The documentary Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made uses interviews and archival footage to tell the story about how Chris and Eric made their amazing adaption. We were lucky to have Raiders! director Jeremy Coons answer some questions for us in this part of our 10 Question With… series.
Jeremy Coons: I had heard a little bit about some kids doing a shot for shot remake of RAIDERS in their backyard years ago, but couldn't recall anything concrete about it. The movie wasn't available online so I assumed that it was more of an urban myth. About two years ago in March 2013, a local kids film festival was playing RAIDERS: THE ADAPTATION on a Saturday afternoon so I checked it out on a whim and fell in love with what these guys created. Leaving the theater, I felt happier and just more positive about life, being creative, and following your dreams. I knew if I reacted that way to it, there must be others who would feel the same way.
MMT: Why a documentary? What was it about this story that made you guys feel compelled to tell it?
JC: About 15 mins into me seeing RAIDERS: THE ADAPTATION the first time, I turned to my friend and said I'm doing a documentary on this or making sure someone does. I felt more people needed to know their story and what Chris Strompolos (Indy/Producer) and Eric Zala (Belloq/Director) did. I was actually disappointed in myself for not knowing more about them before that. I had so many questions while watching it and Chris was at the screening and we really hit it off. The story is great and there are so many layers to it. It's about average kids doing incredible things and achieving something simultaneously ridiculous and impossible and being persistent enough to do it. I find it really inspiring and that if you work hard enough, you really can accomplish anything.
MMT: Were the film makers open to it or did it take some convincing?
JC: I read the book they wrote with Alan Eisenstock and met with Chris for dinner the next night. Chris and I hit it off pretty quickly and liked my pitch for the documentary. Eric took a little more convincing which is no surprise if you see the doc. Chris is more impulsive and free-spirited while Eric is more analytical and methodical in his decision making. The best thing about Chris and Eric is that when they agree to something and go in, they go all in. They don't half ass anything. You really couldn't ask for a nicer and easier people to do a doc about. They had been approached numerous times about doing a doc and I feel honored that they allowed us to tell their story.
MMT: Having not seen the film, can you explain the process of putting the original footage together? Was it still in good shape after all these years?
JC: Chris and Eric had done an amazing job preserving the footage. Back in 2003, they digitized all of their raw footage and archived the original VHS tapes in a vault at Eastman Kodak. That footage was a treasure trove. We had over 40 hours worth and that was where the really magic comes from. You literally get to watch these kids grow up behind the scenes in a real life BOYHOOD kind of way. All in all we had over 300 hours of footage between the archival and what we shot for the documentary. Barry Poltermann, our editor, and his team were instrumental in helping us comb through they footage and find all of those gems in there.
MMT: Was there anything unexpected you encountered along the way?
JC: With a doc, you have an idea of where the story will go, but you stay open to whatever happens or comes up. We were surprised to learn that most of the kids involved in making RAIDERS came from families of divorce. In our interviews it was a constant theme and that these kids used their RAIDERS remake as a refuge to escape from that pain. There's also a huge surprise involving shooting the final plane scene at the end of the film, but I don't want to give it away. You'll have to see the film!
MMT: The film was missing one shot, the runway scene. How much did it mean to the film makers to finish it after so much time had passed?
JC: Chris and Eric had always wanted to shoot that scene being the perfectionists that they are, but they had kind of given up on ever doing it. When we started gearing up on the doc, the idea rekindled with Chris about doing the scene and I loved the idea. It took some convincing for Eric to come to the decision to do it, bc he knew that it was going to be a massive commitment. Again, once they made the decision to do it, they were all in on finishing it.
MMT: If you could recreate any movie shot for shot what movie would it be?
JC: As a kid, I probably would have tried to do Aliens or Terminator 2. I would have done it for a few days, realized how hard it was, quit, and played video games.
MMT: Did you get a chance to talk to Spielberg about their movie. Do you know what he thinks of their recreation?
JC: Spielberg has been open about his appreciation of Chris and Eric's Adaptation. He's quoted in an interview as saying that "it's still the best piece of flattery that George [Lucas] and I have ever received." We've been talking with Spielberg's people who were very complementary about the documentary and I know they continue to follow the story. Spielberg has been insanely busy doing three films back to back to back so I don't believe he's had time to watch doc as of yet. I would give anything to hear his reaction from the man himself.
MMT: Documentaries usually carry a message. What is the message you want viewers to take away with them?
JC: That you can achieve anything you want with enough hard work and as a team. I want people walking out of the theater with a smile and happy about life in general like I felt the first time I watched their Adaptation.
MMT: What projects are you working on next?
JC: I'm in the super early phases of a documentary right now on a popular band that I'm really excited about. We would also like to do the narrative version of Chris and Eric's story. I think it would be a great TV show similar to The Wonder Years, but with the common backdrop being them remaking RAIDERS in the 1980s