Producer Carter DeHaven met Nilsson on location and told Harry "we need a top-notch composer." Harry replied, "I can be top-notch. Will you give me a shot at it?"
A few days later Nilsson wrote the lyrics for Men at Sea on a napkin for DeHaven and sang a few bars of the song he had just composed. DeHaven wanted Nilsson to compose the film's music, but the other producers decided that Nilsson was too much of a risk.
According to DeHaven, Nilsson "was okay with the decision."