Aspiring filmmakers have all kinds of trials and tribulations to overcome — balky actors, nervous financial types, a bad script, etc. — but very few have to put off filming because their mom is afraid the crew is going to burn their house down. That’s just one of the many hurdles the young filmmakers behind a movie called Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark: An Adaptation had to confront. Why? Because they were 11 years old at the time, and they were trying to film the Nepalese bar scene from the movie in star/writer/director Eric Zala’s basement.
By now, the story of how a troupe of pre-teens from Mississippi made a shot-by-shot remake of the classic adventure film from George Lucas and Stephen Speilberg in the 1980s is pretty well known — the young filmmakers, who are now in their 30s, have met the two directors and have even touched the actual idol prop used in the original film, during a visit to Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch. But the movie itself has only been seen by a chosen few, at film festivals and special events (like Sprockets in Toronto), in part because it is an obvious copyright violation.
More recently, copies of the movie have started popping up on BitTorrent and other file-sharing networks, but they are hard to come by. As a taste, here’s the first 10 minutes of the movie — thanks to a link from Panopticist.com (turn the sound up, because it’s very faint through most of the clip). And remember that these kids are 11 and 12, that they made or bought all the props, and that they dug tunnels for months in order to film the opening scene. Even the storyboarding for the movie took over a year (and making the boulder took four).
More than one filmmaker will sympathize with Zala, who said that the first thing he felt after looking at the “rushes” or footage from the first summer of filming was disappointment because “we worked so hard and the end results looked so crappy.” But the group kept filming, and eventually finished their 100-minute remake for a total cost of $5,000. They showed it to some friends in an auditorium at a local Coca-Cola plant in 1989 and then put the tape away for 15 years, at which point a copy somehow made its way into the hands of Harry Knowles from the movie fan site Ain’t It Cool News and the story started to filter out.
It might be too much to ask for a major studio, but with the new Indiana Jones movie coming out, what better time to show the world’s greatest fan tribute film (in terms of sheer effort at least) to the world?