Formed in the early 1980s, the Bones Brigade Pro Skateboarding team revolutionized the art of skateboarding, creating many new tricks (that are still practiced today) and making the sport universally recognized. The team was assembled by skateboarding pioneer Stacy Peralta and George Powell, and included a then 13-year-old Tony Hawk, Lance Mountain and Tommy Guerrero. The Brigade also appeared in innovative skateboarding training videos directed by Peralta, which proved to be surprisingly popular across the globe—inspiring a new generation of teens to become skateboarding stars and making the Brigade internationally known. Today, all six members of the Brigade remain in skateboarding, with the hugely successful Tony Hawk emerging as the sport’s most recognizable face.
In the new documentary, Bones Brigade: An Autobiography, director Stacy Peralta (Riding Giants; Dogtown and Z-Boys), who witnessed the story of the Brigade firsthand, offers an intimate, piercing look at the formation and influence of this historic skateboarding team. The film premiered to positive reviews at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and opens in NYC November 2, on Video on Demand Nov. 6 and in LA on Nov. 9.
Just before the film’s release, MM caught up with Peralta to discuss the Brigade and the difficulties of making a documentary in which the moviemaker himself plays such a vital role in the story.
Kyle Rupprecht (MM): Having made the seminal skateboarding documentary, Dogtown and Z-Boys, why did you decide to return to the subject matter with Bones Brigade?
Stacy Peralta (SP): Five of the main principles in Bones Brigade, An Autobiography; Hawk, Caballero, McGill, Mountain and Guerrero asked me a year after I made Dogtown if I would consider making Bones Brigade. They said they loved Dogtown and felt they had a legacy to share as well. I said, no. I was not prepared to direct another film in which I was also a character within the story and I was not interested in doing another film involving skateboarding culture.
They kept at me over the years. Finally, seven or so years later, Lance Mountain called once again and asked if I would reconsider. He said they were now older than I was when I made Dogtown. That is what finally got me. We were all running out of time. I said yes.
MM: In Bones Brigade, you’re once again making a film in which you yourself are a character in the story. What are the challenges of making a documentary about a subject with which you have such a close personal connection? How do you deal with it as a moviemaker?
SP: It’s quite uncomfortable and I don’t wish to do it again. My writing partner Sam George was the person who interviewed me—my editor Josh Altman was instrumental in helping me navigate the process—many times I walked away and turned it over to him because I needed the objectivity.
MM: How do you think skateboarding culture has changed the most since the Bones Brigade heyday in the 1980s? What kind of influence did the Brigade have over the skateboarding landscape?
SP: Skateboarding has become much more ethnic, much more inner-city and much more about street skating. The influence is that this six group of skaters are responsible for inventing some of the most influential tricks of the past century including the flat land Ollie, the McTwist, the 720 and the 900. The list goes on and on and on.
MM: Since making Dogtown and Z-Boys over a decade ago, what are some of the important lessons you’ve learned as a documentary moviemaker that perhaps you brought to Bones Brigade? Any “Do’s” and “Don’t’s” you could share?
SP: I must always search for the emotion of the story – the heart of the story. No matter how interesting the people may be or how compelling the story, I need to find the emotion because it’s the emotion that welcomes viewers in.
The Do’s are, you must remain flexible and open in your thinking when making a film so you can take advantage of happy mistakes and detours because mistakes and detours happen constantly and you have to be able to recognize which ones are the good ones worth following. Don’ts are, don’t let your mind become closed and brittle.
MM: This is obviously a movie that skateboarders (and skateboarding fans) are sure to love, but what would you say to convince those moviegoers who have no history or connection with the sport to attend the film? What might it offer them?
SP: I make films about sub-cultures and clearly the sub-cultures I make films about love my films but I make “inclusive” films – meaning, I make films that can be viewed by anyone, I go out of my way as a film maker to make sure my films are telling a universal story so that everyone feels welcome. It’s probably the most important thing I do as a film maker.
MM: Any upcoming projects you have in the works that you can tell us about?
SP: I just finished producing the Eddie Aikau documentary, which will be out next year.
MM: What’s the best piece of advice you’d offer an aspiring documentary moviemaker?
SP: Learn how to fall and learn how to fail—if you’re in one of the creative fields, you’ll spend a lot of time falling and failing. Learning how makes all the difference in the world because I fail far more than I succeed.
For more information on the film, please go to http://bonesbrigade.com.