Raiders of the Lost Ark – The Adaptation
This last weekend, I attended Butt-Numb-a-Thon (BNAT) in Autstin. I’m going to do a write-up on the movies I saw at the festival but because I’m a Raiders of the Lost Ark geek, I’m starting with a post about the movie we watched the night before Butt-Numb-a-Thon because it isn’t all that often you wait ten years to see something.
I begin with a flash back to Butt-Numb-a-Thon 4. In the early years there was typically a breakfast break at around 7:00 in the morning that lasted about an hour. We’d just watched House of 100 Corpses and Tiptoes and neither film had gone over well. In fact, for long time BNAT attendees, Tiptoes is frequently cited as the single worst film ever screened. We were all quite certain that the festival was going to end with The Two Towers so while the last two films had been something of an ordeal, we were all but positive what was coming next was going to be amazing.
At the Alamo Drafthouse, they play video in the background between movies. It is usually really messed up stuff that will catch your attention at least once – if only long enough for you to say “what the fuck is that?” One year, we realized we were watching a Hentai version of Star Wars.
At BNAT 4 we were eating breakfast and slowly we noticed that what was playing on the screen looked like a remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark featuring a bunch of teenagers. It was obviously an amateur production but these kids are doing every scene. They light their set on fire for the bar fight scene. They drive a truck into a tree and set it on fire for the Cairo street scene. They couldn’t get a monkey so they used a dog. A really cute dog.
These kids got this movie. Slowly, the theatre grew silent as everyone in the audience was drawn into the movie. Because it was awesome.
When Indy was finished doing his measurements in the map room we were all quietly saying “snap the rubber band!” And he DID! And we cheered! Because if you snap the rubber band it means that you care about the little character moments that define the film.
And then, as was inevitable, the breakfast break ended and they had to turn off the movie. Before we got to the submarine. And everyone in the theatre wanted to know how they managed to make the submarine work. But we couldn’t because it was time to start watching The Two Towers. And a groan of disappointment swept across the theatre.
Think about that. We were upset because we had to watch a premiere of The Two Towers instead of the end of a fan film made by a couple of teenagers.
Because of what happened in that room and the buzz it generated, the movie those two kids made slowly gained notoriety. Harry Knowles got the filmmakers together, got them to start talking about their story and began to arrange screenings of the movie. Their story was optioned for a film. They just published a book about their story. Lots of people have seen the entire film. Hell, they got to meet Steven freaking Spielberg. Who had seen their movie! Butt-Numb-a-Thon 4 changed their lives.
And yet, in spite of being in the audience when this film was discovered, I still hadn’t seen the final thirty minutes.
I’ve had long conversations with Harry and others about how the film was made. He told me how these kids had made the film over seven years of summer breaks. He told me how they had nearly set one of their houses on fire.
They had finished the film and nobody really saw it until it ended up at BNAT that morning. Fifteen years later. I knew all of these thins about the movie but I still hadn’t seen the whole thing!!!!
I’m a Raiders of the Lost Ark geek and this film was the ultimate love letter to the film. And I hadn’t seen the whole thing. It was killing me.
So ten years ago this weekend, that movie was dusted off and handed to the fan world. Given it was a ten-year anniversary of sorts, a screening of the film was arranged on the Friday evening before BNAT and I was in the theatre. I was finally able to see the whole thing. Afterwards, there was a Q&A with Eric Zala (the director) and Christopher Strompolos (Indiana Jones).
I could finally see how they did the submarine sequence. Do you know how they did the submarine sequence? They managed to find a real fucking submarine!!! And they did their own face melting effects!
They did it. They did it all.
Eric and Christopher had their book for sale and of course I bought it and of course I stood in line to have them sign it. I told both of them that my online name is petsnakereggie and they both understood what that meant (of course they did). I don’t think I came across as a creepy stalker. If I did, they politely didn’t let on.
And you know, as awesome as all of that was, what happened next was even more awesome.
Because it turned out Eric and Christopher were able to hang out for the weekend and come to BNAT. And it turned out they were seated in a row with the Minnesota crew (as we affectionately call ourselves).
Now look – I’m not a big geek about famous people. Famous people are just normal people who happen to be famous. And these two guys aren’t even all that famous. What makes them cool to me is that they are fans of the same thing I love and that meant we have something we shared right of the gate. They took it a step further and that is just fascinating to me. It impresses me. And I want to know more about the experience.
I know what it is like to create something from scratch. From little more than an idea and a whole lot of desire. I helped create a convention. Part of that effort is a sheer force of will to just get it done. These guys represented that same kind of energy focused into something else. Something amazing.
So for 24 hours we got to talk to them about all sorts of stuff. Not just their fan movie but movies in general. We clued them in on our inside jokes. We swapped seats with them. We friended them on Facebook. We’d totally follow them on Twitter but they aren’t on Twitter.* It made a great weekend even better.
It took ten years for many of us in that row to finally see the rest of their movie. And it took ten years for them to finally come to the event that dramatically changed their lives. How cool was it that we got to share that with them?
And this, my friends, is the most important thing about Butt-Numb-a-Thon and why I love going so much. It isn’t just about the movies you are watching. It is about who you are watching them with.
*What’s up with that?