Meet Eric

In 1982, Eric Zala, age 12, and childhood friends embarked on a vision:  They were determined to remake Raiders of the Lost Ark—every scene, every shot, every stunt—in their backyard and basement.  They had no money, no camera… no clue.  What they did have was sheer will, a shared passion, limitless imagination, and each other. Incredibly, they realized their dream. It took them 7 years.

15 years later, it was unexpectedly, discovered—and praised— by the director of the original RAIDERS, Steven Spielberg. 

Steven Spielberg, Chris Strompolos & Eric Zala

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 The best piece of flattery George and I have ever received.

— Steven Spielberg

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This low-on-budget / high-on-creativity 80's Betamax love letter to the original RAIDERS garnered the love of fans around the world.  It was hailed as the greatest fan film ever made by notorious film critic Harry Knowles, rated 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, covered on The Today Show, WIRED, NPR,  and even a feature article in VANITY FAIR


The story is of childhood obsessions, and friendships that have been tested, broken and strengthened. It is about being a teenager fraught with challenges, and how to overcome them. The story is a testament to the transcendental power of youth, art and the movies. 

Perhaps because it does not bear the sophisticated, self-consciousness of adulthood, Eric’s film, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK: THE ADAPTATION — the ultimate Do-It-Yourself success story—has deeply moved just about everyone who has seen it. The magic of this film is in its purity, in its authentic belief in the medium. It is a time machine that takes one back to a moment in life when everything is still possible; when friendship is something to be shared and not feared; when there is no “audience” except the one in the heart—the one that eats up everything that is good and true and powerful.

This spawned a critically acclaimed book by author Alan Eisenstock, published by St. Martin's Press. 

As adults, they reunited original cast after 25 years to do the one final scene as kids they could never do:  The Airplane Scene.


NAPOLEON DYNAMITE producer, Jeremy Coon, then produced the award-winning documentary that topped the New York Times' recommended list of non-depressing documentaries on Netflix

Jeremy is currently laying the groundwork to set the narrative feature film in motion.  

During Eric’s 65-city tour in support of the documentary’s theatrical release, there was an overwhelming response from those who have seen the film, heard the stories… in particular from teachers and educators across the country, urging Eric to come share the film and its fascinating, inspirational, true story with their students.

Witnessing the joyful excitement in the children’s eyes at the screenings, brimming with the knowledge of what is possible, of what they can pull off, even as kids (because now, they’ve seen it), Eric developed presentations and curriculum that captures the magic of how “the greatest fan film ever made” — was made, outside a classroom, by children, over 7 years. 

Eric Zala travels to share the story – and its lessons -- of an impossible dream that came true against all odds.


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 “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”

— William Butler Yeats

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Eric Zala has led ambitious, collaborative, successful projects since age 12.

Beyond directing RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK: THE ADAPTATION first in childhood -- and later in adulthood…

Eric wrote and directed an original film, AN EARLY TWILIGHT, a short drama that won over 20 awards.  

Eric worked his way up the corporate ladder in the video game industry, building from scratch a top-performing department of hundreds.  15 years of senior management experience in the corporate realm aside… See Eric’s resume

Eric moved to Mississippi to write an original screenplay, collaborating with Chris Strompolos, on a southern gothic action-adventure, WHAT THE RIVER TAKES.  Eric’s pencil sketches became concept art featured in VANITY FAIR

Eric was the executive director of his hometown’s non-profit arts and cultural center, the results of his work there resulting in the mayor awarding Eric the Key to the City and declaring Sept 3rd, 2011 as “Eric Zala Day”.

After leading QA on 2K Games’ most successful video game ever, BORDERLANDS 2, Eric quit his career in the video game industry:  The life experience of reuniting 25 years later, to do the final missing Airplane Scene, made Eric and wife Cassie realize they needed to pursue what is meaningful, to follow dreams and passions. 

The Zalas sold their house to buy an RV -- to complete a 4-month, 18,000 mile+ road tour across America, with son, daughter & family dog – to support the documentary’s theatrical release, performing onstage Q&As. 

There, they experienced an overwhelming response from those who’ve seen the film, heard the stories.  Among them, there have been so many requests in particular from teachers and educators across the country:


Resourcefulness, perseverance, collaboration, solution seeking, creative thinking, goal setting, team-building, and the ability to prototype and iterate. Your story has all of these and yet, what kids notice is that none of this happened at school or under the direction of a teacher. The challenge for today's educators is "How might we make school more like the Raiders Guys multi-year long project?"

-- Chip Houston, Head of Upper School, Mount Vernon Presbyterian School, Atlanta, Georgia

It’s exciting to Eric and Cassie to think that this story can help people in such ways. As such, they began a family business – ZALA DETOURS -- to travel and offer programs to schools -- to share stories, to educate and to inspire, as they have themselves been inspired, long ago.  Eric travels to share what he’s learned from his varied and challenging life experiences, in RAIDERS and beyond, in following dreams and finishing.

Eric Zala |

 Site Designed & Created by Eric & Cassie Zala; ZD Logo by Rosina Rothman; Raiders Cartoon by Jeff Owens; Book Cover by St.Martin's Press: Adaptation Poster by Adam McDaniel;

Doc Posters by Drafthouse Films, Paul Shipper & MONDO; Photos by the Zalas, Chris Strompolos, Jayson Lamb, Mat Szwajkos,Shelly Stallings, Jennifer Stockert, Tony Armer & Tess Chibirka