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At Sundance 2001, pro-skateboarder-turned-documentarian Stacy Peralta presented the origins of the competitive California skateboard scene in his documentary Dogtown and the Z-Boys. After walking away with awards (Best Director, Audience Award), he returned to the festival in 2008 with a much different film, Crips and Bloods: Made in America.
Now, Peralta returns to Sundance once again, but with much more familiar material in hand with Bones Brigade: An Autobiography. This documentary gives viewers a look into the origin of one of the most famous skateboard crews that featured Tony Hawk, Bucky Lasek, and Rodney Mullen among others.
Coming from Made in America, how does it feel to delve back into lighthearted, fun material like this?
I was asked to do this 10 years ago and I declined because my involvement in Dogtown. I was a subject and filmmaker and this is mostly the same thing. A year and half ago i was talked into doing it. This film isn’t so lighthearted. It kind of explores the interior of these six specific skateboarders: what it was like to be the best and be part of a team. Each film has its challenges, Bone Brigade was just as difficult to make as every other project.
Based on the synopsis and production stills, it’s very easy to reduce Bones Brigade to Dogtown and the Z-Boys Part 2. Do you think that’s a good mindset for a viewer to approach this film?
I think it’s interesting that people are going to approach it with that mindset … it makes sense. One thought I had during this film was “How will I make it different?” and “How will it stand up as a film to Dogtown?” That film was quite strong and people have fond memories of it. Should I even go in this direction? But, eventually, I was pulled into it. It stands out on its own, though. Dogtown is a rock and roll fable; this is a story about struggle and the artistic process and following your dreams. It’s a story about sticking to your guns, amidst all of the obstacles and heartache.
As a filmmaker, how has your approach to the material changed between 2001 and now?
I like to think I’m a bit of a better filmmaker. Dogtown had voiceover to bridge the interview subjects. This new film doesn’t have any. I deliberately set out to do it that way. I wanted the subjects to tell it themselves without the training wheels of voice over. I think this is a far more personal story.
Some of the subjects in Bones Brigade are famous celebrities who’ve been interviewed and conditioned by PR for so long that I imagine it must be difficult to have them open up. How did you go about getting an honest interview out of Tony Hawk and Rodney Mullen?
It’s always a challenge. It never gets easy. With Tony Hawk, there were certain aspects that were easy. I knew he’d give me well thought out material, because he knows how to answer questions but it’s a challenge to get him emotional. Surprisingly, when he saw the film he said he was really knocked out. I didn’t realize how personal and emotional it would be. I didn’t know the film was going to take that direction until we all sat down and did it. Rodney said, “I know if I sit down I’m going to be honest with you and I want you to be respectful with the material I give you.” I needed to walk him through the process of how this film would unfold to make him comfortable.
Rodney the other day told me, “I want you to know I couldn’t of done this with anyone else because you’re the only person. I was there with you when all this history happened.” He said, “I couldn’t have this experience with anyone else.” Whether that’s true or not, that’s what he said.
Your films tend to celebrate the community that develops out of sports. With the rise of YouTube and many skate parks being torn down, it seems skateboarding is losing that quality. Do you think kids can still be a part of a community like Bones Brigade in 2012?
It’s a cyclical activity. Every ten years, it goes down and at a faster rate. Without a doubt it could still happen. You may learn from YouTube but you still want to express that in front of other people. You want you and your friends to be running from the cops for doing an illegal rail-slide. Skateboarding is not just something you do, it’s an identity. It’s who you become and who you are. That identity is seen through the eyes of your friends too. That’s how we know who we are.