By Tim Pelan
Jamie Benning – the inspired and dedicated creator of online fan documentaries Star Wars Begins, Building Empire and Returning To Jedi – is bringing his magic touch to another classic movie, Raiders of The Lost Ark.
Jamie is a 35-year-old freelance television editor who uses his technical skills and archive knowledge of the films to combine them with behind the scenes snippets, text and audio commentary, storyboards and other treasure troves of accumulated lore, so the viewer can watch the films concurrently with this extra information.
Jamie does all this for free, as a fan. So far his Star Wars Begins has had more than 3m hits on YouTube, and Jamie is hoping to have his fan documentary, or filmumentary, of Raiders – titled Raiding The Lost Ark – completed by the end of this year, the 30th Anniversary of the release of the film.
Jamie posted the first taster clip, showing the breakdown of the iconic truck chase stunt, online a few days ago – and you can watch it below. I asked Jamie a few questions about the project so far.
When you completed your outstanding and highly rated fan documentary Star Wars Begins, you said you doubted you would have the time or inclination to do a similar project on another film. What changed your mind, and why choose Raiders Of The Lost Ark as your next subject? Great choice, by the way!
Well, to be honest I really enjoy the process. Star Wars is really my subject so I didn't find it difficult making Star Wars Begins. I already had so much knowledge to work with. With Indy, there is a much smaller amount of material available so it's definitely going to be more of a challenge. I am learning new things all the time. Its always nice to build upon what you've learnt too, so this time Raiding will be in 720p and will look better across the board with better subtitles etc.
Plus, given the reaction to SWB, I couldn't let down my growing group of fans! There are already calls for me to do Jaws, BTTF or Blade Runner next! I hope at some point I can do this and get paid!
This is still a work in progress. Are you finding it as easy to come up with suitable interviews and behind the scenes documentaries, storyboards and so on, as you did with your Star Wars films?
No, it's a lot harder and there are definitely less fans of Indy with an online presence to assist me. But I am adamant that I can make a good product out of what is available. Just because there are less resources doesn't mean they aren't good resources. It's about making the most of what I can find.
Take us through the truck chase stunt sequence you have recently posted on YOUTUBE as a taster. How did you approach compiling the material for this?
Well, it's a sequence that has plenty of video material associated with it. It was discussed in the Making of Raiders, a Raiders stunt documentary and in the DVD extras. I love the physicality of these films and it's so interesting to me to see the problem solving nature of the creation process. First of all I lay down the film itself on the Final Cut time-line. I then go about placing the behind the scenes clips on top in a very linear way. After watching it through several times, one gets used to the material and you can begin to construct it in an order that makes editorial and spacial sense. With this stunt sequence I quite liked the idea of showing the stuntmen talking about the process as it happened, whilst interspersing it with retrospective views from 2003. It gives a much more rounded sense of what occurred. Again, I am trying to make the most out of the available material. Inevitably some parts of the film will have much more behind the scenes material, so I will treat each one like a separate feature.
What I like about it is that you have finally pinned Steven Spielberg down to do a commentary on one of his greatest films, albeit without his knowledge. Quite a scoop! Would you like to hear commentaries on the Indy Blu-rays, when they eventually come out?
It would be nice to get commentaries on the Blu Ray if and when they are released. In the meantime I hope that I can construct a good alternative. One of the problems I am finding is that every Indy related interview has the Raiders March blaring out. It is therefore quite difficult to use in a filmumentary. I am keen on finding interviews with clean voices, so if anyone can help...
Will you be entering this fan documentary in any film competitions, like you did with Star Wars Begins?
Maybe, to be honest I was invited to submit it to the Miami Underground Film Festival, Florida Supercon and Webcuts. If I get invited to do so again, I will be happy to oblige.
Are you confident you can finish it by the end of this anniversary year?
That's my aim. I think Star Wars Begins' release was timed perfectly (albeit accidentally). I hope to be able to get Raiding out this year and before any blu ray release.
Spielberg has said he likes and admires the fan made recreation of Raiders that was made by three teenagers over several years, recreating the film, scene by scene, and which is now itself in development as a film treatment. What would it mean to you to get an acknowledgement of your work by either Spielberg or Lucas?
It would be great to get an acknowledgement but it's not something I am actively seeking. I would be happy for any job offers and would love to be able to do something like this in an official capacity. There is clearly a market for it. 3 million hits on youtube can't be wrong!
If anyone out there has suitable material or access to any of the players involved in Raiders, how can they get in contact with you?
Well, I am @jamieswb on Twitter, I have a Facebook page and my YouTube channel is called JambeDavdar .