Director Stacy Peralta’s an award-winning documentary filmmaker and one of the most influential skateboarders of all time. His documentary Dogtown and the Z-Boys won him the Best Director Award at the Sundance Film Festival.
You were a professional skateboarder before you went into filmmaking. How did that transition happen?
I fell into filmmaking. During the 80s I had put together the greatest competitive and innovative skateboard team of all time, a team called the Bones Brigade, and we needed to show the world how good these skaters were so we decided we needed an hour-long film that could play on VHS devices inside skateboarders living rooms. The job of making those films fell on me.
How has your background in skateboarding influenced the way you approach filmmaking?
Skateboarding teaches you to deal with constant obstacles, dead-ends, setbacks and failure and as a result of this it teaches you to be very adaptable and flexible and these are all the same issues one finds in film making. Every corner you turn you find an obstacle.
You’ve always had a connection to surf culture. How do the surf and skate scene differ and what unites these subcultures?
I originally wanted to be a professional surfer and that is the direction I was headed, until the urethane wheel was invented, at which time I changed my plans. Both surfing and skateboarding were and still are outlaw cultures that the greater society looks at from a distance. Both attract outcasts who are looking for a place they can create their own identity within. Both (surfing and skateboarding) offer a distinctive lifestyle and way of living.
The Yin and Yang of Gerry Lopez tells a long and detailed story. How did you approach this film project and what was your focus?
I originally approached the film, like I do all of the films I’ve made, by asking endless questions and listening. I asked Gerry and anyone I could find questions about him. I asked and asked, and listened until I started getting a sense of what was most important in his life’s journey. Film making is about careful listening, careful observing and paying constant quality attention to the subject you’re documenting. It’s essentially getting my own self out of the way so that I can be a vehicle for this story to pass through and that takes time to gestate.
What interested you most in Gerry’s story that you took on this project?
His dual nature. His peaceful yoga posture on land and his tigershark alpha male mentality in the water. How he struggles and lives with that duality and his relentless pursuit of all forms of surfing throughout the years he’s been alive.
The film uses a lot of archival footage. How did you go about the selection of those scenes and what were some of your favorite parts?
By looking under every single rock we could find. You want to surprise your audience when making films like this and one of the ways you do that is by searching for photos and footage they have not yet seen. It takes a lot of time and a million phone calls to locate the content but it’s worth it in the end.
What were some of the highlights of making this film?
Watching Gerry learn how to foil surf and kite surf made me realize that things actually don’t come so easy for him, that he struggles like all of us, and that he spends lots of time as a kook just like the rest of us when we’re learning something new. Watching him do something not well humanized him for me.
You’ve created some of the most influential films in skateboarding. What projects are you most proud of in 30-40 years of filmmaking?
I never expected that my life would turn out the way it did and that I would have the opportunities I’ve had. My hope is that I’ve delivered and returned on what I’ve been given because I’ve been the recipient of many great opportunities. It’s been an unusual journey of being both an athlete with one foot in and an observer with one foot out simultaneously.
Thanks a lot for taking the time, Stacy!
For tickets to the special Q&A screenings with Gerry Lopez and Stacy Peralta or to find out more about The Yin & Yang of Gerry Lopez visit Patagonia.com.au/gerrylopez.