Chris Strompolos is a Chicago-born, Mississippi-raised filmmaker who passion for acting and producing in grade school. At age 10, Chris met Eric Zala, whom he recruited in his ambition to remake Raiders of the Lost Ark. After completing a degree in Theater and Production at The College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio, Chris moved to Los Angeles to perform and navigated the video game, music and film industries. He currently produces films with his best friend, Eric Zala, under their production banner, Rolling Boulder Films.
Eric Zala was raised in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, where from ages 12 to 19 he worked alongside best friend Chris Strompolos, directing Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation and co-starring as Belloq. An award-winning writer-director for An Early Twilight, Eric moved to the video game industry and worked his way up from temp tester to Director of Quality Assurance at one of the world’s largest video game publishers. Eric resigned from his six-figure job to reunite with Chris and make new films under their production banner, Rolling Boulder Films.
Chris and Eric are the subjects of the recently-released RAIDERS! THE STORY OF THE GREATEST FAN FILM EVER MADE (St. Martin’s Press, November 2012). Bestselling author Alan Eisenstock spent countless hours interviewing Chris, Eric and the rest of the cast and has recreated the guys’ impossible adventure from start to finish. Readers will experience firsthand each thrilling moment by moment, shot by shot, from their first chance encounter on that school bus, to the setbacks, triumphs, near-catastrophes, and the close collapse of their friendship, to their first standing ovation in front of an audience of hundreds. And RAIDERS! is more than a movie book – it’s a look at an unshakable thirty-year friendship—and how two kids’ impossible dream came true against all odds.
Tell us about a book that made an impact on you.
<CHRIS>: Isabel Allende’s – The House of the Spirits. Remarkable book which blends, so seamlessly, the metaphysical world and the physical. The scope of this book, covering generation after generation, in such sensuous detail left an epic impact on me. I adore this book.
<ERIC>: That’s a tough one, like what’s your favorite movie… like The Lord of the Rings books & The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkein. But, if we’re picking only one… it would be The Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Read it reluctantly, at age thirteen… and it grabbed me in a visceral, powerful fist and wouldn’t let go. The devolution of the boy’s society on the island… the noose tightening about the heroes… and the dire, heart-thumping urgency of survival. First time that a book had left me breathless.
<ERIC>: Thomas Harris’s wonderful villain, Hannibal Lector. It’s been said that it’s rare for a book or film to be great without a great villain – think of STAR WARS without Darth Vader. A culture, refined, brilliant, yet twisted and evil Nietzschian superman. Fascinating. Illustrates just how powerfully deadly intellect can be.
<CHRIS>: Hunter S. Thompson in how he captures himself in The Curse of Lono and of course, in Fear and Loathing in LV.
Where do you love to be?
<CHRIS>: In a state of either exploration or creativity. In front of Piano. Vienna. With my daughter and wife. In a jacuzzi.
<ERIC>: Most of all? With my beautiful family, my wife Cassie, son Quinn, and daughter Darcy. They are my light.
Which talent do you wish you had?
<ERIC>: I wish I had Chris’s passion for cooking. I’m sure there’s something that I’m missing out there, a creative process, but as much as I love to eat and appreciate good food… But hey, I’m great at cleaning up afterwards!
<CHRIS>: To be able to draw.
What is your advice for aspiring filmmakers?
<CHRIS>: Always finish. Never take no for an answer. Choose your team well.
<ERIC>: Don’t give up. Finish. Push through the times where you aren’t feeling it, aren’t having fun, aren’t feeling like you can do it. There were plenty of times when it may have been tempted to give up… and the truth is that during our filming our seven year remake of RAIDERS, there were plenty of times where I felt a pervading sense of dread, that we’d never finish. You have to shoot that fear in the face and keeping going. Had we given up, this film and book wouldn’t exist, we wouldn’t be talking, and it’d just be a box of videotapes in someone’s basement. The most basic is sometimes the most true.
Have you ever met someone you idolized? What was it like?
<CHRIS>: Spielberg. It was… awesome.
<ERIC>: Meeting Spielberg. Alan tells it best in the book, but I’ll say here… It’s really something to meet your boyhood idol… and find that you’ve chosen your heroes well. There’s an amazing sense of moving past what we assume are as far as we can go… Steven Spielberg loved something that I did. I’m not typically star-struck, but he created a world that I spent my entire childhood working to recreate, and to meet him, hear that he loved it… At the risk of sounding corny, it’s redefined what’s possible for me, in life.
You can buy RAIDERS! at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and independent bookstores everywhere. Want to see more? The guys have a great book trailer too.
Chris and Eric (and St. Martin’s Press) have generously offered to give away a copy of RAIDERS! to one of our commenters. For a chance to win, leave a comment letting us know: did you ever dream of being a character in a movie? Or … what did YOU think of Raiders of the Lost Ark?
Big thanks to Chris and Eric for joining us at the Ball today!