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Raiding The Lost Ark: A 'Filmumentary' By Jamie Benning

Posted on Monday February 6, 2012, 17:09 by Ali Plumb in Empire States
Raiding The Lost Ark: A 'Filmumentary' By Jamie Benning

Jamie Benning is an outstanding human being. The man behind the fan-made video commentaries for the original Star Wars trilogy - 'Star Wars Begins', 'Building Empire' and 'Returning To Jedi' - he's poured hours, days, weeks, months into collating and cutting together videos that illuminate and educate would-be Jedi knights about the ways of The Force. Well, the ways of the people who made A New Hope, Empire and Jedi, anyway.

Benning returns with another fantastic 'filumentary' in the form of 'Raiding The Lost Ark', doing the same thing for - you guessed it -
Raiders Of The Lost Ark. As he explains in his exclusive blog below, the task was nowhere near as easy as it was for Star Wars, requiring him to get his dictaphone and find out the facts from the appropriate horses' mouths.

So here's your chance to have a read of how he did it, then take a look at the final product at the very end. And to find out more about Mr. Benning and the wonderful work he does, head to his website,, where you can see posters, stills, and much, much more. You can also follow him on Twitter (@jamieswb) and see more of his videos on his Vimeo page.

In early 2006 I embarked upon what was initially a personal adventure not only to learn Apple’s Final Cut Pro editing software, but also to turn the format of the DVD commentary into something more compelling. “Building Empire: A Fan Documentary” as I called it, was my love letter to the most admired of the original Star Wars films. I compiled the film itself along with as much behind the scenes material as I could: audio interviews with the cast and crew from past and present, deleted scenes in their entirety or recreated using stills and comics, as well as subtitled facts, all drawn from over one hundred sources. I’d searched through my library of VHSs, DVDs, books, magazines, and fanzines as well as material offered by what has to be the biggest and friendliest community of geeks and nerds. People all over the world came forward to offer me snippets here and there that were specific to their country. I really couldn’t have done it without them.

In 2007, I found enough material and motivation to tackle Return Of The Jedi. “Returning to Jedi” was completed by 2008 and contained some previously unseen material donated by one kind individual who was in Yuma (with a Super 8 camera) when director Richard Marquand and co. shot the sail barge battle with Jabba the Hutt and his henchmen.
I was fortunate enough to receive lots of nice messages from fans, and by 2008 I had had some 200,000 views of my videos, albeit in their 28 parts on YouTube.

Then I was invited to submit my films to the Miami Underground Film Festival, a very exciting moment for me. Whilst I didn’t win any awards I started to understand that the idea of an audio and visual commentary in this format may have life beyond the forums. It was then that I decided to tackle Star Wars itself.

Star Wars Begins was completed almost four years later in February 2011. Life gets in the way of hobbies like this. I have two young daughters and a partner and a paying job to hold down.

Immediately after completion, I uploaded it to YouTube and that’s when things went crazy! One week later I woke up to two hundred and eighty seven emails, every one of them thanking me for my latest documentary. Some were fans like me, in their mid-thirties and just had to tell me how much they’d enjoyed watching “Star Wars Begins”. Others were asking for interviews across all types of media: Radio in the UK, podcasts in Canada, magazines in Australia, newspapers in America. A quick search online and I realised how much coverage I had received. From, Collider, Wired to, and Buzzlegoose, all of them were praising an individual’s personal endeavour to get all of the material on screen. I was absolutely blown away.

So, back in May, after what had been a truly great few months for my Filmumentaries, I bit the bullet and thought I would tackle my next favourite film, namely Raiders of Lost Ark. It was clear before any big effort, that there wasn’t going to be enough source material to work with to make something as detailed as Star Wars Begins. There wasn’t anything like the wealth of deleted scenes and interviews for Indy’s first adventure. It just hadn’t been put under as much scrutiny as Star Wars. “Crystal Skull!” I hear you shout. Yeah, well Red Letter Media has that sewn up! Being a certified nostalgist, I am all about celebrating these wonderfully visceral, tangible films from my childhood.

In order to bridge the gaps I decided I would have to generate some of the content myself in the form of interviews with as many members of the cast and crew as I could find. I ended up speaking to Colonel Dietrich himself, Wolf Kahler, for three hours over tea in a leafy London suburb. I then spoke to Mark Mangini, part of the Oscar winning sound editing team via the web, and to the legendary Darth Vader sculptor Brian Muir, who also worked on the Ark and the Egyptian panels in Raiders. My search for original material was boosted by a kind individual who recorded an interview with his friend, actress Sean Young, who talked about her audition for the part of Marion Ravenwood. Now that has to be an exclusive for Raiding the Lost Ark!

The 'Raiding' Facebook group also brought forth a member who graciously gave me the details of several Raiders crew members that he’d worked with, including the renowned poster artist Drew Struzan. Drew and I had a few emails to and fro. I also did the same with a storyboard artist known for his Raiders work, but ultimately neither of them were able to get involved in my unofficial project. One crewmember even sought permission from “Steven” (yes, that one) and “Kathy” (Producer Kathleen Kennedy) before finally turning down an interview.

Thanks to the coverage Star Wars Begins had received since February 2011, as well as a very generous group of Indy fans, this project has been far more collaborative than my previous efforts. Fans have sent me videos, stills, comic books, details and offers to create animations and even artwork for postcards and posters. I am eternally grateful to them and they all feature on a quite extensive Raiding credits roll.

Raiding has taken ten months to complete. My close friends and family thought I was mad to embark on something so soon after completing my own Star Wars trilogy (of sorts). But having ‘come out’ to so many friends and colleagues, and having made so many contacts, it seemed like an opportunity to prove that the filmumentary format could work for another classic blockbuster in my top five film list. Raiding is the culmination of hundreds of hours of work: researching, interviewing, editing, tweaking and agonising.

It is now online for you to enjoy, experience and pull apart for yourselves!

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1 johnneyred
Posted on Monday February 6, 2012, 20:36
Ever since I stumbled across Star Wars Begins, I've been a huge fan of Jamie's work, and was delighted when I heard he was tackling Raiders. After plugging it and SWB et al to anyone who'll listen, I'm delighted to see that Raiding has surpassed my expectations. Well done Empire for giving it the exposure it deserves. Great result, Jamie!

2 boredbluekoala
Posted on Tuesday February 7, 2012, 12:18
Awesome work as usual.
Probably the best documentaries ever made about those films.
Thanks for giving me the chance to re-visit them with a fresh perspective.

Obviously, I have to ask.........what's next?

3 BenTramer
Posted on Tuesday February 7, 2012, 21:26
I think our friend Jamie is an obssessive in the best sense of the word (i.e., he's a perfectionist). Most DVD commentaries are thrown together willy-nilly by the studio without much consideration or care and you get bored listening and switch off after 10 minutes. Raiding The Lost Ark, on the other had, has been poured over meticulously again and again until Jamie got it right. I applaud your work, sir. I hope Messrs Spielberg and Lucas are taking note of this guy and that they give him a job on the fifth Indiana Jones movies if and when it appears (preferably putting him in charge of the DVD commentary). Congratulations on behalf of the fans and keep up the good work.

4 sugarcrappies
Posted on Wednesday February 8, 2012, 06:45
This is brilliant, it's so engaging, unlike the usual commentaries, there's a real sense of affection and care throughout.

The technical limitations of DVD would mean that such elaborate overdubs, alternate cuts and subtitles would have to be packaged on a separate disc, however, this kind of presentation is ripe for Blu-Ray.

Nicely done Jamie, they should be paying you for this. Thanks also to your family for (presumably) being patient and understanding!

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