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Metro: childhood dream to create shot-for-shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 9.29.40 AMBy Richard Crouse – Metro Canada

We didn’t know what we were getting into,” says Eric Zala.

Zala, along with Chris Stompolos and Jayson Lamb, spent much of the 1980s, their entire teen years, making a shot-for-shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark complete with special effects, car chases and melting heads. Ambitious in the extreme, they stopped at nothing to translate their vision to the screen, almost burning down a family home in the pursuit of their DIY dream.

“You can be surprised at what you accomplish,” says Zala. “As adults you have awareness of your limitations, real or perceived. That was one thing we had on our side when we embarked on this as kids. We didn’t know what we were trying to do was impossible. It’s a damn good thing because we would have been scared to death.”

A new documentary called Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made uses the original home movie as a basis to pick up the story decades after the trio abandoned the project. Zala and Stompolos are front and center to tell the tale of the obsession as they, now as thirty-somethings, try and finish the movie by shooting the one scene that eluded them as children, the exploding airplane sequence.

Stompolos describes seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time as “lightening in a bottle.”

“For our generation I don’t think we had ever seen such a perfectly crafted, mythologically aligned hero,” he says. “Indiana Jones was human, accessible, smart, macho, academic and flawed and could get hurt. The historical context was interesting and everything was just perfect. This larger than life character just kind of blew my mind. For me I wanted to create a playground for myself and see what it would be like to have those experiences.”

Enthusiasm and chutzpah go a long way, especially when they aren’t tainted by cynicism. The love of Raiders these fans—both as kids and adults—share is pure and respectful and their passion bleeds through the screen.

“We finished it in ‘89 and would have loved for Spielberg to see it but that was a pipe dream,” says Zala. “We certainly didn’t anticipate any kind of fan film movement back then. As far as we knew we were alone in the world. Come to find out, we weren’t. Lots of kids played Indiana Jones in their backyard. We just took it a little further. None of this was supposed to happen, we just did it for ourselves.”

“Eric and I pushed it over the finish line and stayed true to the pure vision,” says Stompolos, “because we simply love the movie.”

For this pair of fan filmmakers Raiders of the Lost Ark isn’t just a childhood fixation. Both have seen it recently, thirty-five years after Zala says it, “split my brain open.”

“It took our breath away,” Stompolos says of his recent viewing. “Even now there is so much detail. We caught so many new things. I can still watch the film and love it. I don’t ever get tired of it. The thing that amazes me to this day is that no matter how many times we’ve seen it, it still has secrets to give.”

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