April 24, 2008
The Appropriation of Indiana Jones

Indiana Jones is back, well, he probable never left, but right now he's generating much buzz with The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull which will be in theaters on May 22. But as old and new fans get ready to enjoy the latest installment of this 27 year-old saga, Xiaochang Li, my colleague here at C3 reminded me of one of the greatest Indiana Jones fan stories that is as current today as when it was produced.

In 1982, after seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark, three 12 year-olds set on a mission that would last all of their teenage years: a shot-by-shot reenactment of the first Indiana Jones movie. Seven years and $5000 later, Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala and Jayson Lamb finished their movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation.

J.D. Lasica's book Darknet: Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation retells the boys' adventure in a lively and intelligent manner. 'In the teenagers' version of Raiders, the actors grow older in the span of a few minutes. Voices deepen. Chris sprouts chin whiskers and grows six inches. He gets his first-ever kiss by a girl, captured onscreen.' he describes, but later on he also gets at the heart of why this is still a tremendously current story: the tension between creativity, collaboration and current applications of copyright law.

Although they were congratulated by none other than Stephen Spielberg and have received numerous offers for theatrical and home video distribution, the film's not-quite-legal standing restrains them from any widespread distribution. With current legislature, the filmmakers will be 105 years old when they are officially allowed to release their film.

In response to a question about intellectual property, Michel Gondry told us at the MIT screening of Be Kind Rewind that his ultimate objective was to incite people to create their own work. But the fact is that his movie is a celebration of fan production, a type of exploration that has been around for a very long time, but society still has a hard time validating it.

As much fan produced works, Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation is both homage and creation. It's an aim in itself and a gateway for further development and growth. No one work is truly and only dependent on one individual, and it's a shame to see society limiting it's possibilities in order to protect individual interests. We don't know what great works could get lost in the process.

Just yesterday I was reading Jesse Alexander's blog. He's executive producer and writer for Heroes a show that might have been completely different had Jesse not experienced with some creative "pirating" earlier on:

"WOW! I just remembered that as I kid, I would smuggle my cassette recorder into movie theaters and tape the soundtracks. Then listen to the movie over and over again. Intellectual Property theft has been a part of my creative life -- since I had a creative life.

And without all this piracy. I don't know if I would've become a filmmaker. Being creative can be tough. It's risky to put yourself out there. And using somebody else's characters, and storylines, is a very safe place to experiment. To practice. To learn a craft. Until you're finally confident enough to create your own intellectual property."

A pretty valid argument in favor of creative commons if you ask me!

For now, if you want to see Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation you can check out The Raider web site were you can find the latest screenings as well as abundant information on all the Indiana Jones movies.