Wheels of Desire

Pat Darrin/Sony PicturesDogtown and Z-Boys has been embraced by cinephiles like no boarding film before, winning the Audience and Director's awards at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, nearly earning an Oscar nomination, and—more humbly—taking home the Best Documentary prize at the just-concluded Newport Beach Film Festival. Director Stacy Peralta, who recently signed on to direct the movie version of Allan C. Weisbecker's critically acclaimed surfing novel In Search of Captain Zero, discusses his efforts to capture a landmark time in the history of skateboarding.

OC Weekly: Your movie spends a lot of time discussing the importance of style. Do you think that is something today's skateboarders lack?Stacy Peralta: Well, this is not a put-down, but there is no style. And that's both street and ramp. We live in the age of extremism. Going big today is what matters. But every 10 years, the style changes. Who knows what the next one will be? It may be a hybrid of past and present. While the music and footage put the audience in mid-1970s Santa Monica, the direction and production are very modern. Was that a conscious effort to bridge the generations?

No. We just didn't want this to look in any shape or form like any documentary we've ever seen. We didn't want it to feel methodical and textbook like so many documentaries look. There's no reason documentaries can't be exciting and funny, and that's what we wanted to go for. Plus, we wanted to give it a somewhat messy look. Skateboarding is an imperfect activity; you make a lot of mistakes when you do it. And we felt the film should have the same feel and the same kind of subversive quality. [Narrator] Sean [Penn] clears his throat, and there's a lot of leader all over the place and burns in the film.

And to be honest with you, Vans was the company that put up all the money for this film. And to their huge credit—this isn't plugging them; it's a really serious thing—the guys never asked to see a rough cut of the film. They said, "Make the film you want to make." And that's just unheard of for the most part. And what's really cool—and this is something that a lot of people in the surf and skate industries don't understand—is that it's really important that these core companies help be the arbiters of their culture. Because if they don't do it, someone else like ESPN's going to do it. And we all know that ESPN makes everything look like pro wrestling.

In your next project,Captain Zero, you'll be working with Sean Penn again.

He's terrific, man. I expected him to be this really intense guy. And he's one of the most open, down-to-earth people I've ever met. He didn't want any money for doing Dogtown. He just wanted to do it because he liked the film. He's a surfer, and he's a skater. In fact, he and I surfed at Point Dume about six weeks ago. We had a blast.

How's his style?

It's good! And he doesn't surf that much. He was holding his own. I was very impressed.

So do you still skate like a surfer?

Oh, totally. Always, man. Always. And what's really weird is my son does, too. He's not into ollies and stuff. He likes going fast; he likes bending his knees for style—he's totally into form. And it's not something he thinks about; it's as if the genes said, "Look, this is the way you stand."

Do you have a ramp or a park nearby?

We have a quarter pipe in the driveway.

That's it? We figured your whole back yard was paved.

You know, when you've done it your whole life, you kind of don't want it in the back yard. I really like doing it, but I don't want to be confronted with it all the time. Now, if it was a surf spot in my back yard, that's a different story. A much different story.

Matt Walker also writes forSurfing Magazine, whose current issue includes a portion of this interview. The Dogtown & Z-Boys Premiere Party featuring Tony Alva, Steve Caballero and other special guests at Vans Skatepark, The Block at Orange, 20 The City Blvd., Orange, (562) 565-8372. Thurs., April 25, 8 p.m. Free.


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