raiders interview

So here’s the big question – are you guys tired of watching Raiders of the Lost Ark?

Zala: I guess it’s kind of a good thing that Raiders wasn’t available on video when we first started to do this back in 1982 because we would have watched it to death back then. But it wasn’t. Instead, we tried to commit as much to memory as possible. As a result of touring, we’ve seen our own film, our own Raiders film, about 100 times for every one time we’ve seen the original. A bizarre side effect from that is that the original now feels like a big-budget remake of our film! The amazing thing is that Chris and I went and saw [Raiders of the Lost Ark] when it was released in IMAX a couple of years back. The movie still has secrets to give up. We still saw little minute details that we never have seen or noticed in all these decades of living Raiders. That still gives us a thrill to pick out those extra details.

Strompolos: To make it extra special, during that screening Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford were there doing a Q&A and that’s a rarity. You can’t help but fall back on your geeky childish self and relish that along with a massive theater filled with all of the biggest Indiana Jones fans in the world. I was sitting next to the man who came up with the concept and the full execution of the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland. We talked about that. It was all just super cool. The film stands up. It’s still really enjoyable.

If a home video version had existed at the time, would you guys have still made your movie?

Zala: Sure, sure. We would just wouldn’t have had to rely on memory and the few continuity errors we did make we would have gotten right, gosh darn it! No, that would have been a help.

Did the original video release change your filmmaking process in any way?

Zala: It came out on laserdisc a couple of years in, a year or two after I finished drawing the storyboards from memory, 602 of them, and having cobbled together everything Raiders we could get our hands on. It was fun and we would occasionally check it for reference. We’d even have this goofy geek game of “Hey, you think you know Raiders? I’m going to pause it at a random moment where the screen is obscured and you have to identify which scene I’ve paused.” Pretty geeky stuff, but that was how we’d utilize it when it finally did come out. And we’d watch it occasionally for re-inspiration.

You don’t really know how to make a movie until you are actually on set with a camera and trying to make things happen, so your childhoods were really a crash course film school. Was there anything you learned during that time that directly came back and helped you out when you set out to the film the flying wing scene?

Strompolos: Absolutely. Everything we did learn doing the adaptation growing up together and working together and knowing each other and all of the trials and tribulations we went through together was the very foundation that we relied upon in doing the plane scene. You’re out there and the tsunami of adversity that kicks your ass…you can’t help but struggle and flail, and those things ground you and make you stronger and give you stability. It’s the things that we learned while doing the adaptation that gave us focus. “Don’t give up” and “we can figure this out” and “there’s always a solution” and “stay focused” and “rely on your team, communicate, re-organize and re-strategize.” The resources are there. Push, push, push. The level of fatigue that Eric and I extended ourselves to was beyond anything that either of us have ever gone through.

Zala: It’s true. Those lessons that we learned as kids saw us through. It was like yeah, we’ve done this before. We had to not forget those lessons.

Strompolos: It’s a physical memory. A sense memory, where you go back to that place where you just become almost a machine.

Eric, correct me if I’m wrong, but you have left your job to concentrate full-time on filmmaking with Chris?

Zala: Correct.

So what are you guys working on now? And are there plans to adapt this story to a feature film? I can definitely see something in the Amblin mold.

Zala: I’ll answer the second question first. Thankfully, it’s not in our hands in terms of what’s next for our story. I’m a little too close to that and I think I can speak for Chris. The documentary filmmakers, Jeremy Koon and Tim Skousen, would very much love for this to be a narrative film or even better, a TV series, the sort of sprawling timeline might lend itself better to that storytelling format. With those guys at the helm, it would be thrilling.

Strompolos: It would be awesome.

Zala: But I certainly wouldn’t want…people always ask, “Who would you cast as yourself?” and I’m grateful I don’t have that. It would keep me up at nights. Our focus is on the original stories we want to tell. There’s an original we’ve been working on for years called What the River Takes, a Southern gothic action/adventure set in our home state of Mississippi. Southern gothic action/adventure is sort of an odd hybrid that sort of includes all of the things in our cinematic DNA that thrill us and make us want to tell stories. There is also a book called Gone South and we have a relationship with the author and are interested in developing. We were also recently approached by Tim Skousen and we will be producing a new original film that is a cerebral post-apocalyptic tale of survival. We have multiple irons in the fire.


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