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Interview with the Raiders' Guys
by Gilles Verschuere - posted Aug. 8, 2005

Part II - In the spotlights

How were your lives affected by your Raiders: The Adaptation experience, before the Vanity Fair article?

Eric: I think it shaped us, at an age in which we were very shape-able. The experience taught us a lot and built friendships between us that have endured both time, distance and change. For myself, I was very, very happy that we finished, and relieved that we did. For a long time, many, including us, wondered if we ever would. And so, that simply finishing the film was the envisioned pinnacle of the experience.

Chris: It probably defined who I am as an adult probably more than I understand.
I learned many lessons about the stamina friendships can have, utmost persistence, total confidence, taking risks amidst considerable doubt and making one’s dreams a reality. I think the biggest lesson I learned was never, ever, ever, ever give up. Never.

Jayson: Prior to our screening at the Alamo Draft House in Texas (2003) and the release of the March (2004) Hollywood edition of Vanity Fair article, I was more affected by the experience of making our version of Raiders; instead of the final piece.

From the experience I learned:
Tolerance - working with a diverse group of friends under stressful conditions (long, hot shoots- sometimes lasting from 8AM-11PM or later)
How to trouble-shoot problems on the fly
How to make a feature length movie & FX without any money
Ability to take and be self-critical (we re-shot the first 2-3 years of our movie, because it looked really bad)
And much, much more…

How much did the Vanity Fair article affect the future of Raiders: The Adaptation and its creators?

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Cover of the issue featuring the article.

Eric: Well, to be precise, what started all this notoriety, pre-Vanity Fair, was the discovery of our film by Eli Roth, the director of Cabin Fever, who got a copy from a friend of a friend of mine. Eli passed it on to Steven Spielberg, who wrote us each a very kind letter. Eli also passed a copy on to Harry Knowles, of Ain’t-It-Cool-News fame, who then wrote an amazing review on his website.

That’s when suddenly things exploded, and suddenly the world’s heard of this little film, made fifteen years earlier. We were then approached by agents and magazines wanting to interview us – Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, GQ. We decided to give an exclusive to Vanity Fair, and when their 10,000 word article came out, attention on us and our film continued to grow. All this attention is really quite unexpected. It’s thrilling, and fun. It can be stressful at times… suddenly a lot of people want a piece of you, and what you’ve created, or feel entitled to stake a claim. And it’s very much a business, so one has to be careful. But we’ve resolved that as long as we be careful to make good decisions, and stick together as a trio, we can weather any storm.

Chris: The people who really deserve the most credit for altering the course of time here is Eli Roth, Harry Knowles and Tim & Karrie League. Without them, none of this would have ever happened. It was only in the wake of all of that that Vanity Fair became interested in our story. Jim Windolf wrote a beautiful piece about us, but our lives were already in major transition after Eli discovered our movie, Tim League flew us down and then Harry wrote his piece about us. The Vanity Fair article certainly focused the spotlight more intensely.

Jayson: Besides Paramount Pictures making a block buster movie based on our story, flying around the world and writing cool Q&A to websites like yours; my life is pretty much the same.

You not only received a letter from Steven Spielberg but you also met him in person! How did that go?

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The Raider's Guys!

Chris: Dreams do come true. It was everything I imagined it to be. He was an amazing man. Down to earth, relaxed, he listened to us, was very kind and very conversational. He gave us so much of his time, brought us into his office and showed us outtakes from Raiders and Temple of Doom that probably, no one will never ever see. It was a magical day that I will always remember until I die. He was very real, very warm-hearted and intelligent. I still can't quite get my head around it. A life experience that has permanently changed me. The photo of the four of us hangs proudly in my home. It inspires me everyday.

Eric: It was an utterly singular experience. There were so many times during the making of our film where we'd fantasize about how cool it would be if we ever met the Man himself who, along with George Lucas, crafted this perfect adventure, created this world that we so much wanted to inhabit. Then jump forward 15, 20 years, and the three of us are sitting in a conference room at Amblin, on the Universal lot, drumming our fingers on the table nervously as we await the arrival of our host. Minutes pass, and we hear that familiar voice coming through the other side of the door, talking to someone about some business detail, and recognizing it from countless TV interviews viewed over the course of our childhood and lives. Nervousness ratchets up several notches. After a minute, the door swings open, and in walks... Steven Spielberg. "Hey guys, what's going on?" He sat down next to us, and we just talked, about Raiders, his filming his original, our filming our remake... movies... art... life... It was amazing. He couldn't have been more down-to-earth and real. He even screened for us the blooper reel from Raiders and Temple of Doom, something few have ever seen. He even graciously assented to our request for a photo together. All-in-all, we chatted with Mr. Spielberg for about 45 minutes or so... but it took me the rest of the day to work out of the daydreamish haze that I was in afterwards.

Jayson: I was amazed at how humble he was and extremely generous with his time. Our meeting was arranged just the day before, so I was shocked that our meeting went beyond a handshake. Not to mention 45 min, great conversation and a rare screening of a blooper reel.
In all honesty though, you know when a person comes across an event that just makes their mind freeze. Well, my mind has been frozen since Eli Roth first called us to say that Mr. Spielberg wanted to send a letter to the three of us. Maybe in twenty years or so, our meeting with Mr. Spielberg might fully sink in.

In February 2004 we heard that Hollywood producer Scott Rudin had purchased the life rights to your life story. Any chance that someone will make a film about yours?

Eric: Yes, that’s true. As of this writing, it’s our understanding that Mr. Rudin and his team are currently working on selecting a screenwriter for the Untitled Raiders Remake Project. After that, the screenwriting process begins, then the screenplay is finalized, and a director chosen. It’s all very surreal, thrilling, wonderful.

Chris: Indeed. Scott Rudin Productions in conjunction with Paramount Pictures is already attaching a writer to scribe our story for the big screen. Soon, our story will be sealed in celluloid. It’s an incredible feeling to have a blockbuster movie being made about a chapter of one’s life. I still can’t really wrap my head around it.

Jayson: The movie that Scott Rudin will be making of us will be a dramatic, Hollywood retelling of us remaking Raiders. Since it is supposed to be a blockbuster movie, it will have some fictitious moments. But there is no doubt in our minds that Mr. Rudin will keep the heart and soul of our adventures in his movie.

Meanwhile I'm going through 40+ hours of raw footage of what we shot and I'm making a documentary with it, tentatively called When We Were Kids. This will of course be the straight telling of our adventures from actual footage of our childhood. Back then, I never stopped the camera. So a lot of our exploits are preserved on video. Now it's just about me fleshing it all out and editing it down for the documentary.

Now that the 'ark is outta the truck' what feedback or responses have you received from those who have seen the film?

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Jayson, Eric and
Chris today.

Eric: I’m struck by just many people I run into, who upon seeing our film, or even hearing about it, relay passionate accounts of their growing up doing something along a similar vein. I mean, I had no idea just how grown adults now used to be kids playing Indiana Jones at the same time as we were, or Luke Skywalker, or similar pursuits. We just took it farther, is all. But it’s really cool realizing how many people relate to that… escaping into fantasy as a child, or even teenager. I think that may be partly why this little film seems to have struck a chord with many, folks recognizing and relating to that love of fantasy and sense of adventure.

Chris: The feedback from people just still astounds me. It has struck a chord in people’s hearts that I had no idea was possible – young and old. Eric had a 12 year boy come up to him in Idaho and say – "Are you one of the Raiders guys? Oh my god, that was the most incredible movie. You guys did an awesome job.” We have been told by people that it inspires them – that it has affected them in such a deep way. There was a woman whose son has a terminal brain disorder and she has always wanted to make a documentary about his life. She never did because she didn’t have the confidence and didn’t know where to start. She saw our movie and began writing the documentary the very next day. She thought to herself “Well, if twelve year olds can make a feature length version of Raiders of the Lost Ark, then I can make a documentary about my son.” Now THAT is what this whole experience is truly, truly about. When people are inspired by our movie – that inspires me. It fills me up in such an awesome way.

Jayson: Before I got the call from Eli Roth and the letter from Mr. Steven Spielberg, I didn't care much for our finished film. But now as I sit down with each showing and interview I'm seeing the movie from a new point of view. As I realize there's more to our movie than the experience we had in making it.

Any chance that Raiders: The Adaptation will be released on DVD?

Eric: Well, we’re in a peculiar legal situation involving copyright. Obviously, there’d be numerous legal hurdles that would need to be cleared. Of course, we now have the privilege of working with and being associated with some very influential people in Hollywood who are excited by the story and the film… if anyone could clear such hurdles, it would be them. But all of this is theoretical at this point. Concretely, there are no plans at this time to do so. Because of the copyright considerations, we only screen it free to the public, on very rare occasions.

Chris: There are many legal obstacles to overcome – so probably no time soon for a DVD.

Jayson: Someday, Toto, someday.
There's a lot of legal hurdles to go through. Also I'm digitally re-mastering it. So when/if it gets released it will be the movie we always intended on making. Instead of the hissing, grainy multi-generation copy we have now.

What do you hope the future holds for your own destiny? Will it involve adventure?

Eric: I hope that the future hold that the three of us will continue to be good friends, and continue our adventures together. Adventure is the name of the game.

Chris: We are continuing to ride this great wave. Maintaining our friendship and facing every bit of adventure that comes our way is what life is composed of right now – and it is wonderful. I am the happiest I’ve ever been in my whole life and have realized that dreams can indeed come true. That sounds SO corny, but I’m in my 30s now and I can say that kinda stuff. (smile) Other things on my plate: I’m getting my foot in the door as an independent producer and have set up a home office here in Los Angeles. I’m developing two scripts currently and am working as a creative producer on a third low budget sci-fi movie tentatively called "Game Over." I hope to bring my original ideas to the big screen soon.

Jayson: Every moment in life is an adventure. In fact, adventure is my religion.

What advice would you give to other potential fan-film makers?

Eric: Don’t let yourself be constricted by what’s "impossible".

Chris: Don’t ever give up or take "no" for an answer. Believe in yourself 1000% and don’t wait for people to manifest your ideas or come to you. Take control of what you want and don’t let anything stand in your way. If you have an idea that you are passionate about, it will be the true love and faith in what you are doing that will carry you to each new challenging level. You must do it because you love it and believe in it. If you don’t – it will fall apart or the result won’t be genuine. People will know. And most importantly, you will know that your heart wasn’t in it.

Jayson: Invest in a steady-cam or shopping cart. Locked-down shots tend to make boring shots.

Don’t use the microphone on the camera when possible. Instead, make or buy a microphone boom (PVC pipe w/ tin can & rubber bands) to hold over the actor’s head’s while they talk. It’s not just about the quality of the mic you use that make for high quality sound. It’s also about where you place the mic.

Measure your shots!!! - On most camera lenses, there are a lot of numbers on it that measure feet and inches. If you measure from your camera to your subject matter that you are filming, this will allow you to get an exact focus. Never rely on eyeing the shot alone. We lost a lot of good footage because I never measured the focus for the shots.

When doing FX and unusual shots, do test shots and get it right before the actual official shoot. Don’t settle for “it’s good enough.” Keep working at it until you’re able to do it right.

The crew should be made up of diverse personalities and opinions. If the crew thinks alike, you’ll end up with the problem of “group think.” Which often means the final product has major problems that never got dealt with or noticed during production. But when a production is made up of people with very different personalities (as it is with Eric, Chris and I) and those people are able to focus on a single issue. Then through consensus, a solid film can be made.

When a shoot begins, leave your ego at the door, especially for the crew and director.

Break from the mold of hiring only your friends. If you’re in high school, then use its diverse population and clubs to recruit the crew you need:

Original Script Writer = talk to the English Dept. and see if they know any students that write in the style that you need.
Storyboards = art department
Set Construction = Drama Dept., Art Dept., Shop
Stunts = Gym (a lot of stunt work is gymnastics on a film set. But
always remember: Safety First), martial arts clubs
Actors = Drama Department
Budgeting = Math clubs (also make great organizers –Assistant Directors)
Original Movie Soundtrack = Band dept., high school bands, local musicians.

Next: Raiders Guys Today >>


Gilles Verschuere wishes to extend his warmest thanks to Chris, Jayson & Eric for taking the time to answer the questions and for sharing all the wonderful photos.


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