Under ‘fair use’; all is well. We would, however, like to be able to use the word JAWS on our packaging and promotion as a JAWS licensee and maybe at some point someone will partner with us that can afford to cover that. Maybe Universal sees the light now and is willing to profit share and cut us a deferred deal. That would be nice. We’re open to offers and participation. We hope they can envision ACCURATE Bruce’s on everyone’s shelves like I can.
Maybe as a tie-in premium to go with the next JAWS blue ray?
CC: Have you ever considered making something for sale only at Universal’s theme parks, where JAWS is still represented?
SCO: Oh yes, it would be both highly profitable and extremely fulfilling to be able to team with Universal and to be the driving force behind offering movie shark collectibles that actually look accurate for once.
For too long now too many ‘goofy’ looking rubber toys have hogged those shelves.
As it stands though based on our exploration in this area, well let’s just say we found that the process to be able to do this with Universal is very ‘user unfriendly’, cost prohibitive and complicated. They want millions of $$$ in insurance alone. Perhaps soon someone with an eye for business at Universal will ‘discover us’ and realize what they missed out on, and help us to help them so we can get the fin fans what they’ve already been going gaga over all year. In fact I’m sure even NEW finfans would be drawn in more readily to help Universals’ bottom line and keep the JAWS franchise relevant.
So yes…I would love to work with them in this capacity somehow should they extend the ‘golden scepter’ to us and make it possible.
CC: It looks like your next pieces will be a 1-foot version of the NTT (something those with limited means and/or space are cheering!) as well as a one-sixth scale nose-to-gills bust (NTG). What can you tell me about these new offerings?
SCO: Ah, yes the spotlight now turns to our two newest projects about to be released for pre-order….
First out will be the humongous 1/6 scale NTG or Nose to Gill
Shark Head display.
It is so large it literally can swallow our 3 foot long NTT shark.
If you have any of the great old-style big GI Joes’ around, this huge shark matches them in scale.
From snout-tip all the way back it’s over 18 inches long, and includes the forward full 1/3 of ‘The Shark’ from the movie plus all five of the gills and the forward 1/3 of the pectoral fin-slot area.
1/6 is an incredible scale for this shark. Like the NTT, every angle, contour and detail has been mathematically mapped out and placed correctly. Wounds and synthetic skin repairs are even modeled to correct depths. It is wrinkled where it should be wrinkled and bulged likewise. Absolutely no accurate detail for this shark has been overlooked.
Film fans should note that this 1/6 NTG is a scale model accurate replica of the 4th and final shark used for filming at MGM, otherwise known as ‘the studio-tank shark’. Also best known as the ‘end-scenes’ shark that took out Hooper’s anti-shark cage before attacking the boat. This shark had many very unique features that the other sharks did not have. It was actually piecemealed together from all the other sharks and from pieces of the rigs that made it back to Universal that still functioned.
For those familiar with NTT, this NTG shark also is not only a perfect shark model, but a perfect model of the actual movie shark. What this means is that every real-life flaw and patch uncovered from archive reference has been faithfully modeled.
Those who truly know ‘The Shark’, know that many of its features differed from one side of the shark to the other. For example, one eye is higher than the other, the nostrils modeled differently etc… These are things I care profoundly about. Our models capture all of these famed nuances because I want collectors to be in awe not underwhelmed. Take the movie sharks’ arm-like pectoral fins for example. These fins were rarely attached except for close ups, so we modeled the slotted areas and mechanical attachment points on either side where the fins were placed to convey the actual historical ‘everyday-look’ of the hero props.
Much of this has been based on some incredible rarely seen before ‘behind the scenes’ reference photos I now have in my archive.
I have been sworn to secrecy about which VIP’s exactly befriended us at SCO, but I can say it was made known on ‘Operation Orca’ that I needed better reference materials for these projects….and well sir, within a few weeks, three of the biggest names in Hollywood contacted me and have supplied me with reference materials beyond my wildest dreams.
And if that’s not enough, shortly after the NTG is out we’ll release a smaller shark display that we’re calling the OS-NTT.
(‘Open Sided’ Nose to Tail shark).
At 1/16 scale it works out to 18 1/4 inches long. OS-NTT depicts one of the 2 open sided movie sharks with the open side fully displaying all of the mechanics that we can squeeze into it.
CC: Awesome!!! I’ve read a rumor somewhere that you intend to produce a "Brucette" NTT version from the film “JAWS 2”. Can you confirm this?
Would it be a modified sculpt based on the original Bruce NTT? Would buyers have the option of have a burned or non-burned face?
SCO: Very true. In fact I have several versions actually in the works right now. Mr. Alves did confirm for me that the sequel shark was mostly made from the same molds as the original. He patiently spent a lot of effort detailing for me where they made changes to the head mold for the sequel shark’s unique look. And I’ve already made those changes for a few prototypes. We’re now deciding which to release and when. Likely we’ll make something available in line for the next J2 anniversary.
As far as options, I’d ideally like to present three separate versions.
The first would be the unharmed shark as seen onscreen for most of the early portions of the film. The second option would be with the ‘on screen’ burned appearance. Lastly a ‘Brucette’ 2.0, or an updated version of the burned shark with a far more realistic look as though it were real burned shark flesh and not like burned urethane.
CC: Sweet. If this pans out, I think it would be great to have NTT’s from all four films. If you proceeded down this path, would the Bruce from JAWS 3 be in scale? If I recall correctly, the shark is surmised to be another ten feet in length!
SCO: I actually have a Bruce 3d shark head displayed ‘to scale’ with my NTT in my own collection. Believe it or not, I really liked that particular shark, especially its range of motion. Mr. Alves has spoken very fondly of it as well.
As far as the last movie in the franchise I find myself, just like the majority of shark fans and movie goers, not caring very much for the 4th sequel or its shark. But if there is a demand for it than I will force myself to fall in love with it and complete the fourth in a series of NTT collectibles for the SCO completists out there.
CC: I feel exactly the same way, I think the 3D version is a must. Can you tell us a little about your production process?
Is it true that each piece is actually made by hand by yourself here in the US?
SCO: I would be very proud to tell you every intricacy, but then I’d have to let NTG eat you. Seriously though, what I can tell you is I use the best resins and materials for the job. We don’t save money by using cheap foams or paints. We want to be remembered for being trailblazers, for doing things accurately and for maintaining the highest possible qualities in production. These sharks will certainly outlast me and our efforts, so we want them to speak for us.
SCO is a family business, and there are six of us ranging from teens to mid forties. I do all of the design and prototyping work.
Other production areas are trained and delegated to whoever wants the job or has more fun in that area. Some of us like molding or casting, some airbrushing, and some like the woodworking and miniature fabrication for the display stands.
But yes, each piece is actually made in-house – our house.
We are located out in the country and try to live a simple lifestyle. In fact, we’re actually now in the process of transitioning over to an ‘off the grid’ lifestyle this year. One of the best ways to flourish in today’s dying economy is to become less dependant on as much as possible. It’s a lot of work, but everyone shares the load and we feel our family has been drawn much closer by all of these experiences and changes in life.
We order big shipments of resins and supplies which come in, and after all of us have handled the daylights out of the materials for a few weeks, then out goes another shark-shipment .
My wife and kids are VERY skilled too; they definitely have ‘the right stuff’, and are far better with many of these tools than I was at their ages.
So I get to start each display and adjust and direct their progress down the line, through to final detailing and shipping. And then we bounce things off Fred at Operation Orca for another perspective in case we missed something. Nothing leaves unless we love everything about it and feel we did our best to fulfill what the customer requested and what a customer like me would want in collectibles like these.
CC: I’ve seen some pictures from your earlier work, and it is remarkable, especially your dinosaur work. Is there any chance you’d expand on your catalog, and offer beasts and monsters from other classic films? I know I’d personally love a Giant Gorilla from Skull Island, or a certain radioactive lizard from Tokyo!
SCO: You must have a bug on my office or shop wall:
I am a huge Dino and Godzilla fan!
I’ve modeled him over the years many times, and maintain an archive on many of the suits and behind the scenes images.
I have a design folder with conceptual Godzilla designs that date over 30 years back into my teen years. Yes, I would very much like to bring some of my concepts to life someday. I personally tend to favor designs related to the Marvel Comic’s series, including designs made popular by pulp artist Herb Trimpe.
I’m a huge fan of all those classic ‘Famous Monsters’. I don’t believe anything monster or shark related is safe from us interpreting it at SCO. Sharks and dinosaurs dominate me. Were it not for sharks and dinosaurs who knows where I’d be right now……maybe I’d still be a prison guard where I used to watch some real monsters 24/7.
CC: In closing, is there anything you’d like to express to our readers? Anything out there that you collect, or appreciate from an artists’ standpoint? What would you consider a “Dream Project”?
SCO: Well in the immediate future I think it’d be cool to have a larger established well funded company to work with that has the same vision I do which is to be able to have what we do at SCO
manufactured en mass. If done correctly with quality enforced strictly, its been proven by the McFarlanes, and the Cinemamaquettes, and the Hot Toy type companies that tie-in figures of a very high quality can be produced in large numbers effectively, and that there’s a growing market for this sort of thing. You probably know this better than I do at AFI.
Movie and shark fans have waited 30 plus years for awesome looking collectibles. And my little family of six is struggling to supply that demand. I want nothing more than to be able to see finfans be able to purchase some of our sharks at prices everyone can afford.
As for my dream project? Which one… I guess leader of the pack would be to finally build my own full scale Bruce style shark in my own pond. I always figured that some guys dabble in R/C airplanes, and some have train track sets in their basements. Well, I always wanted my own movie scale mechanical shark or sharks set up in a pond.
Not as crazy as it sounds really. I actually built my first generic animatronic shark over 20 years ago. Stay in fresh water, and keep the main components high and dry and you have the makings of what’s been keeping the California JAWS attraction operating almost daily since ‘76. Sure they’ve changed its appearance over the years and its fins are too small but it’s essentially the same shark they used in the movie from the gill to the tail.
Unfortunately, while there are no ‘good looking’ shark rides currently in the world where people don’t laugh or roll their eyes when the
‘shark’ surfaces to scare them…maybe one of these days Universal will decide to actually give the world a Shark ride that looks like the REAL shark as seen in the film.
But what they need is someone who lives and breaths the ‘shark material’ like I do to give them a real shark for a change, not just the
business as usual approach and ‘going with the cheapest contractor’…
There is a demand for scary sharks or these parks would not have these kinds of rides still working. If they do decide to give the attractions the ‘right look’…they can always contact me. After all, I’ve built 4 other mechanical sharks in my life in my garage without a pricey budget. Imagine what I could do if Universal was involved.
Right now, just making these collectable static display sharks and reading all the nice things that people are saying about our work keeps us pretty high. It’s a grand way to live a day.
NTT has not only given this family new life and kept food on our table; it’s also given us a shot at a better future. Not to mention, we’ve met MANY nice and helpful people and made friends with Hollywood types that we never thought we’d meet.
Too bad it took the agony of dying repeatedly to force me out on a limb to chase a dream; but I’d do it all over again if that’s what it took to get me on this road. I dream, and wish, that I can continue to produce these wonderfully accurate shark displays and have them be as well received as the first NTT shark for the rest of whatever life allowed me.
It’s just too much fun to ever walk away from, plain and simple.
I can’t repeat this enough but we’re truly grateful that wise, fun-loving and good hearted fellow movie shark finfans have accepted our artistic efforts in such a welcoming manor.
In closing I’d like to thank again all those who are currently investing in www.sharkcityozark.com by ordering and pre-ordering our art renditions. Thank you chums, we could not be doing any of this without each and every one of you. My real gratitude will be evident in these two newest offerings about to be released.
Thankfully we won’t have to close the
Beaches this summer…
CC: I’d like to personally thank Mike Schultz and Fred Stine for helping make this peek behind the scenes of this amazing little company possible! Remember, when these folks become huge, you read it here first!
For more info and cool pictures (not to mention a great and passionate community), be sure to visit http://www.createforum.com/operationorca/ and http://www.sharkcityozark.com/