"Howard Dean won't say it. Neither will the increasingly irrelevant Hillary Clinton. But I will: Bush and his right-leaning asshats fixed the 2004 election. The new report on the Ohio vote-jacking is in, and it's nothing new to us that can put two and two together." MORE

"It's a tried and true way of dealing with people or nations that the ruling elite finds troublesome or inconvenient -- whoever gets in our way. They're simply lumped into the enemy pile. "

"You need gas money and a car that works. Of course, my preference is to do it in the middle of the night! Leave them little presents, you know what I'm saying? Like the Easter bunny."

"Word comes that brother Cat Stevens refuses to lend his support to our virtuous jihad. May this turncoat's Peace Train be laden with explosives and rammed into the Mountain of Mohammed, peace be upon him."

"I am a performer, I think, first and foremost. I am a teller of tales, and I want other people to hear."
"I crawled out of the car through the sunroof and peered into the linear glow of homeward-bound automobiles. People began to shout, frustrated and immobilized in their synthetic shells."

"I'm glad the major labels have dwindled to a few, because they still to this day turn out music that's more or less all about the money. But I understand their job is to sell product. That's what they do."
"You Go Blindfolded": An Interview with Stacy Peralta, Dogtown and Z-Boys

by Cynthia Fuchs

Stacy Peralta, winner of the 2001 Sundance Film Festival Director's Award, wears a sweatshirt and sneakers. He's tossed his backpack against the wall of this awkwardly large hotel conference room. Peralta's used to appropriating spaces not designed for him, being a former Z-Boy, that is, a member of Los Angeles' legendary 1970s Zephyr Skate Team, that set the stage for today's skateboard culture and industry (as in, Tony Hawk's video games, the X Games, etc.). At a time long before anyone even thought about building a skate park, the Z-Boys made the sidewalks, swimming pools, and schoolyards of Southern California their own.

Enter Peralta's fine documentary, Dogtown and Z-Boys. Narrated by Sean Penn and comprised of Craig Stecyk and Glen E. Friedman's video footage and photos, as well as interviews and a slamming soundtrack (including Hendrix, Zep, Iggy, and Neil Young), the film traces the impacts of a unique convergence of factors: the low-income environment, the kids' "latchkey" existence, the invention of the urethane wheel, and the emergence of vert skateboarding. Structured around the diverging stories of two skaters -- the brilliantly athletic Tony Alva and the ethereally gifted Jay Adams -- Z-Boys recovers and reflects a particular counter-cultural moment.

Morphizm: Even aside from its subcultural subject matter, Dogtown and Z-Boys might inspire young filmmakers.
Stacy Peralta: It does show that filmmaking is accessible to young people. That's what my skateboarding videos were all about. I found out so many years later that they empowered kids to pick up cameras and do it themselves. We made the film Dogtown and Z-Boys look the way it does is not only because it reflects the subject matter, but I have a case to make against this age of production value. Everything we see is so well produced that it doesn't even look like reality. And it all looks the same -- commercials and episodic TV and motion pictures -- they're all lit so perfectly that it doesn't look like any world that I know of. It removes us from that process.

Morphizm: At the same time, I noticed that the MTV special on the film essentially lifts the film -- it accommodates their aesthetic so perfectly.
SP: Yeah, that surprised me. Somebody warned me that they were ripping off the film. I don't know what to say.

Morphizm: Alternatively, Spin ran a skateboarding timeline, where Farrah Fawcett and the Christian Slater movie was low points...
SP: Yeah, Gleaming the Cube. And that scene, that seems to break the documentary, where I have a walk-on on Charlie's Angels: people don't know what to make of that.

Morphizm: The film raises this question of "authenticity," about what it means to sell out, while getting the word out.
SP: I can tell you this much. There's no selling out in this film. I hardly made any money on it. I don't own the film, and in order to support myself to be able to make it, I had to take two directing jobs, one for a series on Bravo, Influences, which is basically not a creative thing. We made the film in 6 months, and for those 6 months, I was probably paid for 2 months of work. But hey, this was a cause, had to do it. Since I was one of the guys, I knew many of the people who had footage, and was able to bargain for poverty wages. We spent probably $40,000 on footage that could have cost over $100,000.

Morphizm: Had you kept in touch with "the guys" before this project, like [photographers] Glen [E. Friedman] or Craig [Stecyk]?
SP: Glen and Craig I'd kept in touch with. I'd seen Tony and Jim Muir once in a while. Hadn't seen Jay Adams or Bob Biniak for 20 years. I had to hire a detective to find Bob and Paul Constantineau. The only person who got a steady paycheck on this whole production was my editor, Paul Crowder. I knew from my experience that there was no way we could hire an editor to do a project like this for free, like we did. You give and take. A lot of jobs you take to put food in people's stomachs, but others you do for love. What's happened is that because of the success of the film, I've had to stay on it a year and a half longer, doing festivals and interviews.

But you know what, if you do the right thing in your life, if you listen carefully, things happen. If you're willing to live in a state of heightened insecurity, things will work themselves out. Too often we don't trust the universe. If you're doing what your heart's telling you to do, you're obeying the universe. I don't want to sound too cosmic here. But things will happen, and not rationally. They're gonna come through the back door. You go blindfolded.

Morphizm: But you can see how young people, perhaps especially, are anxious about the future.
SP: Absolutely. I heard this when I was growing up, becoming what I'm trying to become: "You've gotta be confident. You've gotta go in the room and fill the room with your energy." I'm sorry, but I'll never be able to do that. What I've learned is, you don't need confidence. What you need is ideas and the ability to get up and move forward. You need drive. You only get confidence by doing what you do. You don't get it before. You get it by having the experiences of falling down and getting back up. I'm sure there are people that do wake up bursting with confidence, but that person's not me.

Morphizm: Skating is literal about that.
SP: It is. People ask me, "You didn't wear pads back then. How did you survive?" We survived because we learned how to fall. We grew up in the age of clay wheels, which were like rocks, and if you didn't learn to fall properly, you couldn't proceed. We anted the film to be a reflection of that, the imperfect and subversive nature of skateboarding. So we broke it up and put the burn marks and the leader. And if someone would get too longwinded, we'd just speed up to the next part of the film. We didn't want to hide it, to make it pretty.

Morphizm: It's refreshing, since the popular standard for documentaries now, at least those using still photos, is to zoom in slowly, with fiddle music in the background.
SP: [laughs] We went into the matte camera stage, where there's lights and a table and the camera, and off to the side, a guy who programs the computer to smooth out all those moves. I said, "I don't want you to program anything, just use the joysticks and do it freehand." And we wanted to shoot as many different angles as possible and as many speed-ups as possible, so Paul could have as many opportunities as possible when he edited. It made it fun. We didn't make this film for anyone in particular, as long as we liked it.

Morphizm: And now that you're traveling with it, what are you seeing in audiences?
SP: When you make a film like this, you always have in mind that you can't lose the core audience, or your film gets bad-mouthed. That's the one thing we tried to keep our ears attuned to. What's been a surprise is how many non-skating people have looked at this as a cultural phenomenon, like, "Wow, we knew this was in America, we've seen Tony Hawk, but we didn't know why."

[next page: "Today, we live in an age of extremism. Kids are like stuntmen, going as big as you possibly can. But back then, your body form, the carriage of your body, was an identification marker for who you were. It was like an anatomical hangtag."]

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Morphizm Mashup:
May 2005

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