For Eric Zala and Chris Strompolos, this year's South by Southwest Film Festival is something of a homecoming. No, neither of the men have a directorial credit highlighted on this year's festival roster, nor do either of them claim the Texas city as their hometown. But Austin is the town where, 12 years ago, at Harry Knowles' Butt-Numb-A-Thon marathon, the greatest movie fan tribute ever was unveiled: "Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation." It's Zala and Strompolos' shot-for-shot remake of Steven Spielberg's classic adventure film, filmed for seven summers from the time they were 11 and 12. The duo shot every scene, except for one: the exploding airplane sequence.
Thirty years later, the duo decided it was time to finish the film. From their homes in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, the two raised money through investors and crowdsourcing to film the big finale where it all began, in Mississippi. Tim Skousen and Jeremy Coon followed the pair's efforts for a documentary, "Raiders!" which makes its world premiere at South By Southwest tonight (March 14).
"We haven't seen a frame of it," Strompolos told MTV News of the documentary before its premiere. "I might throw up, but in a good way," Zala added.
The men's families and friends are flying in Austin to be alongside them at the premiere, watching an unflinching chronicle of the project.
Asked what drew him and Coon to the story, Skousen said it was a totally unique project combining themes of childhood, passion and, of course, an intense love of Indy.
"The idea that an 11-year old and a 12-year-old decided to remake one of the biggest action films ever made is interesting, but what makes the story so unbelievable is that they were still working on it four years later, five years later, seven years later... I can't believe they didn't give up, knowing what we all know about teenagers and their lack of desire to finish much of anything," he said. "That is what makes this story about more than just some kids remaking a movie. Their story is the story of growing up, making friends, first kisses, first girlfriends, breaking up, getting in fights, ending friendships, growing apart, going to college, reuniting... ultimately, this is a story about life itself against the backdrop of the fantasy world of 'Indiana Jones.'"
Indeed, it's hard not to notice that you're Strompolos and Zala grow up on camera, their love of "Raiders" one of the few constants in life. Even now, as an adult, Zala says, "'Raiders' isn't even my favorite movie, that's too limiting a term after all this time. It's become something else and transcended that."
Whether you're a hardcore fan or just a person with the dream of creating something big, Zala and Strompolos gave us their best advice for turning your passion into art.
Never, ever, ever give up.
"Always finish," Zala said. It may seem like a no-brainer, but unless you follow through to the end, your work will be for nothing. If he and Strompolos had given up, "it would have been a box of tapes in someone's basement and no one would even know about the film." And your dedication will inspire others to follow their own passions. "One guy in Florida approached us in tears and said, 'you did it!'"
Don't listen to the haters.
"Hey, it's not always fun but you have to forge through and get through a lot of nos to get to that yes," Strompolos said. "Never listen to people telling you you can't do something."
Choose your teammates wisely.
The secret to getting the thing done? Having the right partners. "The core of it is the friendship," Strompolos said. "Make sure that you choose your partners well, whoever you're going to team up with and go into battle with. Certainly during the airplane scene it felt like we were going into the trenches, literally. Muddy, bullet-ridden trenches of filmmaking. Choose your partners well."
You can't get what you need if you don't ask for it.
"It's about having the confidence," Strompolos said. "As a 13-year-old kid, how do you get a WWII submarine? Well, you ask for it, again and again, and you don't give up until someone says yes. How do you from Las Vegas and Los Angeles get a 10,000 pound, 70 foot aircraft built in the middle of a dirt quarry with no resources? You just push and you ask for it and you call and you hustle and you inquire and research and schedule. It's about asking."
Make the time for your passion before it's too late.
"'Raiders' has a way of kind of bringing us back together again," Zala said. "The biggest challenge for us as kids was sustaining that over seven years and not giving up, and for us as adults that challenge of time was the exact opposite. We didn't have the luxury of another summer, another summer, another summer. Instead, it was, 'Can I get this time off work? It's this week in June or never.'"
Pick a project you have to make.
To want to put in the amount of time and work necessary to completing a project, it has to be something you care deeply about. "Indiana Jones is just one of those cornerstones in my life that I just have a different relationship than any other character or piece of cinema," Strompolos said. "I don't feel like being Neo in 'The Matrix,' I don't feel like being a character in 'The Lord of the Rings,' I don't even want to be Han Solo, and I loved Harrison in that. I loved it, and I pretended to be, but Indiana Jones was just on a whole other level, and still is."
If you'd like to learn more about "Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation," or get a copy of your own, visit RaidersGuys.com.