Interview with Chris Strompolos
By Eric 'Renderking Fisk' Fisk & Adam a.k.a. 'Molorom'
Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation was one of the star attractions at the 2004 FanzillaCon fan film festival, along with a special appearance by one of the film's co-creators, Chris Strompolos. Two other lucky Indy fans were in attendance that day, Eric 'Renderking' Fisk and Adam a.k.a. 'Molorom'. They were given a rare opportunity to sit down and talk with Mr. Strompolos about his loving tribute to Raiders of the Lost Ark and how it has changed his life. TIE.c is proud to present an exclusive interview with a genuine Indiana Jones fan: Chris Strompolos along with a special Introduction by Eric Fisk!
Eric ‘Renderking’ Fisk: Chris, first off I would like to thank you for taking the time to talk with us. I just saw the film and it was more then I expected. I could just not believe some of the things that you pulled off.
Chris Strompolos: That is music to my ears.
Eric: Yea, it was just phenomenal.
Eric: Ok, first thing, how has this affected your life?
Chris: It’s beautifully ironic because I’ve been in LA in the entertainment industry for about 11 years. I’ve been working in various areas of entertainment; from music, film, DVD to video games. And it’s the very thing that I did when I was 12 years old that has really opened doors for me. There are all sorts of messages in that, so I don’t know, take it for what it is. It’s changed my life because it’s opened up another chapter in this Raiders Adaptation. Its sort of allowed me to re-examine my childhood, and that’s a really special opportunity for me as an adult, you know, to go back and look at a chapter of my life, so it’s a precious thing.
Eric: Ok, obviously people want to know why Raiders? I mean, for me it’s the best movie ever made, for me it’s obvious.
Chris: I was coming out of my Star Wars phase around that time and the character of Indiana Jones was something unbelievable – it just blew me away as an 11 year old kid. For my self I can say that Harrison Ford brought to life a hero that was so accessible. You know, he was a real guy, he taught at a college, he was flawed, he had girl troubles yet he was heroic. All he needed was his senses to go out into the world and fight the good fight, and pursue noble things. Also, on a very basic level, at that age of 11 / 12 years old, it was cool, it was just really cool. Its adventurous, its exciting! Indy always got him self into situations some of us fantasize about getting ourselves in and out of, just to see if we could do it. So, I decided to try and recreate those adventures for myself and inhabit Indiana’s world, his skin.
Eric: For me growing up in a single parent family and few other real male Role models [Indiana Jones] was a fatherly figure, an adult role model.
Chris: Yea a male role model. You know, it would be a stretch to say I was aware of those levels of psychology when I was a kid. You know, I was also raised by a single mother - my dad was not really available, I don’t want to over psycho-analyze this, but I think as a young boy one tries to discover confidence, and strength and conviction. If Indiana ever got himself into trouble he could always find a way to get himself out of trouble. So, for a young boy he was just a real role model. So there you go.
Adam (“Molorom” and of Wolf Pit Whip Co): So what has this done for your career?
Chris: Um, well a film is being made about us.
Eric: That’s great, so it’s really going to be made?
Chris: Yea, they are attaching a writer right now. Scott Rudin, who is best known for films including School Of Rock, The Hours, Sleepy Hollow, Truman Show and the 2004 remake of The Stepford Wives. Scott Rudin’s reputation is that he gets movies made. The way it’s changed my career? It has put us into an interesting light in front of a cross section of the entertainment community.
Adam: Has there been any issues with copyrights?
Chris: Sure. There would be problems with copyright if we generated any revenue from this. Or if we were to sell DVDs, or to charge ticket prices to see it. We have been very respectful and non-exploitive thus far. As we are in a legally nebulous phase right now, we are very careful about people video taping it, making copies of it and/or uploading it to the net. And that’s just another reason why we have select showings. Every audience that we screen it for is just so excited – and it’s a new experience every time. For me it’s a charge, it fills me up.
Adam: So are you still a big fan of the Films?
Chris: Oh, I’m a big Indiana Jones fan, I love all three movies. You know some people say, well the first one is my favorite, then the third and the second film. Well you know what, I’m such a diehard fan I don’t even care. I love all 3. Raiders, for me is personally my favorite, because when people say, “Is Raiders one of your favorite movie?” For me, because I was involved in this 7-year adaptation with my friends Eric and Jayson, it has become less of a favorite movie to me and more of a life changing experience. It was a chapter in my childhood, you know, it’s not just a movie, it was a chapter in my life. So yes to answer the question, I am still a big Raiders fan.
Eric: Yea, well I should hope so or you wouldn’t be talking to us if you weren’t.
Eric: I actually want to jump ahead: your thoughts on Jones 4.
Chris: Well you know, with all of the script delays; it may be different then what we all had anticipated. But, I trust that Lucas, Spielberg, Ford are all are smart enough to give us a great fourth part. They pulled it out of Darabont’s hands and he’s one of the best writers in Hollywood. Pretty wild. I know Harrison Ford and Spielberg are signed off on other projects right now and it seems realistically that we won’t see anything until 2006. But what do I know.
Adam: So you think it will happen?
Eric: I think it’s going to happen.
Chris: Yea, there’s a legion of fans out there that are waiting for Indy 4. I’m certainly not in any position to make any educated judgment of character of Mr. Spielberg, but I thought him to be very kind, very sincere, brilliant and extremely down to earth. You could see the energy and passion in his eyes with everything he said.
Eric: Sidetrack, South Park Raiders.
Chris: South Park Raiders?
Eric: What did you think about that?
Chris: I think I’ve seen certain sequences of it. Isn’t it like Cartman with a cookie jar? No, that was Bart Simpson.
Eric: It was a bunch of guys trying to stop Spielberg from releasing a special edition of the film.
Chris: Oh, right, you know, embarrassingly I have to say that I haven’t seen it.
Chris: I love South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone are super-talented. They have an amazing sense of humor.
At this point, a group of people then stopped to take a picture of Chris and the two of us who were interviewing him. Chris was amazingly humble about this. As folks were gushing about his accomplishments Chris remained very down to Earth and grateful for the complement, and was gracious to ask what they were up to and if they were doing anything on their own. Again, his enthusiasm was contagious.
Eric: What other movies do you want to make? Do you want to make other movies?
Chris: I do. I’m actually working on a couple of screenplays right now. One I’m working on with Eric Zala. [Eric Zala was one of the three partners who created Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation, along with Jayson Lamb.]
Chris: Yea, you know we obviously want to use this as a stepping-stone to create something original. Something for real and with a budget. Eric [Zala] is extremely talented and an amazing person. We would write it, he would direct it and I would produce it. It is a strong friendship and we work well together. Eric and I have agreed that we want to do a thing that is close to our hearts. A great adventure movie.
Adam: Do you have an idea when you want it to take place?
Chris: Yea, it’s going to take place probably either the late 40’s or early 50’s.
Chris: 49’ to 53’ mostly somewhere in there. Set along the Mississippi River Delta starting in Vicksburg.
Adam: So that is the location that you have in mind?
Chris: Yep. We’ve always wanted to go home to Mississippi and shoot a full-length feature film. The story involves 2 characters – an adventure buddy film.
Adam: Any Idea if and when it will be released?
Chris: Oh I have no idea. If we can get a good script and find the financing for it, it might take ten years to get made. You know the entertainment industry is such a grind, that for a movie to get made is almost a miracle. That’s why when movies like Scooby Doo 2 and Garfield get made it astounds me. Just astounds me.
Eric: How is it that like a thousand scripts a year-end up in the Studio’s hands, and they make Garfield, or they’ll take forever making something like Secondhand Lions.
Chris: Often times, the entertainment industry is looking for a movie franchise. The reason those movies get made is because the possibility of a sequel is stronger. They are pre-branded and a safer investment in the minds of the executives. Garfield, well it’s a no brainier. “We’ll promote it, well make it funny. All the kids will drag their parents to it and the kids will love it.” There’s also merchandising. Secondhand Lions was a great movie, it grabbed you. It was a great story, a beautiful coming of age film. It won’t be a franchise.
Eric: On top of that [Secondhand Lions] is a film I can let my 2-year-old watch. There are some parts you have to skip, well you know. Ok, what are your thoughts on other fan films?
Chris: There was a great fan film that I saw last night by Steve Phelan and Chris Hanel called The Formula. Star Wars Revelations was amazing, Batman Dead End was awesome. Trey Stokes and Amy Earhart’s Pink Five movies are great. And I saw an amazing fan film, supposedly the first fan film ever made, in 1978. It was called Star Wars: The Remake. Everything was made out of cardboard. Incredible.
Chris: No sound, no music. It was unbelievable. And in terms of Raiders fan films, there’s so many you know, so many wonderful energetic passionate fan films out there.
Some people stopped over to say goodbye to Chris and were surprised that nothing in the film was digital. The told Chris they loved the film then left.
Eric: The fans must be just awesome.
Chris: Yea, and I’m just thankful every single time I screen it. The people who get it are going to get it.
Eric: What’s also amazing is how The Original Raiders has inspired people to do their own thing, hiking, rock climbing. There are even people on websites such as IndyGear.com who have learned to reblock their own fedoras or like Adam here who’s making his own bullwhips.
Chris: That’s true. If you are inspired to do something like make Bullwhips (picks up my whip from the table) or something that’s close to your heart, Raiders has given a lot of folks the inspiration to just go out there and do it.
Eric: Not to interject my own thing but…
Chris: How could you not?
Eric: How could I not?! It’s so important for me when I write an article, to ask, would another fan want to read this? Is it 5 pages to long, is it 1 page to long. That’s one of the things that I’m most concerned about of. What you did is something all fans love, that’s going to hold the attention of every fan who sees this, cause there you are, another fan DOING something we all wish we could have done in one sense or another: Relive those adventures… you’ve relived those adventures which is going to inspire us all to take it up a notch.
Chris: Wow, thank you. That means just so much coming from a hardcore fan like yourself. In a strange way that was a bridge to cross when our adaptation finally came out. You know, because of the subject matter there are legions of fans out there that are extremely close to the legend that is Indiana Jones. To receive the endorsement and the seal of approval from the fans out there was amazing, just amazing.
Adam: Did you ever think you film would make this big of an impact?
Chris: No. We made it for the love of it. And we put it on our shelf for 15 years. We didn’t want to do anything with it, we didn’t want to sell it, or become famous or anything like that. We did it because we loved Raiders of the Lost Ark and wanted to make it our own and live the fantasy. And we did. The impact that its had is mind boggling. We are thankful and consider every bit of this icing on the cake.
A woman stopped and asked us where we were from, Eric responded explaining that we write for The Indy Experience.com
Eric: I need a business card. In fact, I have a ton of Ron’s (Ron of Hatsdirect, makers of The Akubra Federation) business cars right here, I just told Ron, I wear his hat all the time, and every one’s asking me where did I get this (points to Akubra Federation) and I give them Ron’s card and now I’m running out.
Chris: Oh, ill take one. (Takes card) Oh, cool.
Eric: There are so many things I want to ask you, but I don’t want to take up to much time.
Chris: Fire away, we can do a couple more.
Eric: What is your interest in other films, like Humphrey Bogart, Alan Ladd...
Chris: Well it’s a classic Genre, and I’m still continuing my education in that genre. There’s movies that are inspiring to me that have touched us all you know, The Bridge on the River Kwai, obviously Casablanca, and what was the other one with...
Adam: Secret of the Incas?
Chris: Right! These are all movies from a certain time...
Chris is interrupted by a loud motorcycle drives by
Chris: I can go on record by saying I don’t like motorcycles.
Eric: Just motorcycles or just loud motorcycles?
Chris: Just loud ones. Anyway, I just went to see Casablanca at [The Arclight Theatre in Hollywood] with MK (former Admin of IndyGear.com and now host of The Fedora Lounge). It was fantastic. Speaking of this genre, MK is incredibly knowledgeable about this period. His enthusiasm and knowledge about this time, particularly here in Los Angeles and Hollywood, is awesome. We had fun.
Eric: What do you think of fans? Do you think they go too far?
Chris: This seems to be a running question with this emergence of fandom now. Is it possible that a fan can take it too far? You always get two answers, yes they can take it to far and, no they can’t take it to far. Not that I want to run the middle ground but I think that there are arguments for both. It’s all about self-expression and if you choose to express your self in a certain way, and show your energy in a certain way, and if doesn’t hurt anybody I say go for it. I think the only dangerous place is when it blurs your sense of reality and takes away from your every day life. I think that if you become so obsessive in a way that it hurts your lifestyle, then you have crossed the line, and you are hurting your self. If it enhances you, go for it. If you receive criticism for it, you’ve go to let it go and just believe in yourself and enjoy what you enjoy.
Eric: You’ve just got to let go. The overall look of Indiana Jones, are you attached to that?
Chris: I’m very attached to that aesthetic, that style. It’s all-so close to my heart. I think that all Indiana Jones fans are highly aware of how this style and these period elements manifest in other movies - whether it’s theme, story line, dialogue, clothing, how the film looks. I mean, though I didn’t grow up during that period, I still feel as if it’s in my blood. With Indiana Jones trilogy – there is something beautiful and luscious about the way they were filmed, rich shots, textures and colors are all over saturated. The style is wonderful. With Raiders in particular, it has that dusty kind of haze that seems to hang over great adventure films; like there’s a thin layer of dust over everything and its rugged. I love it.
Eric: Yea, but yours is to new looking, (points to Adam’s Akubra reblocked “Snowy River” fedora.)
Adam: But I’ve only had it for a month.
Eric: Oh ok...
Chris: And the whole period is romantic. I think that’s something that Indiana Jones fans love about the genre from that time period. Also there’s something I see in a lot of the Indiana Jones fans, there’s something very gentlemanly and very contained in the fans that I meet. They are polite, they are smart, considerate. I might be making a generalization here but I think there’s a mystery about it, there’s something suave about it, its not as blatant, it’s seems as if there is a type of etiquette associated with it. A proper way of behaving. Am I talking about class? Maybe. I think I’m getting off track….
Eric: And you wouldn’t be too upset if the “look” came back?
Chris: No, not at all. My wife is a couture-clothing designer, and she seems to feel that we will be moving towards a less casualized way of dressing. Why don’t we wear suits anymore? It feels good to wear a hat; it feels good to wear a jacket. Well, active lifestyle, temperatures, it’s not practical any longer. I mean who knows for sure. Nonetheless, all of the fans that are attracted to this period enjoy dressing well. I think that is fantastic. There’s a website called The Fedora Lounge, and those guys just dress to the 9’s. And a handful of those guys came to the Casablanca screening with MK, and they were all dressed so beautifully; even their wives and girlfriends were dressed beautifully. It was quite a sight to see. It was great - there’s nothing wrong with that. I love to see it.
Eric: One last question.
Eric: What’s the one question you wish people would ask you? When you leave an interview is there something you wish people would ask you?
Chris: Nothing specific crosses my mind at this very moment. I try not to pride myself on or assume that there are pieces of information that I want to readily share or that people are just dying to know. At the beginning of this whole second coming of our Raiders Adaptation I could never understand why people would want to watch our Raiders Adaptation anyway. That was my initial insecurity. We did this for ourselves as a back yard thing - we did it with a video camera, why would anybody want to watch this? So, if it touches people, and someone feels compelled to ask questions, the most important thing to me is that I am accepting of all questions and that my ears are open. I’m happy to provide information about my experience if people want to hear it. People see different things in our Raiders tribute and have taken different things to heart regarding our experiences and our story. So, if there was a question that I thought people needed to ask me or that I wanted them to ask me, it might be too assuming that there was this piece of information that they needed to know. If there’s a question you want to ask, cool, if you don’t want to ask any, that's cool with me to.
Eric: On another note, it just makes me feel so much better for me; I know I had a troubled childhood. Don’t want to get into it. Seeing the movie, it made me feel like those were my friends, and although we didn’t film anything we went on our own little adventures with topographical maps and our packs. And to know that while we were doing that you were doing your own thing, it’s just so incredible.
Chris: Well that seems to be the universal connection with our Raiders Adaptation to all the Indy fans out there; the fact that watching it sparks childhood memories for people. From a nostalgic standpoint, most folks at one point or another in their life, desire to revisit a joyful child hood experience. It is reflective and reenergizing. They look at the interesting phases, the pleasant moments and joyful moments. Remaking Raiders in one’s back yard or having a childhood adventure is something that everybody can relate to and want to share. It’s sacred. And life is so complicated now – or shall I say when one becomes an adult.
Eric: The strange thing is, with my two sons the early 2000’s were a much more pleasant time. And you know my wife picked the name of our next son, Harrison Lucas Fisk. She picked the name.
Chris: Wow. Good strong name. Solid. (Smile) Good choice indeed.
Eric: Well I know you want to get back to your film.
Chris: I’m going to get back and check on things. And now we can take a picture of the 3 of us.
Special thanks to Adam for his hard work on the transcript.
An After Word by Eric Fisk
Chris, Adam and I talked for a little bit afterwards while these pictures were being taken. Two things are amazingly clear. First, Chris is a huge fan with a huge heart for the fan community of Indiana Jones; Second, with this man’s overflowing enthusiasm and creativity it boggles the mind that he hasn’t been given a multi-picture deal. With fedora-clad heroes like this, there’s box-office gold to be found. With Chris, you can believe anything can be done. After doing this interview one question still remains; how come they haven’t given this guy a multiple picture deal?
~Eric 'Renderking' Fisk