Great “Filmumentaries” Take You Inside the Making of Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark & Jaws

Jamie Ben­ning, an Eng­lish­man who edits live tele­vi­sion broad­casts of auto races by day, spends all his nights pur­su­ing his appre­ci­a­tion for Hol­ly­wood block­busters of the 1970s and 80s — or at least I assume he does, giv­en how much effort and enthu­si­asm obvi­ous­ly goes into his sig­na­ture “fil­mu­men­taries,” long-form videos on the mak­ing of his favorite movies, packed with all the behind-the-scenes footage, sto­ry­boards, alter­nate takes, inter­views, and every oth­er bit and piece of media per­tain­ing to the pro­duc­tion on which he can lay his hands. Ear­li­er this year, we fea­tured his fil­mu­men­taries on the orig­i­nal Star Wars tril­o­gy; today, we give you his fil­mu­men­ta­riza­tion of the work of Steven Spiel­berg, specif­i­cal­ly Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Even casu­al film­go­ers will rec­og­nize these movies, and they’ll feel, short­ly after press­ing play on Ben­ning’s Inside Jaws and Raid­ing the Lost Ark, as if they’ve just set­tled in to watch them again, though they’ll see them as they nev­er have before. Seri­ous film fans will, as the form of the fil­mu­men­tary emerges, rec­og­nize the basis of the con­cept. Described as “visu­al com­men­taries,” these pro­duc­tions take the con­cept of the com­men­tary track and step it up con­sid­er­ably, over­lay­ing the orig­i­nal film’s sound­track with the words of a ver­i­ta­ble cho­rus of those who worked on it — actors (even some not ulti­mate­ly cast), crew mem­bers, design­ers, pro­duc­ers, hang­ers-around — sourced and some­times even record­ed by Ben­ning.

The line­up even includes Spiel­berg him­self, who famous­ly does­n’t record com­men­tary tracks, but whose inter­views giv­en over the decades Ben­ning cred­i­bly repur­pos­es into their form. As we hear all this while watch­ing these movies we know so well, we also see all man­ner of rel­e­vant footage relat­ed to their mak­ing, just the sort of avenue of cinephilic plea­sure I once imag­ined the DVD play­er’s “angle” but­ton would open up. The facts also keep flow­ing, in Raid­ing the Lost Ark, in the form of onscreen text, just like those old­er DVD releas­es that offered a sep­a­rate sub­ti­tle track with pop-up pro­duc­tion notes. Sam­ple: “Due to dif­fi­cult ter­rain, the don­keys had to be air­lift­ed by heli­copter to the shoot­ing loca­tion.”

Spiel­berg has explained his refusal to do com­men­taries in terms of his reluc­tance to break the illu­sion he and his col­lab­o­ra­tors work so hard to cre­ate in their movies — a fair con­cern, but when I immerse myself in the rich oscil­la­tion between and mix­ture of illu­sion and real­i­ty, fic­tion and fact, movies and their mak­ing, the sto­ry and the sto­ries behind pio­neered by Ben­ning’s fil­mu­men­taries, I feel ready to see a few more illu­sions so fas­ci­nat­ing­ly bro­ken.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Shot-By-Shot Break­downs of Spielberg’s Film­mak­ing in Jaws, Scorsese’s in Cape Fear, and De Palma’s in The Untouch­ables

Spiel­berg Reacts to the 1975 Oscar Nom­i­na­tions: ‘Com­mer­cial Back­lash!’

Watch Steven Spielberg’s Rarely Seen 1968 Film, Amblin’

Learn the Ele­ments of Cin­e­ma: Spielberg’s Long Takes, Scorsese’s Silence & Michael Bay’s Shots

The Com­plete Star Wars “Fil­mu­men­tary”: A 6‑Hour, Fan-Made Star Wars Doc­u­men­tary, with Behind-the-Scenes Footage & Com­men­tary

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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