The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made

Book - 2012
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"In 1982, in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, Chris Strompolos, eleven, asked Eric Zala, twelve, a question: "Would you like to help me do a remake Raiders of the Lost Ark? I'm playing Indiana Jones." And they did it. Every shot, every line of dialogue, every stunt. They borrowed and collected costumes, convinced neighborhood kids to wear grass skirts and play natives, cast a fifteen-year-old as Indy's love interest, rounded up seven thousand snakes (sort of), built the Ark, the Idol, the huge boulder, found a desert in Mississippi, and melted the bad guys' faces off. It took seven years. Along the way, Chris had his first kiss (on camera), they nearly burned down the house and incinerated Eric, lived through parents getting divorced and remarried, and watched their friendship disintegrate. Alan Eisenstock's Raiders! is the incredible true story of Eric Zala and Chris Strompolos, how they realized their impossible dream of remaking Raiders of the Lost Ark, and how their friendship survived all challenges, from the building of a six-foot round fiberglass boulder to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. "-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Thomas Dunne Books, 2012.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9781250001474
Characteristics: 306 p. ; 25 cm.


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Feb 04, 2015

I laughed, I cried, I was awe-struck. Two boys, Eric Zala and Chris Strompolos, were 12 and 11 respectively in 1982 when they decided to re-make Raiders of the Lost Ark as a summer project. For seven consecutive summers, these boys designed, filmed, and edited their loving, shot-for-shot homage to Steven Spielberg's blockbuster action movie about a treasure-hunting archaeologist. Eric directed and acted. Chris acted and produced. They scoured their hometown and the surrounding countryside on the Gulf coast of Mississippi for props, costumes, locations, and other kids to be their cast and crew. Along the way, they discovered how to (and how not to) make a boulder, kiss a girl, stage a fire, blow up a truck, and melt a face. They grew up on and off screen, found and fought over girlfriends, suffered their mothers' divorces and re-marriages, and formed a bond that has lasted to the present day (although not without some periods of loathing and estrangement from each other).

This story of the making of what has been called the best fan film ever is based on interviews and the over 40 hours of footage the boys filmed on a borrowed Betamax camera. Alan Eisenstock wrote the book in the style of a novel in the present tense (rather than as a non-fiction "making of" book in the past tense), which gives his tale a sense of immediacy and uncertainty about the future that suits the story perfectly. The trials and tribulations Eric and Chris endured to make their movie are hilarious, astounding, endearing, and resolved with the kind of enthusiasm and ingenuity that only teenage boys can conjure.

It takes a surprising turn as the then-young men go their separate ways to college. Both have dreams of turning their teenage hobby into careers, but real life gets in the way. One ends up a well-paid middle manager while the other has a troubled time of dead-end jobs, drugs, and bad relationships. What they don't know is that a few copies of their tape are out there in the world. As more and more people see it and love it, word gets around. Eventually, even Spielberg hears about it. How he responds changes everything for the two grown men, who hadn't spoken to each other for years.

It's about film making, coming of age, not giving up or giving in, and friendship. This is one of the most enjoyable books I've read in a long time.

Mar 31, 2013

Imagine this. A few kids in Louisiana decided to re-shoot the movie 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'! Not a remake, but a faithful shot by shot homage to their favorite action film.

Scouting locations, finding (and in some cases building) props, designing realistic special effects, casting and story boarding each shot in painstaking detail. A summer project that started in their early teens and lasted seven years!

Doggedly pursuing their goal thru relationships beginning and ending, breakups, drug use, boarding school, ever changing parental support (sometimes interference), local laws, weather and more could not stop them.

Best friends who became enemies and some relationships that deepened, turning into life long friendships.

Of course as they began this incredible task, sometimes the production is saved by a sudden flash of brilliance (the rolling boulder scene) or sabotaged from the most unlikely places (trying to get permission to film a scene on a submarine). Even parents Trying to keep the insanity under some control refusing permission to shoot the burning bar scene in the basement of one of the guys home (what do you mean we can't set him on fire? C'mon!)

These kids, local neighborhood friends (some just acquaintances) struggled on til the labor of love is complete. And then what? Just stick it in a closet and forget it? I won't go into any of the delicious detail that keeps you entrapped in this story. I think it's just as good as watching the film itself. Let your inner kid out to enjoy themselves. It's worth it!!


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