When I was in Junior High, I made a short vampire film. I hired actors (my two best friends), a special effects man (my dad); I used the very best equipment (a Super 8 camera and tape recorder) and shot on exotic locations (a local cemetery and my school auditorium). We shot the film in two afternoons and it took me another week to edit it and record the soundtrack (Dark Shadows record album). It was 3 minutes long and when it was done, I was exhausted. Who knew making a movie could be so involved!
Take what I did and multiply it by a million and you have Raiders: The Greatest Fan Film Ever Made! I’m not sure it’s the “greatest” but it certainly racks up the prizes for perseverance, creativity on a budget and pure passion.
The story begins in 1981 just after the release of Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. The film captivated Eric Zala and Chris Strompolos who were about 11 years old at the time. They were so inspired, they decided to make their own shot for shot version of the movie. Why not? They pooled their resources, called in their friends, and spent 8 consecutive summers shooting the film. During that time they nearly burned down the house, got a boy’s face stuck in plaster and were almost killed performing the movie’s dangerous stunts without the proper gear or training, and destroyed a beautiful friendship.
The worst part — they never actually finished the film because they couldn’t pull off the climactic fight scene around a moving airplane.
But, like the great movie serials Indiana Jones was based on, a hero came out of nowhere to save the day. A pair of heroes, actually; filmmakers Tim Skousen and Jeremy Coon brought the friends back together two decades later to talk about the experience and finally finish the film. That’s what this DVD is all about.
Yes, Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made, is a fan-made film about a fan-made film. But it’s more than that. It’s a love letter to every fan who ever wrote fan fiction, painted a picture or handcrafted a piece of jewelry in honor of their favorite film or TV show.
As I watched this documentary, I was both impressed and horrified by the lengths these kids went through to make this movie. The level of detail is insane and though the film quality is poor, you can feel the dedication and passion in every shot.
By the time I got to the end of the documentary, even I was invested in the Raiders film. I was disappointed when the rains came and stopped them from shooting that ‘martini shot’. And when they actually yelled cut for the last time, I cried. No joke. It was a beautiful moment for all of us.
If you’re an Indiana Jones fan, or just a fan of fandom, you’ve got to see this documentary. It’s an incredible testament to what fans can do when they put their minds to it.
Eric Zala’s son said it best,
“I think it’s amazing that Steven Spielberg needed $20 million to make ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ and my dad only needed his allowance.”
Pick up Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made on Blu-ray from Amazon for only $20.