Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.
So why start another column that I’ll only be able to write on a semi-regular basis?
Because I realized there are at least 75 titles I’m interested in between now and December 12th of this year. Those are the ones I’m interested in. There’s a lot of stuff that I’m not going to pick up that you might want. It’s an avalanche of titles these days.
And I’m not only obsessed with special features. They’re nice, sure, but what I love about DVD is the idea of an affordable movie library. I buy as many DVDs as I am sent for free, and I consider them essential. Having a real depth of selection at my disposal is invaluable, and each week, there are more titles released that I want to add to the shelf.
To that end, I thought I’d start a column where I talk about what I’ve added to my shelf. Some of them are titles that are out. Some are titles that are coming soon. Many are new releases this week or last week. The point isn’t to try and be the first to break each review. The point is to be able to revisit films for a second look, or to review a classic I’ve never had the opportunity to write about, or to highlight something really exceptional that some DVD producer has done in packaging one of these gems.
I also want to include special features of my own from time to time, like this week. Y’see, first up, I’ve got a quick interviews with Stacy Peralta.
Who? Some of you may not recognize the name. If that’s the case, you haven’t seen our first title...
DOGTOWN & Z-BOYS
The phone rings.
I’m groggy, but I answer.
It’s Stacy Peralta, director of DOGTOWN & Z-BOYS. This is the documentary that John Robie and I first saw at Sundance 2001. Great movie. The perfect end to one of the best days of movies I had last year. I was delighted to see the film pick up the Audience Award at Sundance, and I was eager to be able to play it again and soak it up when it came out on disc.
Chatting with Stacy was something I was looking forward to, despite the early hour of the call and my own vampire hours. I was fascinated by how infectious the spirit of his documentary was, how he managed to pay tribute to his friends and the moment with such grace and charm. The images of young Stacy, the archival footage of him in the ‘70s, where he resembles Sean Penn as Spicoli in FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH... it’s great stuff. You really feel an affinity for these kids as you watch the movie, and the idea that one of them grew up to make this film... it’s just irresistable.
We jumped right into the interview when my phone rang after trading “good morning”s.
MORIARTY: What made you pick up a camera in the first place? So much of the film is made up of footage from back in the day, when you couldn’t possibly have been thinking about this film. Did you always see yourself becoming a filmmaker?
STACY PERALTA: No. I never thought I would be doing much of anything other than skateboarding. Originally, I picked up a camera because I had my own skateboard company, and we wanted to find a way to reach our customers, the people that rode our boards or read our magazines. And we thought up this idea of starting up this skateboard video. I remember, I originally picked up a ¾-inch camera and a videotape editing machine, and we set it up in my apartment around 1980. By 1984, we had our first video, which was an action sports video, and it was such a smash hit... I mean, we thought we’d sell maybe 500 of them, and we sold 30,000 of them. And from then on out, every year I’d make another video. You know, we’d feature Tony Hawk or someone. And it was by default that I did this, because we couldn’t afford to hire a crew.
MORIARTY: You resist the urge in the film to make yourself the star of the film. If anything, Tony Alva comes across as the star, along with Jay Adams. Was it tempting to put yourself front and center? I mean, I know that the star of THE AICN STORY would have to be me...
STACY PERALTA: To be honest with you, in the original cut, I was in it even less. I thought it was too dangerous to focus on myself. Way too dangerous. In fact, I thought even the way it is now, I was going to catch hell from reviewers. I thought reviewers were going to chastise me for being one of the guys in the film and also making it. It became a line that I was very careful about, something I didn’t want to cross. When I first showed the film, at that first screening, I showed the film to Skip Engblom, one of the founders of the Zephyr shop, one of the guys in the movie, and he came up to me after and said, “Man, you didn’t even tell us in the film what your successes were after, in your secondary career.” And I realized that I had to go into that, that you’re rewriting history if you don’t. He encouraged me to put more of myself in the film, and with his encouragement, I did it.
MORIARTY: Art Linson is working on the dramatized version of the story right now...
STACY PERALTA: ... right, with David Fincher...
MORIARTY: ... with David Fincher producing. Right. Did you have any ambition to direct that as well?
STACY PERALTA: Well, I had ambition to write it, which they eventually hired me to do after they saw my film, and, um, my goal originally was to write and direct a feature documentary and to write a feature film. My goal was not to direct the feature film. I feel like I’ve had my say on this subject matter. I feel that by writing the screenplay, I was able to give the characters some integrity and not make it a stupid high school film. This is more along the lines of an AMERICAN GRAFFITI, you know what I mean? It has real character development and sort of showcases an experience that was important to all of us. Working with David Fincher and Art Linson, those guys really welcomed that direction. They didn’t want to make this just some popcorn movie. I never pushed myself as the director because I figured someone else would have their take, and I should let them do it.
MORIARTY: Have you met Fred Durst now?
STACY PERALTA: Yes, I have.
MORIARTY: And how do you feel about him as the guy who’s going to be telling your life story on film?
STACY PERALTA: Well, you know, like anything, I was nervous. I mean, at one point, Sean Penn almost did it, and I was really excited about having Sean. And he ended up not being able to do it because of conflicts of schedule. I met Fred, and I like Fred. I know that David really likes Fred a lot, and that he’s going to mentor Fred through this process. And, obviously, I’ve been told by my producers that Fred does not want to fail. Fred told me himself that he was a former skateboarder. He said, “Look, I realize that there’s bad voodoo if I screw this project up.” He knows people are waiting for him to fail, and he really, really wants to do a good job. And he seems to be very open to ideas, which I like. In the end, I’ve gotta give him my support.
MORIARTY: You mentioned Sean Penn. How did you get him involved with the documentary?
STACY PERALTA: Well, we were... we were in the office, and we were cutting the film one day, and someone said, “Hey, I saw Sean Penn and his son in the audience at one of the X-Games recently.” And my first thought was, God, he’d be the perfect guy to narrate this film. Of course, we thought there wasn’t any chance we’d ever be able to get to him. We did manage to figure out a way to get a copy of a rough cut to him, so we did it, and he saw it, and he really, really liked it. He wanted to come in and meet us. When we asked him about doing it, he said, “Hey, I don’t want any money for this. I just want to do it for the love of it,” which was really cool of him.
MORIARTY: The first time you saw FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH...
STACY PERALTA: I didn’t think he was an actor.
MORIARTY: ... did it strike you that he was basically doing you? I mean, the physical resemblance is uncanny...
STACY PERALTA: (can’t speak for laughing) Well, I mean... physically he looked like me, but I mean... (lapses back into laughter)
MORIARTY: When I saw DOGTOWN last year, it was like a revelation. “NOW I know where he got Spicoli!”
STACY PERALTA: You wanna know what he told me when we first met each other? He told me that he grew his hair long as a kid because of me. He’s a few years, you know, younger than I am, and he said that he looked at SKATEBOARDER magazine. You know, I’m in there, and I’m sixteen years old, and he just... he said he grew his hair long because of that. I mean, Sean went to the same high school as Tony Alva and Jay Adams. He knew of our crew. He lived about 30 minutes away from us. And Sean grew up a surfer and a skateboarder. He’s a surfer, still. When he saw that rough cut of the film, I think it was as much a trip down memory lane for him as it was for us. And let me tell you, man... we all went to school with a lot of Spicolis.
MORIARTY: Did you have any idea skateboarding would become as mainstream and institutionalized as it has?
STACY PERALTA: No, never. We’ve been underdogs our whole lives. Hell, a lot of critics said that we trumpeted our own achievements a little too hard in the film, and they’re probably right. We probably did. But we never expected the film to succeed like it has. We trumpeted ourselves because it felt like we needed to. We’ve always been underdogs, so it felt like we had to hit it harder.
MORIARTY: It’s got to freak you out a little to see PlayStation 2 games based on guys like Tony Hawk.
STACY PERALTA: That’s so great. It’s become part of American culture now. It’s normal now to get a skateboard as a kid. Back then, you had to get it yourself. Your parents weren’t just going to hand one to you. There’s skateboard parks now, places that are just for that. And you’ve got those guys like Tony Hawk, and they’ve changed skateboarding’s face. They’re internationally known as skateboarders.
MORIARTY: How did it affect you to shoot the new interview footage with your friends from the old days?
STACY PERALTA: (long pause) To be honest with you, it was scary. It was, uh... (another long pause) At first it was strange, because I would conduct the interview myself. And I was asking questions that I obviously knew the answers to. It felt like I finally started to find a rhythm, and it was actually very cathartic. It was like group therapy. I think for a lot of the guys, it was like that. Wentzle Ruml said, “I had to get this off my chest. I’ve been waiting for 30 years to dump all this stuff, to get it out of me.” I think it was really healthy for a lot of the guys to do this.
MORIARTY: Is there anything that you wish you had on film for the documentary, but didn’t? Or some great story that you just couldn’t find a place for in the film?
STACY PERALTA: Yeah. There was a film of Tony Alva and Jay Adams on the top of POP Pier, ripping spears off the Jungle Ride and throwing these spears at the Valley surfers. Jeff Ho was absolutely sure that he had that footage, but he couldn’t find it anywhere. Believe me... I was dying for that.
MORIARTY: When was the last time you were on a board?
STACY PERALTA: Just a couple of days ago, with my son. We skate all the time together.
MORIARTY: What would you say to someone who doesn’t care about skateboarding to persuade them to see your film?
STACY PERALTA: It transcends skateboarding, man. This is about a genuine American culture. That’s what the film is about. It’s a really spirited look at an experience that eight kids had growing up in the ‘70s. And unlike a lot of American sports, there’s no European roots to this. This is pure Americana. It is something that specifically grew out of the West Coast.
The publicist who set the interview up interjected here:
PUBLICIST: Drew, let me just say that I am a white woman in my 50s, and when I saw the film, I totally fell in love with it. I was delighted with the real artistry of the skaters and with learning about the subculture.
STACY PERALTA: Sheri just built a half-pipe in her own backyard. That’s how much she loved it.
MORIARTY: My last question for you, Stacy, is what’s next for you film-wise?
STACY PERALTA: I have a deal with Radar Pictures and Sean Penn to direct a film called THE SEARCH FOR CAPTAIN ZERO, which is currently being adapted from a book into a script. I also don’t want to give up the documentary form, so I’m working with these two big-wave surfers named Brad Gold and Matty Hamilton on the history of big-wave surfing. I’d like to do the same sort of thing for surfing, something about the spirit of the thing that gets past all that BEACH BLANKET BINGO stuff, something real.
I thanked Stacy, chatted with him a bit about Sundance 2001 and the experience there, and he said something that I just loved, the sort of thing that makes me smile whenever any filmmaker relates this type of story:
STACY PERALTA: You gave us our first great review. Someone read your review over the phone to me at Sundance, and I was screaming, I was so thrilled.
The feeling’s mutual, Stacy. Your film is a blast, and the DVD that Columbia/Tri-Star put together is sweet, a great package to introduce anyone to the movie or a great record for anyone who’s already a fan.
This column’s going to be on Tuesdays, and we’ll kick it off in the proper spot tomorrow, when I’ll be back with looks at all sorts of titles, including the recent JACKIE BROWN and PULP FICTION special editions, several notable New Line titles, the SIMPSONS Season Two box, and an interesting Bob Marley documentary.
And for the record, here’s a list of the DVDs that are coming out between now and December that I’ve got my eye on, just so you have an idea of what sort of titles we might be dicussing in upcoming columns:
THIS WEEK - 8/27
The Civil War
Last House On The Left
Return Of The Living Dead
Schoolhouse Rock: The Complete Collection
Don’t Look Now
Kind Hearts and Coronets
The Lavender Hill Mob
The Man In The White Suit
Man Bites Dog (Criterion)
Death To Smoochy
Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers
The Long Goodbye
Master Of The Flying Guillotine
The Unbearable Lightness Of Being
The Young Ones: The Complete Collection
Fast Cheap & Out Of Control
A Hard Day’s Night
The History Of Beavis & Butt-Head
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
Singin’ In The Rain
Vanya On 42nd Street
Brotherhood Of The Wolf
The Curse Of Frankenstein
Horror Of Dracula
The Thin Man
Beauty & The Beast
Saturday Night Fever
Coffin Joe Trilogy
Grave Of The Fireflies
The Big Knife
The Company Of Wolves
All Monsters Attack!
Down By Law (Criterion)
Arbuckle/Keaton: The Best Collection
The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp (Criterion)
Y Tu Mama Tambien (Unrated)
Band Of Brothers: The Complete Series
The Italian Job
LOTR: The Fellowship Of The Ring (Extended Version)
Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones
South Park: The Complete First Season
Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimmaron
Mystery Science Theater 3000 Box Set (w/Catalina Caper, The Creeping Terror, Bloodlust, and Skydivers)
Lilo & Stitch
Back To The Future: The Complete Trilogy