May 11, 2005

Sprockets Rewind Part One - Raiders: The Adaptation

So here's my Sprockets week. Broken into two parts because it's just getting too long. Interestingly Part One is about some inspired junior film makers from the eighties, while Part Two is mostly about a chance I got to help some kids explore film editing.

I played hookie on Wednesday morning so I could watch a staff-only screening of Raiders: The Adaptation. Raiders is a shot-for-shot recreation of Raiders of The Lost Ark by three eleven year old boys. It is great fun and Chris Strompolis, who played Indiana Jones, introduced the film and answered questions. The boys started in the early Eighties and needed six years to finish the project, using a Betamax home video camera (and switching to a VHS camcorder when the Betamax wore out). Production standards were rather low, but there is a huge amount of energy in it.

Here are some of Chris' production anecdotes.

  • Lacking a trained monkey for one scene they substituted Snickers, their pet dog, and lugged him around on their shoulders.
  • Although they had a few run-ins with the police over "location shooting" the worst was while filming the Cairo chase scene with all the wicker baskets one Sunday morning. A shop owner saw them filming in the alley and called the police to report that a child porn movie was being filmed!
  • In spite of a variety of pyrotechnic effects such as setting the interior of one of their parent's garages on fire (and themselves) for a scene, there were only two notable injuries, both to the director Eric Zana who played the villainous French archeologist. He fell out of a tree and broke his arm while planning a truck chase scene. Late in the production he also had a problem with a prop. They wanted to make a plaster cast of his face for an explosion effect but used household plaster, which has a heating ingredient in it. As it hardened his face became very hot but of course he was encased in plaster and couldn't communicate. After finding pen and paper he wrote "HOT". Once the plaster had set the boys set to work trying to get it off his head. Hacksaws, hammers and screwdrivers were applied to no avail. Once again a message was scribbled: "HOSPITAL." The plaster had to be surgically removed because they hadn't known to take the precaution of coating his eye lashes and eyebrows with vasoline. Eric lost all his eyelashes and most of his eyebrows. They grew back...
  • There were two production hiatuses. The first was when Eric and Chris had a disagreement over a girl. The second was in their last year of high school when two of the boys, Chris and Jayson Lamb, had completed an edit. Eric had started college at that point, and when he saw it he wanted to do more editing. The other two refused to re-edit so it sat in the can for a year until the release of the third Indiana Jones film inspired them again.
  • The best part of the story is that their film was only shown a few times to friends and family, and then effectively disappeared except for very rare screenings at NYU. A couple of years ago though someone found a copy and arranged for Steven Spielberg to see it. He loved it.

Here are a few more links about the film: Austin Chronicle article, The Indy Experience fan web site, Ain't It Cool News.

Listening to: Sometimes Wanna Die by Joydrop from Vibrate.

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