“In 1982, 11 year-old Chris Strompolos and 12 year-old Eric Zala decided to film a shot-for-shot remake of ‘Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark.’ ” goes the opening scroll to this latest documentary from Vice. They did not finish for seven years, and even then, the film was considered complete despite the lack of one crucial scene.
As kids, Zala and Strompolos took it upon themselves to reshoot ‘Raiders’ from start to finish, an ambitious endeavor that would consume most of their adolescence. Why remake not just any movie frame-by-frame, but “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in particular? The answer is quite simple, really. They see it as a perfect film, the only one that merits such devotion and reverence. Though both continued making films as they entered adulthood, neither saw the remake as a project that would live beyond its own completion. The end goal was a full-length adaptation, nothing more. And they poured their hearts into it.
Zala explains, “Back when we started in 1982, you couldn’t just rent ‘Raiders.’ We actually did ‘Raiders’ from memory. The movie was re-released in ’82 — came out in ’81. Went to see it as many times as our allowance would sustain, I think which was twice. And then I spent a whole summer drawing all of these (storyboards) from memory.” Their fastidious and dedication paid off. It’s unfair to say that the remake is impressive for kids — especially the first few years they worked on it. No, to do that would be to belittle the effort. Zala and Strompolos employed effects and techniques the caliber of which any indie or amateur filmmaker would be justified in being proud of. The fact that they were 12 or 13 or 14 for much of that time only impresses more. They didn’t shy away from danger (lighting themselves on fire to achieve certain beats) or complexities in their pursuit…with one exception.
As kids, Zala and Strompolos decided to forego “the airplane scene” — the one in which Indy battles a giant Nazi beneath a plane’s deadly rotating propellers — because the airplane blows up at the end and the pair didn’t want the effect to look cheesy. Years later, as adults, they decided to complete the project and film that previously impossible scene. They launched a Kickstarter campaign to help them fund the endeavor, and the end result is a true testament to the power, not just of filmmaking, but of a lifelong dream. 30 years after they first embarked upon their quest to remake “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Zala and Strompolos finally wrapped their picture.
It’s a great story, so watch the the entire 11-minute report below.