On Monday the Sundance Film Festival announced that Stacy Peralta's new film "Bones Brigade: An Autobiography" will be one of eight out-of-competition documentary films getting their world premiere during the 2012 festival, which will be held January 19 through 29 in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden, and Sundance, Utah. The film reunites the Powell-Peralta Bones Brigade skateboard team -- Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero, Rodney Mullen, Lance Mountain, Tommy Guerrero, Mike McGill, and many more -- to look back on a pivotal moment in skateboard history and in Peralta's own life. We caught up with the skateboarder-turned-filmmaker as Sundance was sending out its official premiere list.
ESPN.com: You brought "Dogtown & Z-Boys to Sundance in 2001 and have since been back with "Riding Giants" and "Made in America." Why has Sundance been so important to you personally, and what does it mean to you to be premiering your Bones Brigade documentary at Sundance in 2012?
Stacy Peralta: Even though this is my fourth time, it's just as exciting as my first time. Sundance is important to me because I'm not a big fish. I'm a small fish in the world of filmmaking and it's really, really difficult to get attention for independent films and documentary films. When you get accepted into Sundance knowing that 10,000 other films from all over the world were trying to get into this festival at the same time, and yours got selected, it gives a certain cachet and importance to your film. It gives your film a blessing, in a sense. Instantly, here's all this attention on your little film and it gives you a chance.
Your documentaries have been very character-driven, and the common character between "Dogtown" and "Bones Brigade" is actually yourself. Looking back on it as a storyteller, what happened to Stacy Peralta, as a character, in the interim between the Z-Boys falling apart and the Bones Brigade coming together that helped make this entirely different moment in skateboarding happen?
It's not what happened with the Z-Boys team, it's what happened with me as a professional skateboarder. You have to understand something: I was 17-years-old when I started getting paid to ride skateboards and started making more money than both of my parents. Suddenly I'm being flown all over the world and being treated as if I'm somebody. Well, I realized I wasn't somebody. I was still the same person I'd always been and I saw how it did in fact blow some heads out of proportion for some of the guys I was competing against. They believed what they were experiencing, you know? That they were rock stars and the money was never going to stop. When I was bringing up my team, I wanted to make sure they never fell under that spell, because it can wreck your life.
That seems to have happened to a lot of the best skaters from that era. Other documentaries, like "Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator," and "Rising Son," the Christian Hosoi film, stand as cautionary tales.
It's really sad. I know a lot of guys from several generations in skateboarding who look back now and realize the opportunity that they had, and that they weren't mature enough at the time to understand it for what it was. It knocked their self-perception out of order for a while. I heard a great quote last week, somebody said, 'Some of the most important decisions you'll ever make, you'll make during your 20s, but the problem is you're not prepared to make those decisions when you're in your 20s.' That's kind of the way it is. One thing my team had that some of the other skaters at the time didn't is they had me, a former professional skateboarder who knew what the pathway looked like. I didn't want to see them blow it. It was my goal to hold the team together and not let it break apart, like what had happened to me and the teams I had been involved with as a skater.
The guys in the Bones Brigade went on to become the biggest names in skateboarding, but in the beginning it really was just a bunch of kids.
At the time it was very common when you started a new company just to steal professional skateboarders off of other teams and start a new team of riders that everybody already knew about to get your brand established. I didn't want to do that. Instead, I started going all over the state of California looking for skateboarders at all the little amateur contests, kids that were 13 or 14 who I could see that within two or three years they were going to be the next generation. I got to choose whoever I wanted for my team because at the time nobody else was there doing it.
When I look at the list of people who were part of the Bones Brigade at one point or another, not just the original group but everybody who was ever part of the team, I see a lot of people -- almost without exception -- who went on to lasting success in the skateboard industry or in other pursuits.
I'm just so proud of them, man. They've carried the torch for so many decades now, and it's inspiring what they've all done with their lives. I think what went right is those guys got a 13-year period riding for one single company, getting paid good money and having great opportunities month-after-month and year-after-year. It gave them an understanding of how to be a professional skateboarder, how to make a living at it and how to make their lives thrive as a result of it. They also got to go through a lot of ups and downs during that period, and towards the end of it they'd had such a successful ride that I think they all realized, 'You know what? We could keep doing this. We should start our own companies.' There were other skateboarders in the industry who were just as good as my guys but never had the same careers and never had the same post-career opportunities. It's unfortunate, because some of them had just as much talent.
Which is more difficult: Telling these stories -- like "Dogtown" and "Bones Brigade" -- that you have a personal stake in, or tackling films like "Riding Giants" and the new Eddie Aikau surfing documentary you're producing, where you're more of an observer?
The other ones are much easier. I didn't actually want to do this film, and I didn't feel that I should, but about eight years ago Tony Hawk and the guys asked me to a dinner meeting and asked me if I would make it. I agreed with them that it was a viable film to make, that there was a good story, but I didn't feel -- because I'd already made "Dogtown" -- that I should be the person to make it. My hope was that at some point somebody else would come along and make it and I wouldn't have to be the one making the decisions! I'm still nervous about it, because I've now made two films that are autobiographical, and I hope it doesn't get misconstrued. I was really fortunate in finding an editor for this film, Josh Altman, who was very strong and had a good sense of story, because there were certain aspects of this story I really had to turn over to him because of me being in the film and not feeling like I could make the appropriate decisions.
Were there any surprises as you revisited the Bones Brigade films as source material for this documentary?
One of the biggest surprises was seeing the maneuvers that Rodney Mullen was doing in the very early 1980s and realizing that today, nearly 30 years later, some of them are still so state-of-the-art that very few people can do them. Same with Tony Hawk. I'd forgotten about so many of the things that those guys had done, and going through these archives absolutely knocked me off my feet. I just couldn't believe what they were doing back then, even though I'd been there at the time!
At one point did you realize the extent of the reach that those skate videos could have?
It actually happened after our very first video, "The Bones Brigade Video Show." We released it in the spring of 1984, right as people in America were first starting to buy VCRs. We made the video with the idea that it would play at skateboard shops and we'd probably sell 100 of them max because not that many people had VCRs. We ended up selling more than 30,000 of them. Today we'd say it went viral: We had skateboard shops calling us from all over the world, literally, saying, 'You just don't realize what these videos are doing. You've got to make one of these every year, because it's rising the tide.' We figured that for every video we sold, 100 kids would see it, because they'd get passed around, they'd get copied, kids would pile up in skateboard shops and living rooms and watch these things. It was unprecedented.
My friends and I used to watch them on slow-motion to teach ourselves how to skate.
We interviewed a lot of people like Ben Harper, Shepard Fairey, Fred Durst, and Dhani Harrison who were skateboarders back then and they all talk about the huge influence these videos had on their lives. They all said the same thing: They'd worn the VHS tapes out from rewinding them so much. People had never actually seen this stuff done before in real time -- they'd only seen photographs of it -- and once they'd seen it they could begin to understand how to actually do the maneuvers.
What are you most looking forward to about getting this new film and the Bones Brigade story out in front of an audience?
I'm always nervous, but it's a really good nervousness. I just can't wait to get there and see the reaction of the first audience, because that's when I'll know what the film is and begin to understand the film that we've made.
Sundance Screenings for: BONES BRIGADE: An Autobiography
Saturday, January 21, 8:30 p.m.
MARC, Park City (seating capacity 618)
Sunday, January 22, noon
Temple Theatre, Park City (seating capacity 314)
Tuesday, January 24, 9:30 p.m.
Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, SLC (seating capacity 495)
Thursday, January 26, 9:00 p.m.
Screening Room, Sundance Resort (seating capacity 164)
Friday, January 27, 11:30 a.m.
MARC, Park City (seating capacity 618)
Saturday, January 28, 3:30 p.m.
Peery's Egyptian Theater, Ogden