A member of the legendary Zephyr Skateboard Team in the 1970s, Peralta was a fierce competitor. He also wanted to tell the stories of those around him in a true, sincere fashion. The Release of "DogTown and Z-Boys" in 2001 took the documentary film world by storm and was dubbed an instant classic. Featuring names like Tony Alva and Jay Adams, it sold millions of copies, and won Peralta a directing award at the Sundance Film Festival. Peralta's follow-up was a riveting look at the world's biggest waves and the lunatics who surf them; "Riding Giants" was released in 2004 to critical acclaim.
But there was one story that Peralta had not yet told. In the early 1980s, he formed The Bones Brigade, a crew that boasted names like Rodney Mullen, Lance Mountain and Tony Hawk. The boys weren't getting any younger, and after turning the screws on Peralta, convinced him to tell their story. The result is the new film, "Bones Brigade: An Autobiography," and it combines all the dizzy action of his earlier work, but adds the complex emotional stories of the athletes involved.
Moviefone caught up with Peralta at the Hot Docs documentary film festival in Toronto, where he spoke with us about boarding, surfing, making movies, making mistakes, and Tony Hawk.
"Bones Brigade" was your skateboard team. You were pretty young as a Z-Boy. Why didn't you make "Bones Brigade: An Autobiography" first? The thing is, I was never going to make this movie. I knew this was a potential film and people had been asking me about it. I couldn't have made this when I made "Dogtown" because the guys in the Brigade had not had the time to digest that experience. After I made "Dogtown," the six principal guys came to me and asked me to make this film -- about 2003 or 2004. They said that they felt they had a legacy, and asked if I would consider making this film. I said I couldn't do it because I couldn't be the director and character in a film again -- it's too dangerous.
You seemed to mix into "Dogtown" seamlessly. Why would "Brigade" be any different? I didn't think I could do it a second time. I worried about doing it once because I thought I was going to be savaged for doing it, and I got away with it. But they kept coming after me, and finally Lance Mountain called me 18 months ago and said, 'We really have to do this because we're now older than you and Tony Alva were when you made "Dogtown".' That's what really hit me. I decided to say screw it, if I get taken apart for doing this, so be it.
There is some amazing footage in these docs. You are the Ken Burns of skateboard films. Was it a lot of work to find all of this incredible archival video? It's always a big job because you're in contact with people you haven't been in touch with for decades. Some people aren't here anymore and people don't know where it exists. I have, in the past, hired detectives to help me find and locate certain people who I knew had footage.
Tony Hawk broke in the '80s, rose to worldwide fame in the '90s -- he is a major part of "Bones Brigade." Contextualize him for me in 2012. You have to understand that we grew up skateboarding, and it didn't exist in culture. You couldn't go to a store, there were no contests or a chance to make a life of this. In a very short span of three decades, Tony has become the most recognizable alternative athlete in the world. He has a cue rating as high as Michael Jordan. Never in my life did I think a skateboarder could ever reach that status. What Tony's done is given parents all across the world a way to look into this: "It's OK, they're not just a bunch of hoodlums." Tony is a world-class athlete and a game-changer.
Do you think that you and the Bones Brigade take credit for extreme sports as we know them today? I was very lucky to be in the position I was during those two decades. I was among the very first group of kids to turn professional as skateboarders. In the '80s, I turned that into owning a company and I was able to direct the sport. If it wasn't me, someone else would have done it. I was the guy to make the first action sports video.
Which Brigade member most deserves some profile from this doc? Tony Hawk has all the accolades he needs. It's funny you say that, because many people consider Rodney Mullen to be the greatest skateboarder in the world. It's not that Rodney needs it, but I think it's a real cathartic experience for him. It's not that he's grown-up in Tony's shadow, but I don't know if he's been understood. The film gives him a chance to say his piece and to be recognized for what he's done. He's contributed a huge amount to skateboarding in the vocabulary of maneuvers. I have never come across an athlete that is as articulate as he is. Rodney is something all together different -- I knew he was the kingpin of this film.
"No Room For Rockstars" is the new doc you're producing and it profiles life on the road with the Vans Warped Tour. I guess you've been around punk and hardcore music thanks to skateboarding? Doug Palladini of Vans came to me and asked me to direct it, but I didn't feel comfortable doing that. I helped him get started. The Bones Brigade introduced me to that music in the early '80s. We would be driving to contests and they would be playing The Circle Jerks and The Buzzcocks and all those bands that I wouldn't have been listening to at that time if it weren't for them. It opened me up to what that music was all about.
Critics and filmmakers have commented that your style of documentary has been a game-changer in the business, especially in the way you tell a story. Lots of people know nothing about skateboarding but love your films. Why? There were a lot of things going on in my life when "Dogtown" came out. I was getting divorced and I had been working in television for six years, which was the worst thing that ever happened to me. It was the first time I ever felt like I had a job. I felt like my best days were behind me. I got the money together and the financiers said, "Just get it done on time." They left us alone! That enabled us to make the film we wanted to see. Period. We were doing if for ourselves. Let's shoot it in black and white, make it dirty, put mistakes in it. The film took on the spirit of the story. We had very little money and we had to be resourceful, but it was one of the most invigorating experiences I've ever had.
It's very easy to make these very specific genres of films and not let outsiders in. It's easy to insult outsiders. I take the opposite approach. I want to welcome people, so I look for those people who will enable me to let them in. It's absolutely key as a filmmaker.
"Bones Brigade" is screening once more at Hot Docs:
Sun, May 6, 4:00 PM The Revue
Check the film's website for local screening times.