Stacy Peralta Interview

Stacy Peralta, director of Dogtown and Z boys poses for Twenty Seven and a Half Photography

CHRIS NEUMER: I was really surprised when I heard about your film.  The first time I heard about Dogtown, I thought it was about the barrios.  STACY PERALTA: Oh that’s great, I’m stoked. CHRIS NEUMER: They asked if I wanted […]

by Chris Neumer

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CHRIS NEUMER: I was really surprised when I heard about your film.  The first time I heard about Dogtown, I thought it was about the barrios. 

STACY PERALTA: Oh that’s great, I’m stoked.

CHRIS NEUMER: They asked if I wanted to see it and I said sure.  I popped it in and it was all this surfing stuff, and I was like, “Wow.”  I think I was the only one there asking about Bruce Brown and stuff. 

STACY PERALTA: That’s great!  So you saw the tape and then you saw it again

CHRIS NEUMER: Some of the surfing stuff.  You said you were surfing at Cove Pier.

STACY PERALTA: Yeah pretty amazing, huh?

CHRIS NEUMER: You know I went through a jetty once on a body board, but by accident, I promise you.  Did you do a lot of the surfing?

STACY PERALTA: Tons of surfing there, but that wasn’t me in the shots.   That’s a dangerous place to surf.  I snuck in there to go surfing when I was fourteen and got my life threatened.

CHRIS NEUMER: Wow!  And at fourteen you were a local back then. 

STACY PERALTA: Well, at fourteen I was working my way up, I still wasn’t in there yet.

CHRIS NEUMER: And now there are no West Coast locals.  To the best of my knowledge there are no East Coast locals either.  And I haven’t actually gone surfing on the West Coast.  But, now how does that work?  You’re fourteen, they know you, and they tell you to get the hell out of there?

STACY PERALTA: Charles Darwin could have done a perfect study on this, it’s really the survival of the fittest.  The surfing situation, as you know, is that there’s only so many waves in the set.

CHRIS NEUMER: Yup. 

STACY PERALTA: There’s only so many sets in a day before it gets blown out.  The best guys are gonna get the best waves out there.  If you don’t become one of the best guys, you’re not gonna get any waves.  At certain beaches, like the Cove, the jumping off point is so small that there can’t be a lot of guys in there because it gets too crowded and it can be really dangerous.  So, if you’re a kid, unless you were really, really good you weren’t allowed in there.   So all of us had to work our way up until we were about fifteen, fifteen and a half, and then we were starting to be recognized and they started to say, “Okay, we’ll let you in here.”  It’s just performance-based.

CHRIS NEUMER: You talk about how there’s a finite amount of waves, and X amount of surfers.  I’ve been surfing, and it makes perfect sense, but I had never really thought of it like that. 

STACY PERALTA: Oh, yeah.   And you’re dealing with something that is very, very precious.   The wave has traveled thousands of miles and you’re riding the last expression of that before it dissipates.  And so there’s only so many of those… [Cell phone rings] …you want to get to it before that guy next to you gets it.

CHRIS NEUMER: Yeah. 

STACY PERALTA: [Cell phone stops ringing.] What were we talking about?

CHRIS NEUMER: I don’t know.  I think we were talking about Darwinism.   Oh, you were saying that a waves is a wonderful treasure. 

STACY PERALTA: Well, it is.  It is a treasure.  And every wave is so individual and so unique that and no two are the same that it becomes something that everyone wants to protect.  It’s not like a golf course that you can go to at any time.  This is something you can only do for a finite amount of time.  For a couple hours each morning, if there’s a swell, and if the tides are right, and if the wind is right.

CHRIS NEUMER: I guess you guys don’t get hurricanes up there, then, do you?

STACY PERALTA: Nope

CHRIS NEUMER: Oh.  Well this is another one of those surf stories.  It was ’94, and I was down in North Carolina, and one of those swells came up off a hurricane in Florida.  We were getting some monster, twelve-foot waves.  It was really nice.  It wasn’t choppy, you didn’t have to worry about killing yourself when you’re going under.  It was just very, very nice. 

STACY PERALTA: Yeah.  It’s a good experience.  You’ll never forget that.

CHRIS NEUMER: No, I won’t.  One time I didn’t want to go out on a surfboard, so I got on fins and took the body board out there.  I had an elevator drop.  I get to the top of it and I look down and then, boom!  Knocked the wind out of me, I was scared.  That’s one I won’t forget. 

STACY PERALTA: Yeah.

CHRIS NEUMER: Well, so, I am sure that you are familiar with the works of Bruce Brown.  [Read the Stumped interview with Bruce Brown]  

STACY PERALTA: Oh, yeah.  Well, Endless Summer, but I haven’t seen Endless Summer 2 yet.

CHRIS NEUMER: Oh, really?  I mean you’re not missing anything.  It’s pretty much just more of the same. 

STACY PERALTA: I mean I saw that motorcycle movie he did too.   He has a terrific style.  He makes things very fun and accessible.

CHRIS NEUMER: You know that’s interesting because that was my point about your film.  Even if you’re not interested in skateboarding, your film is a self-contained work that even the most casual observer can get into and enjoy. 

STACY PERALTA: Well I’m really glad to hear you say that.

CHRIS NEUMER: And I thought it was interesting because you know Bruce doesn’t have any formal training.   I mean he has a camera and guy fronting him money to go out and shoot stuff.  I was thinking it’s the same thing with you.  I mean you have experience as second unit stuff and TV stuff but…

STACY PERALTA: No formal training.

CHRIS NEUMER: Exactly.  I was wondering if maybe there’s something about this. 

STACY PERALTA: Well, the thing is the reason I started succeeding in Hollywood was I started making skateboarding videos in the early ‘80s.  I never had any dreams about being a filmmaker.  I had to do it by default because I hired a crew to make a skateboard video for my company and I didn’t like what they were doing.  After the first day, I fired them all and hired the equipment and did it myself.  They didn’t listen to me.  Anyway, I got a camera and a little editing bay and eight months later I had a skateboarding video.  I think it was because I didn’t know what I was doing that helped me make the right mistakes, which I might not have made had I been trained formally.  You know what I mean? And it was those mistakes that led me to get offers to do other work.  So it was a process of that, of learning how to do it by doing it.  Embracing the mistakes, embracing the imperfections.

CHRIS NEUMER: Gives you a more well-rounded view when you do something like that too.   If you don’t have lots of training, common sense helps you out a lot. 

STACY PERALTA: Yeah.  Common sense.   And you get used to wearing a lot of hats.   But yeah, you’re right, it’s been all self-taught, for the most part.  But I work better that way anyways.  Whenever I read directions I never understand what they’re trying to tell me.  So I never look at directions.  There’s a processing shift in my brain that doesn’t work when I read directions.   I don’t know what it is.

CHRIS NEUMER: You sort of touched on this earlier when you talked about the video that you made — you sort of know what you want.  You don’t have to be talking technically about it, you say this is what I want.   If you’ve got the vision, that’s the hard part right there. 

STACY PERALTA: Well, sometimes you want what you want, but what you want you can’t see.   It’s like you’ve got a blindfold on and something in you is saying, “Go north.” And you say, “Well, I am sensing north is that way so that’s the way I am going to go.”  And slowly you pick up clues along the way and the clues start to make more sense.  Then when you see the sense that they’re making you say, “Okay, if I add this to that this will make it better.”  But at the start it’s always a blind process.

CHRIS NEUMER: So what was it that got you started?  Why Dogtown and Z-Boys? Why was this your feature debut?

STACY PERALTA: I had always wanted to tell the story based on an article that came out three years ago in Spin Magazine, about the Dogtown skaters.  Based on that article, Hollywood wanted to write a screenplay and buy our life rights to the Dogtown fictional film.

CHRIS NEUMER: Oh, good move not selling that there. 

STACY PERALTA: Right.  And I didn’t want to do that, I had always wanted to do that myself.  But I realized I wasn’t going to compete with these guys because I don’t have the same kind of financing.  So one day it dawned on me that I could make a documentary.  That will cost less money.  And at least we’ll get a firsthand testimonial.  It will be us telling the story.   So that was what happened.

CHRIS NEUMER: I was just thinking that you could use some of the fifty hours of archival footage you probably have lying around. 

STACY PERALTA: Well, no.  I didn’t have it.  I had to go find that stuff.

CHRIS NEUMER: I thought you had all that.  Was that [Glen] Friedman [Dogtown’s co-producer] who was shooting all that?

STACY PERALTA: No, from forty different sources.  Friedman had some, [Craig] Stecyk [co-writer of Dogtown] had some, and some other surf-film cinematographers at that time had some.  But because I was one of the guys back then I knew what footage existed, I just had to figure out where to go to get it.   And it took a little work to find that.

CHRIS NEUMER: I know in the thanking credits at the end you thanked Scott Dittrich.  I was just curious did he have any–

STACY PERALTA: He had skateboarding credential.   Do you know who Scott Dittrich is?

CHRIS NEUMER: Yeah, what was it? I think ’86 or ’87 with Amazing Surf Stories?  The one with Christian?

STACY PERALTA: I knew Scott because we had done a lot of work together.  He had shot me skateboarding back then.  He had footage.  So we bought his load as well.  Hal Jepsen is another one.  And thousands of photographs.

CHRIS NEUMER: The thing about the photographs that I liked the best, or that I noticed the most, is that you made them come alive.  There are a lot of documentaries, you know they sort of tilt and pan in on them like this, but here you are you’re snapping around, you got quick edits, you’re zooming around, then you pull back.  You definitely added an energy to it.

STACY PERALTA: I am so glad you liked it!  I think the documentary form is such a great form, and it doesn’t have to be so methodical.  Every single documentary you see, there’s a wide shot, and then they do the slow push; they’re all the same.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  And with this, it lent itself, because of the music and the action, to a more kinetic feel.

CHRIS NEUMER: Did you do any of the editing yourself?

STACY PERALTA: No, I spent thirteen years as an editor.  But I couldn’t physically do it because I didn’t have the time.  I chose an editor who was my first choice, Paul Crowder.   He was my first and only choice.  And I knew that–this was a very important project–I have enough hats to wear.  I felt whoever I got to edit it, he would have to feel a sense of ownership about it.  I felt that if I had gotten involved in it, it would have cramped his space.  And I’m glad I made that choice because he did a fantastic job.

CHRIS NEUMER: He really did.

STACY PERALTA: Amazing job.  He’s also a musician so he knows how to cut music and work with music like nobody else.

CHRIS NEUMER: When you bring those two together, that’s nice. 

STACY PERALTA: Yeah.   But because of my post-production background I knew how to give Paul everything he was going to need to excel.   So I shot all these photos and designed the shooting of all these photos so he could come in on them from any angle or multiple angles. I shot all that stuff to give to him, but I would shoot a photograph this way and this way and then this way so he would have so many different options to come in on it.

CHRIS NEUMER: You don’t think of people shooting a lot of coverage of photos. 

STACY PERALTA: No, exactly.

CHRIS NEUMER: That seems like it would have worked very well. 

STACY PERALTA: What’s funny is these motion-mat cameras work on a computer.  They sit on a copy stand, with lights on both sides, and there’s a camera up above.  There’s a guy with joysticks who operates it.  But what they normally do is they program the moves.  And they hit the switch and it does it all clean, and I said, “Guys, I don’t want to do it that way.”

CHRIS NEUMER: Sort of like the difference between handheld and steadi-cam

STACY PERALTA: Exactly.   I said, “Get the computer out of here.  Just go get on the joysticks.”  So I threw a photo down and the guy would go this way, he’d go this way.  I’d throw the photo down and say, “Go!   Go!”   So it was a jam session.  And they liked it because it loosened them up.  They could just screw around.  This guy was shooting it like he was playing a video game.

CHRIS NEUMER: That went well with the whole fast and furious nature of the subject matter anyway. 

STACY PERALTA: Right.  So much of what we see today is so over-lit, so perfectly lit and so beautiful.  From television commercials on up to motion pictures, so that it doesn’t even look like reality anymore.  We didn’t want this to look pretty.  We wanted it to look like it was down on the ground level with dirt.  You know, it was like this is on terra firma, this is real, this actually happened.  So we wanted to just keep that gritty look, with roll-outs and–

CHRIS NEUMER: What kind of footage was it, like digital video?

STACY PERALTA: For the interviews? It was Super 16 black and white.

CHRIS NEUMER: That’s another way to keep it looking dirty!

STACY PERALTA: (lauhgs) Yeah.  We didn’t over light them.  We usually just used a key light and that’s it.  And we shot them in alleys, next to trash cans, behind decrepit brick buildings.  Just because I didn’t want guys sitting with a nice beautiful background and potted flowers.

CHRIS NEUMER: Or even product placement behind it.  It was just such a refreshingly original take on the documentary.  And there have been a whole lot coming out on video lately – some of them are interesting and some of them are not.  A lot of them are kind of boring.  Just so static.  I loved that there were a few minutes of out takes at the beginning, and someone got asked a question and he said, “What the fuck kind of question is that?”

STACY PERALTA: [Laughs.] That question sucked!

CHRIS NEUMER: There were three of them going, “I’m not answering that!”   And I was like, “The tone is set, I am ready.  I have got a smile on my face, I want to know more.”  

STACY PERALTA: [Laughs.] That’s really cool.  I am so stoked.   You’re the only person to ever mention that.  To me, when we put that in, I thought, “If I saw this at the beginning of a film, I’ve got to see that film!”

CHRIS NEUMER: Yeah. 

STACY PERALTA: Because they’re putting themselves down right at the start.

CHRIS NEUMER: I guess maybe it’s my lack of journalism training.  Think outside the box. 

STACY PERALTA: Maybe so.

CHRIS NEUMER:  With everyone you tell what is happening now with them.  But with Jay [Adams], you say he had problems and he had kind of sunk into this kind of lifestyle but you never really said that he was in jail.  And I never realized he was in jail until the very end.  So I was wondering, was this a conscious decision not to say, Jay’s in jail?

STACY PERALTA: In the original cuts we didn’t say it at all.  Until people wondered where he was.  So we had to put it in the end.  The original shooting had it at the end of the film and it felt like it was just too much.  So we just let it go and we put it at the very end of the film with a “Where Are They Now?”

CHRIS NEUMER:  So what happened to him? This is just because I am curious to know. 

STACY PERALTA: He got strung out on heroin.  He did some stupid things.  He got involved with a girl who was two timing on him.  He broke into the house one day and they had a big fight.  Just petty stuff.  It was just stupid petty arrests until they all added up to something.  They gave him a choice to clean up and go in the drug cleanup program and then you’re free.  If you fail the program, you go away for five years.  He failed it.

CHRIS NEUMER: That’s too bad. 

STACY PERALTA: Maybe it was conscious on his part to think that if I get put away I’ll be forced to be clean.  He calls me every couple of weeks, as I said in the thing last night.   He’s doing so much better.

CHRIS NEUMER: That’s good.  I was equating it with Bruce Brown and Mike Hinson.  You’ve got your own sort of similar thing going on there too. 

STACY PERALTA: Mike did a similar thing too.  I think he got really out there. But you know, Bruce has a magic about him and his films, he really does.  And when he came back with Endless Summer 2 he still had the magic.

CHRIS NEUMER: It was a little more polished. 

STACY PERALTA: Well, it’s a studio picture now.  But nonetheless, he still came into the sport after thirty or forty years and he still showed everybody what it’s about.

CHRIS NEUMER: If you’ve got the passion, you’ve got the passion. 

STACY PERALTA: I know but he’s also got the eye to look at things that no one else is looking at and bringing light to it.   That’s a real filmmaker.

CHRIS NEUMER: And I think you mentioned twice that Chris Cahill is just gone and out, no one knows what the hell happened to him. 

STACY PERALTA: Nope.   No one knows.  We only know he went to Mexico.  He inherited a little bit of money when one of his parents died and he went to Mexico.  Could be somewhere now, I don’t know.  I’m sure word will get to him once this gets released, that it’s out, and someone will say, “Hey, I finally heard from Cahill.”  But otherwise, no.

CHRIS NEUMER: Another thing that I thought was interesting was that you actually interviewed yourself. 

STACY PERALTA: Well, I didn’t interview myself.  But I drew up all the questions.  And we were pretty much all asked the same question.  Well, except that some were more specific.  There were a lot of specifics to Tony, a lot of specifics to Jay.   We had a very low budget on the movie.  On the days that I was interviewed, it was hard because I had to wear so many hats that day.  Before my interview, I conducted interviews that day and after my interview I conducted other interviews, so my head was in those interviews.   I was thinking about other things I needed to get done.  So when I sat down for mine I couldn’t just relax and answer the questions.

CHRIS NEUMER: Yeah.   But again, that was something I hadn’t seen before, the writer-director of the film gets on screen himself.  But, again, it works with the film because you were there and you were what, the number four skateboarder in the world?

STACY PERALTA: Right.

CHRIS NEUMER: Was that kind of weird looking back at some of those pictures.  Because I am looking at you now.  And this is a weird experience because I’m looking in your eyes.  Your eyes have the same look they had back when you were a little kid.  Is it weird to look back on all that archival footage and see yourself with that long hair skating the poles?

STACY PERALTA: It was before it started. After that I had my producer hat on and the fear and anxiety kicked in.  But before that started I looked at my pictures and said “Wow, what a great time that was, that innocence, anything could happen next.”

CHRIS NEUMER: And, when you are that age, you just want the next thing to happen. 

STACY PERALTA: That’s right.  But I was really nervous about being director and producer.  What if I walk away from this and I’m accused of doing this for my own self-aggrandizement.  It freaked me out.  I was really concerned about that.

CHRIS NEUMER: I don’t think it comes off that way. 

STACY PERALTA: No, but I was really concerned about it.

CHRIS NEUMER: Well, sure.  I know how that can be. 

STACY PERALTA: So there were a lot of things.  I wanted to make sure of that, and I wanted to make sure that the film was true, but at the same time I didn’t want it to just be inclusive.  I wanted to make sure that people who didn’t know the subject could still sit down and find it interesting and know that it’s a piece of American culture.  That was one of the goals, to make it not just for the skate audience.

CHRIS NEUMER: After I first saw the film, I wondered, “Why didn’t they make any references to current skater culture?”  But the more I thought about it, I liked that they didn’t do that because this was more like a spotlight on back then. 

STACY PERALTA: I can’t tell you how many people told us that this film would fail because it didn’t deal with modern skateboarding culture.  And I kept telling them that there’s too much of that out there.  We can’t compete with all that.  They said the whole back end has got to be about where it is today.  I said, “It can’t be.”  That was huge for me.  I just hoped I was making the right decision, it tortures you.  You don’t want to be finished with a film and wonder what would have happened if you had done something differently because now you’re eating crow.

CHRIS NEUMER: You mentioned several times, people wanted you to do certain things.  Was that about dealing with Sony Pictures Classics?

STACY PERALTA: No, Sony bought the film after Sundance.  But Vans financed the film.   And they didn’t ask anything of us.   Amazing people.  It was mostly other people on the team.  And there’s a whole devoted cult that follows the Dogtown thing.   There’s a Z-Boys website.  So they would follow around the production.

CHRIS NEUMER: Oh, so these were like friends?

STACY PERALTA: Um, not friends – associates.   Devotees.   They were interested in giving me photos, but they were also interested in giving me every opinion they had.  A lot of them had good opinions, but they also weren’t filmmakers, and sometimes they couldn’t see the bigger picture.

CHRIS NEUMER: They also weren’t in the scene. 

STACY PERALTA: Well, for instance, Glen Friedman.  He is one of the interview subjects, he was a photographer back then.  He had a good place in the film.  He helped us get the Hendrix music, the Aerosmith, he was the conduit for our getting Sean Penn for the narrator.  He had a lot of good ideas for the film.  But he also had a lot of suggestions that I couldn’t do.  So I had a lot of people telling me it should be this or that.  I can’t tell you how many people told me to put a camera on a bunch of the guys sitting around reminiscing and let it run.  It’s a good idea if you don’t think about it.  But that’s actually a disaster.

CHRIS NEUMER: No, actually it doesn’t sound that good. 

STACY PERALTA: Well, it would be a complete disaster.   As a filmmaker I know that.  But I didn’t want to just say no to these guys, I had to give them reasons.

CHRIS NEUMER: What was the budget on this?

STACY PERALTA: 400.   And we made it in six months.

CHRIS NEUMER: That’s it? 400.   Well, good for you.  And you had just talked about getting Sean Penn involved as the narrator.  Was that Glen Friedman?

STACY PERALTA: Well, Friedman helped us do that.  Penn was our only choice, by the way.  If we hadn’t gotten him we wouldn’t have had anyone, just a voice.  But Sean grew up twenty minutes north of here in another beach community called Point Dume, really pronounced “Dum-ay,” but [everyone pronounces it] Point “Doom.  ”He went to Santa Monica High School where Tony Hawk and Jay Adams went.  We thought Sean might know something about us, but we didn’t know.  Glen Friedman knew a way to get the trailer to Sean’s assistant.  She watches it and calls us back a few days later.  She said, “This trailer rocks, Sean loved it, but he wants to meet with you before he says anything.”
He comes to the production office.   I never met him so I was nervous as all get out.   He was in the middle of working with Hans Zimmer on the music for that movie he did with Jack Nicholson, The Pledge.   He said, “I only have like ten minutes but show me what you can of the film.”  Fifty minutes later he’s like, “Turn it off, I’m going cry, this is great.”  Then he left, and we were like, was that it?  Was that a yes?  But we found out a few days later that not only did he want to do it, but he didn’t want any money at all for it.  He was terrific.  But as he was watching the rough cut of the film, he was going, “Is that Larry Birdelman, is that Terry Fitzgerald, the surfer from Australia, is that this break?”  So he knew all the spots.  I think it was like a trip down memory lane for him as much as it was for us.

CHRIS NEUMER: It’s funny how people come together when it’s a personal project that they believe in. 

STACY PERALTA: No, you are totally right.

CHRIS NEUMER: I was talking the director Phil Joanou, who directed a film called Entropy that I really like.  He told me that U2 gave him all the rights to their music for three thousand dollars. 

STACY PERALTA: On Entropy? Wow.

CHRIS NEUMER: He used like ten U2 songs for like three thousand bucks.   Then they actually co-starred in the movie.  Stephen Dorff signed on for scale as did some French actors.  They all just came together.   And the people working on the score came together.  They did the whole thing for three million.  It’s spectacularly well shot.  He was just overwhelmed because he had done studio films his whole life.  People wanted to know how they could help.   There’s an artistic life outside the studio system. 

STACY PERALTA: I’ll tell you the same thing happened with getting all our music.  We couldn’t afford to pay them even a fraction of what they were worth.  They saw the trailer and I guess just the trailer told them that this was going to be one of those projects.  We started out saying maybe we’ll get one Ted Nugent song.  It was just amazing how it happened.  Gregg Allman even said, “I don’t want any money, I just want to show it to my bandmates when we’re on the tour bus.”   There really was a vibe following us.   We got really, really lucky that way.

CHRIS NEUMER: Again, when you have a good product and people see it as a good product, it can work out that way. 

STACY PERALTA: I can honestly say that we were not looking at this for monetary gain.

CHRIS NEUMER: That is step number one right there. 

STACY PERALTA: And we all had to have second jobs to finance our lives.  I think only the editor got paid.  Agi and I – Agi Orsi, my producer — of the six months we worked, we got paid for six weeks.

CHRIS NEUMER: What was the second job you did?

STACY PERALTA: I did two things.  One was I directed a series for Bravo that was a companion for Actor’s Studio.  It was about famous TV actors today and who from TV history is their inspiration.  Like, for Kelsey Grammer, it was Jackie Gleason.   Anyway, it was a series.   I don’t remember the other thing I did.

CHRIS NEUMER: And the film was well received at Sundance?

STACY PERALTA: It won two rewards.  It won Audience and I won Best Director of a Documentary.  We were never even sure we’d even get into Sundance.  After we did, people told us, “Hey, Sundance is great, but it can be a graveyard for your film if you don’t canvas and let people know about your film so they will see it.”  So we get there and the lady says, “You’re from Dogtown, all six of your screens are sold out.”  It was like, wait a minute!   What’s going on here?  We didn’t even hit the streets yet.  So then we went to Edinburgh and Toronto, and Chicago and Denver.   I’ll be honest with you, the best part about all this is sharing the culture.   And I don’t mean any mushiness or anything like that.  It’s just an honor to do this.

CHRIS NEUMER:I thought there might be more coming about the “mushiness.”

STACY PERALTA: No, but it is.  I’m so glad.  I’m just really glad I did the film.

CHRIS NEUMER: Did you get back what you paid for it?

STACY PERALTA: No, not that much, close but not that much.   But of course they have a percentage of that too.  Vans is a marketing machine, they have stores all over the world.  They were entering a partnership with Sony.  So for Sony it’s an opportunity.  See, Vans can deliver a group that Sony can’t get to and Sony can, of course, deliver a group that Vans can’t get.  Both are excited about this.  So far it’s going really well.  Vans, not being a production company, they didn’t know how to get in our way.   Usually Hollywood says, “Here’s your check now turn around so we can handcuff you.”  But Vans said, “We don’t even want to see it first, just make the movie you want to make.”   We consequently felt so indebted to them for this that we really wanted to deliver for them.

CHRIS NEUMER: This has gotten me everything that I need.  But I also want to talk about the new skater culture.   To ask you your opinion.  Because you’re an old guard, if you will, in a positive sense.   Most of the skaters now, I don’t want to say that they’re hoodlums, but it’s like a counterculture.  Death metal and beating each other up and all that. 

STACY PERALTA: Well, skateboarding is like any culture.   You’ve got the fanatics, the peaceful people, and everything in between.  You’ve got the Tony Hawk crowd, which is clean, about skateboarding for the athletic endeavor.   The thing that’s promising to me about skateboarding, and it shows how much it’s left the Dogtown roots, is that back then it used to be a beach thing.  Kids with blond hair and blue eyes doing it.

CHRIS NEUMER: Yeah, like when you couldn’t go surfing. 

STACY PERALTA: But nowadays, when I go into the inner city, it’s the black kids, the Latino kids, the Vietnamese kids doing it.  That just blows me away.   Because thirty years ago those kids were not skateboarding.

CHRIS NEUMER: This is true. 

STACY PERALTA: And if anyone has access to fewer things, it’s those kids.   But what they do have access to is all the hardware of the city.  They don’t have the best parks or beaches.  But they do have the city.  And that’s really exciting for me to see that.  It’s really something to celebrate.  It really shows how the sport has opened up and transformed.

CHRIS NEUMER: Become mainstream?  Almost. 

STACY PERALTA: Mainstream, but it also still has that inner-city subversiveness, which is nice.  And I don’t think it will ever lose that, and here’s why.  It’s because so much of what’s fun about skateboarding is that you’re skateboarding on places that weren’t designed for it.  That’s always about staircases and ramps and these places weren’t designed for it.  Skateboarders utilize them in beautiful ways but they are not allowed to do it.  So the subversiveness feeds off of itself.  The more they are kicked out of places, the more they want to be in there.  It feeds the rebelliousness of it.

CHRIS NEUMER: It’s a bad downward spiral.  Or a good one. 

STACY PERALTA: Well, I think it’s good because it keeps a purity element.

CHRIS NEUMER: Yeah, but bad from a politician standpoint.  For them it’s a downward spiral, I am sure. 

STACY PERALTA: Oh, yeah it is.  But I’ll tell you, snowboarding apes almost every skateboarding move.   Snowboarding is twenty years younger than skateboarding and it made it to the Olympics.  It shows that so skateboarding is not ready and may never be ready for the Olympics.  It’s just not clean enough.

CHRIS NEUMER: I guess you can’t see how low your pants are hanging down off your ass if you are wearing jackets. 

STACY PERALTA: Well, and to do snowboarding you need a mountain, and snow.  It’s not like you are passing by banks and people on the streets.  Skateboards are really loud on the street and it raises people’s anxiety.  What they don’t get is that skateboarders don’t want to run into them any more than they want them to.

CHRIS NEUMER: Personally, I never understood that. 

STACY PERALTA: Well, they don’t know, they haven’t thought it out.  But [skaters] don’t want to crash.

CHRIS NEUMER: I was curious when you were showing the archival footage in the schools, there would be times when people would just lay out.   But you always cut out before I could see how they pulled out of it.  I was curious if this was the start of a spinout or if they pulled out.  Or if it was the equivalent in surfing of going over the top of the wave.  They were parallel to the ground.  Did they stand up in the end?

STACY PERALTA: The move is that you go around totally laid out, and then you come out of it crouched, and then you stand up.   It is a beautiful move.  It really is a pretty move.  It was a gesture.  Nowadays they don’t do that.  You know when we used to ride pools we used to carve and draw lines in the pool.  Now a ramp is the evolution of a swimming pool, and it’s really just a jump ramp, a launch ramp.  It used to all be done down here, and now it’s all done up there.  The only reason you go down here is to get up there.

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