A Queens filmmaker is gearing up to release his second Indiana Jones short film adaptation after his first one was a huge hit online among fans of the franchise.
John Galligan, a Forest Hills resident, released Indiana Jones and the Secret of the Queens Giant in 2020, just three years after buying his first camera, to pay homage to the film saga. The short film centers around the tallest and oldest tree in the city, known as the Queens Giant in Alley Pond Park. Since its release, the film garnered over 250,000 views on YouTube.
The 23-minute film, which cost over $25,000 to produce, also won several awards after its premiere at Kew Gardens Cinema. But Galligan says that while filming and starring in the film as Indiana Jones himself, he was still a budding filmmaker learning the ropes.
Now three years later, equipped with more experience and double the production value, Galligan is set to release his second fan film – Indiana Jones and the Legend of the Inwood Caves. This time around, he knew he had to go over the top given the success of the first film and the pressure to release a second.
“Indiana Jones in particular is the type of film that really encompasses every kind of aspect of filmmaking,” said Galligan. “There’s mystery, intrigue and adventure and action and horror, and all that kind of stuff.”
The second installment is based on the Inwood caves, a rare historical site in upper Manhattan. But since they were too tight to film in, he had them recreated in a New Jersey set. He also rented vintage cars, borrowed some horses and secured a plane for one scene with a live snake. Everything down to the boots he wears, to the way he cracks his whip, was meticulously considered to be an accurate ode to Harrison Ford in the original Indiana Jones films.
The soon to be released 30-minute sequel takes place across several notable locations in Queens, where Galligan grew up and fell in love with films. One scene takes place in the historic Fort Totten waterfront, in which Galligan gets dragged by a vintage car to reflect the 1935 setting. They also filmed in Flushing High School’s massive auditorium and an old fashioned law office in Bayside.
The landmark Poppenhusen Institute in College Point, which is home to the area’s first library and first kindergarten in the country, also made a cameo. Two old jail cells, which were part of the sheriff’s office over 100 years ago, are shown in the film.
While Galligan stars as Indiana Jones, and was heavily involved in everything from writing the script to editing the film, he gives much credit to his family for their roles on screen and throughout the production process.
His wife, Debbie Yoo Galligan, is the director of photography and his brother Chris Galligan co-wrote the script and created original music for the score. They both attentively listen to his ideas and work to make his vision into reality.
“They’re the backbone of everything. Any idea I ever have, they’re very supportive and eager to help. And they always do when they come through with such talent,” said Galligan. “It’s really second to none.”
While he can’t make money from his Indiana Jones films due to copyright infringement, Galligan does it for the love of the craft. For his most recent project, he’s invested over $50,000 of his own money into production. He works as a film editor full time and picks up gigs as a DJ at local venues around Queens to help fund his projects.
While growing up in Flushing, Galligan fell in love with Steven Spielberg’s films that he would watch at home with his brother. But back in the 1990s, filmmaking was an expensive and complicated process, unlike today, where just a smartphone and free editing software online could create a standout film.
“It’s a real deep passion that I’ve had since I was a kid that I always felt that, you know, without these movies, I wouldn’t be who I am,” said Galligan. “So when I had the ability to actually make one, I jumped at that chance eagerly.”
John Rhys-Davies, who played Sallah in the Indiana Jones franchise and Gimli in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, also made an appearance in the short film.
Galligan drove out to the Rhode Island Comic Con convention, where Rhys-Davies was in attendance, with the goal of asking him to star in his movie. He gladly agreed to have a cameo.
“I knew the whole way I was gonna ask him to be my film. He said he would do it. And I was beside myself,” said Galligan. “I was literally in tears.”
Galligan’s end goal is to get a big studio to back him as a filmmaker, and he hopes this film will show them what he’s capable of. While the Queens Giant film was a success, he doesn’t believe it comes close to his filmmaking capabilities today. And he’s excited for viewers to see how far he’s come as a filmmaker.
Galligan is now in the editing process, touching up the sound and color grading to achieve the signature Indiana Jones feel. He hopes to release Indiana Jones and the Legend of the Inwood Caves sometime in May, where it can be viewed for free on YouTube.