By Gregory Crofton
There’s a wave crashing on the film world washing away the importance of a theatrical release, particularly for documentaries, and taking movies straight to fans. The new distribution model is possible with the power of social media combined with the right sales and marketing.
Stacy Peralta, director of BONES BRIGADE: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY, CRIPS AND BLOODS: MADE IN AMERICA, and RIDING GIANTS, among other docs, said he and his partner took a big risk turning down more traditional distribution offers they received after the documentary screened at Sundance in 2012.
But the risk paid off and will likely continue to. By now Peralta has pretty much recouped the cost of the production and he expects to make money on the film. Most important is that he holds the copyright ownership of BONES BRIGADE, something he’s never been able make happen before. Often when you sell a film to a distributor, according to Peralta, you lose its copyright.
“I don’t own any of my previous films and get this — I dreamed them up, I produced them, wrote them, and directed them, and I don’t own any of them. That just isn’t right. It’s not the way things should be, but that’s the way things are,” said Peralta in a recent phone interview. “You know the business is not set up in favor of the artist, yet it’s the artist that propels the commerce ultimately and so we felt with this new film that we had a built-in audience. And if we could simply reach them, then we could do it ourselves.”
Peralta partnered with Topspin, a sales and marketing software company designed with media companies in mind, to build out his core digital audience. Key was the decision to give that audience something of value for free in exchange for their email addresses. Those addresses were used in combination with social media to sell Peralta’s BONES BRIGADE.
Topspin’s technology was an especially good fit for BONES BRIGADE because the doc is about the Powell-Peralta skateboard company and its team of riders. The company has a hardcore group of fans ready to spend money on special product packages that include vintage signed boards, posters, T-shirts, DVDs and downloads. Team members, including Tony Hawk, interacted with fans directly through Twitter, a key ingredient to the success of the campaign.
Peralta didn’t sign with a film distribution company for BONES BRIGADE at Sundance, but he did need to hire a sales agent, and he went with Andrew Herwitz’s Films Sales Company. Herwitz knows the international marketplace, and how to split up various rights for the film to produce the most revenue by selling them to different territories around the world. Recent deals for the film include iTunes in the Netherlands and ESPN in Brazil. Ideally the sales window for a documentary lasts about 10 years.
Speaking about the BONES BRIGADE sales strategy at a conference last year, Herwitz stressed that using this type of direct-to-fan distribution strategy also involves listening to the marketplace. “We were fortunate (at Sundance) that we got a lot of positive validation from the marketplace,” Herwitz said. “And in fact in some territories we did an all-rights deal. In Australia we did a really significant deal, and we did an all-rights deal in Japan.”
Peralta’s point man at Topspin is Bob Moczydlowsky. He put together a fascinating report about the BONES BRIGADE project on his company’s blog. Moczydlowsky’s post explains in detail how the campaign utilized social media, and how Peralta’s film is poised to bring in four times more money using a Topspin-hybrid distribution model rather than a traditional one.
Topspin has been in business since 2007 and has more than 60,000 clients. The majority of them are musicians but the company has nudged its way into the world of independent film, working with documentaries in particular. Music, sports and publishing and other industries have tapped the direct-to-fan market for a few years, but film has finally discovered it.
“In film, especially independent film, the direct channel gets almost exclusively ignored, and its real value to artists that’s being left on the table,” Moczydlowsky said. “So it was great to have Stacy come along and be willing to have his data be so public and tell everybody, sort of for the good of independent film, get your act together.”
Other documentary projects in the Topspin pipeline include: “THE CRASH REEL” “BOB AND THE MONSTER”, and “DEAR MR. WATTERSON”.
Despite the success of the BONES BRIGADE release, a direct-to-fan release, whether it be through Topspin or another direct-to-fan sales and marketing company like VHX, is not the right path of distribution for every film, at least at this point in time. Peralta has produced new a documentary, HAWAIIAN: THE LEGEND OF EDDIE AIKAU, about the lifeguard and big wave surfer, that will be released by ESPN’s 30-for-30 sport doc series next month. “ESPN saw the film early and they had been wanting to make this film,” Peralta said. “And they offered us a great deal and there was no reason to look elsewhere.
But, Peralta said, he’s definitely in favor of working with the direct-to-fan model when the situation is right. “I would certainly like to, but again it always depends on who finances the film, if that person is also willing to take this chance,” he said. “We’ve established that this works. If it works now I can’t even imagine what programs and opportunities are going to be in play five years from now.”
Below is my complete interview with Stacy Peralta, in which he shares details about his BONES BRIGADE distribution campaign, talks about the Netflix release of the film, and the importance of music to all of his films.
Channel Nonfiction: How did you discover Topspin?
Stacy Peralta: I went to a panel discussion at a university in California. And it was a panel discussion on new media. And Bob Moz, one of the top people at Topspin was part of the panel. As he began to talk, and I started listening to him, I realized I was listening to somebody that really had a different approach and a different answer and a real workable answer for the predicament that many of us independent filmmakers face, which is how to get our films distributed without losing them. And they had invented a process whereby they were making it possible for rock musicians and various musicians to sell direct to their fans by creating a fan base and not having to go through a record label. And it had been very effective and they were now moving into films. And I just remembered thinking about that conversation, and then when I brought my new film to Sundance in 2012 I saw him there and I said we need to get together and talk and that’s how it happened. I think I saw (Bob) talk in 2010 or early 2011. I was either just starting to make my film or in the process of it, and as I said we premiered it at Sundance 2012 January and he was there representing his company. And we were getting offers for our film from traditional distributors, and we got three of them and we decided to turn them down in favor of trying something completely different.
Channel Nonfiction: How has it worked?
Stacy Peralta: It’s actually worked really well. What happened is … the Topspin strategy is they figure out how to corral any fan that I have anywhere in the world, and any fan of the people in my film. They take all of our fans and get them all under one address and one website so that we can start communicating with them and letting them know that this film is going to come out. And in addition to this film, what other products might be available, like soundtracks, special products, T-shirts, screening, what not. So we were able to sell directly to them digitally, as well as on DVD and Blu-ray and additional products. And so it enabled us to keep control of the film and also keep ownership of the copyright, which is so important.
Channel Nonfiction: Do you own any part of CRIPS AND BLOODS: MADE IN AMERICA?
Stacy Peralta: I don’t know any of my previous films. And get this, I dreamed them up, I produced them wrote them and directed them and I don’t own any of them. That just isn’t right. It’s not the way things should be, but that’s the way things are. You know the business is not set up in favor of the artist, yet it’s the artist that propels the commerce ultimately. And so we felt with this new film that we had a built-in audience. And if we could simply reach them then we could do it ourselves and Topspin gave us the ability to do that.
Channel Nonfiction: What does Topspin offer?
Stacy Peralta: What it is, is that they have a proprietary technology that allows you to build a website and as I said corral all of your fans from all over the world on to this one website, that you can communicate with and sell directly to. That’s their whole premise. They are trying to democratize the independent filmmaker, and make it possible to be less reliant on the big companies that in the past we had to be reliant upon in order to get our films out there.
Channel Nonfiction: They helped you sell tickets to theatrical screenings too, right?
Stacy Peralta: Here is what was so amazing about this. You could buy tickets to any screening that we had anywhere in the country from our website, or you could buy it from theater, whichever one you preferred, and it worked. If you were in a town and we weren’t having a screening there, you could pay a certain amount of money yourself and have your own screening and you could collect the money. Or you could hook us up with a theater in your area and we could take care of the business. There were so many ways to could do this and we did it. We offered skate shops the ability to put screenings on and again fans could be notified when these screenings were going to take place and they could buy the tickets through our site. So it really made this thing easy. And it made it possible for our fans to understand that any information on our film was available from our website regarding any aspect of it. And that includes where the screenings were going to be, if Tony Hawk was going to be signing (there) or what have you. It was quite amazing.
Channel Nonfiction: Did the theatrical release of BONES BRIGADE bring in a significant amount of revenue?
Stacy Peralta: Nope. It didn’t bring in a significant amount of revenue. And it was never intended to. But what we didn’t do is we didn’t lose money on it which was fantastic. We made a little bit. But the point was, is ultimately the reason you that want to have it in the theaters anyway is to promote the sale of the eventual DVD, Blu-Ray or download. That’s really the whole point of theatrical release. That goes for big films as well. It’s essentially a concert tour for the sale of the DVD.
Channel Nonfiction: That’s interesting. I don’t think BONES BRIGADE has shown here in Nashville, but the Franklin theater hosted a screening, and it was for the celebration of the 5-year anniversary of a skate shop there. So I’d imagine that’s an ideal way to release it?
Stacy Peralta: The thing is with this film, since we had a network of dealers all of the country and all over the world, it enabled us to do this. If we hadn’t had those dealers it would have been much harder. We took advantage of our resources to make that happen.
Channel Nonfiction: Filmmakers like Kevin Smith, who has a cult following, have used Topspin. And now you’ve done this. How relevant is this technology going to be for a more average independent filmmaker?
Stacy Peralta: If the independent filmmaker intends to be involved in this business for 20, 30 years he or she has to start somewhere in building their fan base. What the Topspin model does is it makes it possible for a filmmaker to begin investing in himself. For instance, a friend of mine is a very good aspiring musician, and he went and had a meeting with Bob (at Topspin) and said look I’m an aspiring musician, I have my own music, what do you recommend I do? And Bob said, what you should do is start giving all of your music away for free. Because nothing is more important right now than you building a fan base. So give your music away for free in the first five years or whatever build your fan base, and once you have a fan base, then you can start charging for music. Record labels do not sign talent anymore, they sign audience. I thought that was amazing. They sign audiences. They sign talent that already comes with an audience. And so the same thing would go with a filmmaker. Start young and start building your fan base with people who like your film so you could eventually sell directly to those fans, if in fact you make smaller films that might not be well positioned with a major distributor.
Channel Nonfiction: You would think that hard copy DVD sales are going away, but in reality you’re making money selling hard copies?
Stacy Peralta: We are but here’s the thing, here’s the catch on this. We are selling to an audience that actually wants a physical piece of this film because there is a collector’s aspect to it, there’s a lot of sentimentality to it, a lot of identity tied to this. We still didn’t sell as many DVDs, anywhere near what what we would have sold 10 years ago, but we still sold some. I think we sold 20,000 where 10 years ago we would have sold 60. So that market really is diminishing. But with a product like this there is a demand for a physical tangible representation of the film. Just because it’s a lifestyle and its something that they want. But in our situation, we offered other things as well as shirts and posters and everything because of all of that went to paying down the budget.
Channel Nonfiction: I read that by the time of the release of the film (November 2012), you had pretty much paid the production budget off. Is that true?
Stacy Peralta: We were pretty close with the guarantees that we had with the deals that we had in place from foreign sales and the very conservative projections we had, what we would do on iTunes and the kind of business that we would do on Topspin based on the connectivity we were getting and we’ve hit those numbers.
Channel Nonfiction: Congratulations.
Stacy Peralta: No it was great, because you know we really took a chance here. We could have fallen on our faces and we didn’t so it was really exciting. Now I’m not going to tell you that we’re going to make a fortune on the film cause we’re not going to, but we’re at least going to get our money back and we’re gonna be in a position where we can do this again and not be out of pocket. Because typically when you sell a film to a film distributor you don’t get your investment back. You rarely get the whole thing back. It’s very difficult to exist as a filmmaker if you are out of pocket and not getting your pocket replenished.
Channel Nonfiction: I found BONES BRIGADE to watch on Netflix. That’s how I saw it. Is that the final window for it?
Stacy Peralta: What it is is – we have a film rep. You have to have a film rep when you’re selling a film. It’s very, very important. Because they understand how to make the deals with foreign territories. They understand how to unfold the film through various distribution channels. So when we left Sundance, (Andrew Herwitz) explained to us the tiered approach that we were going to have in selling this film. How we’d start with foreign sales. We’d start with iTunes and selling direct from Topspin. And eventually we’d sell to the cable channels and Netflix and on and on and on and on. Typically a film will sell for a 10-year window in its entirety. All the various things, like we made a deal with ESPN in Brazil, we made a deal with iTunes the Netherlands. There’s sorts of little markets all over the place and you just take little bits and pieces from all these markets and they eventually add up. But you need a person that understands what they are doing to do this.
Channel Nonfiction: So you’re saying you’re not going to make a fortune off the film, but you will make money. Huge change?
Stacy Peralta: Yes that’s a huge change. But also, the most important thing is I own the copyright, unlike my other films. I own the copyright of this film. It’s forever mine and my partners. So that in itself is so important. I didn’t have to give that up to someone else. It a huge difference. It’s real big difference.
Channel Nonfiction: So you’ve already got a new film coming out?
Yes, Eddie Aikau the Hawaiian legend … it’s already been purchased by ESPN 30 for 30 and its going to be featured this year very prominently on the 30 for 30 series. My position on that is as a producer and not as a director. Because I also enjoy producing, I don’t want to direct every time. The film is about a legendary Hawaiian big wave surfer named Eddie Aikau who lost his life committing a heroic act in 1978 and we essentially tell the history of Hawaii through his life being an indigenous Hawaiian and an indigenous Hawaiian surfer in the islands.
Channel Nonfiction: Why did you not choose direct-to-fan distribution for this film?
Stacy Peralta: To be honest with you it wasn’t my choice (to make) but I was in support of it. ESPN saw the film early and they had been wanting to make this film … and they offered us a great deal and there was no reason to look elsewhere. They gave us a good deal we couldn’t refuse.
Channel Nonfiction: Will you make more money on the release of the Aikau film via ESPN or more money with the direct-to-fan distribution of BONES BRIGADE?
Stacy Peralta: BONES BRIGADE was a better situation. But also at the same time there were multiple partners on the Eddie Aikau film where with the Bones Brigade film just myself and my partner so it was a much easier deal to make. Also “BONES BRIGADE” is a film I conceived, like DOGTOWN and RIDING GIANTS, I conceived those films. I didn’t conceive the Eddie Aikau film. This isn’t something that I dreamed up. I was simply asked to get involved and I did and so it was a different way of looking at for me.
Channel Nonfiction: I just listened to Ondi Timoner speak at the Sundance Institute talk about branding a film as it’s being made. And I read article where you said you were thinking about the merchandising component of your future films now that you’ve done this with BONES BRIGADE. Is going to affect the content of documentaries possibly in a negative way, this new approach?
Stacy Peralta: No. No. You can’t. I mean if someone was to just simply make a film to sell a product I think the public would see right through that and it would not be very interesting. I think what it is for instance if I made another film and I thought there were products that could be attached to it, I’d want to know early in advance so at least could get a head start. But I wouldn’t create a film for the sake of making product. But like for instance BONES BRIGADE, because it had people like Tony Hawk and Steve Caballero and Rodney Mullins, who are some of the most famous skateboarders in the world, there were inherent products that could go along with it that were not in any way shape or form exploitative to the story but something that would be offered anyways. So it was a way to … there’s a lot of fans that really wanted to be able to buy skateboards with their names on it, and shirts and stickers and posters and so its essentially just like with a rock band you just want to make sure if people want to have shirts and posters you provide it. But just to answer you’re question in totality, the product does not come first, the film comes first. And if you can help pay off your budget by selling product after the fact that’s very helpful. You know If you look at the way the studios do it with the big movies, they make deals with Burger King and Taco Bell to sell dolls and action figures. That’s kind of a crass way of doing it, if you think about it. Or for product placement. I mean those big films do it constantly.
Channel Nonfiction: So maybe social media, is that the key?
Stacy Peralta: Well the social media what it does it allows you to go directly to the fan and it allows you to bypass the middle man. You know for instance, Bob at Topspin made a really good point. When you sell your film through iTunes, at the end of the day, iTunes keeps those addresses of those people not you. When you’re with Topspin you keep those addresses, you walk away with all those addresses. So those are your addresses and that’s a big thing. That way the next film I come out with I can go back to those fans and say, ‘Hey, I have another film if you’re interested this is what it’s about,’ and they can get involved or not get involved it’s up to them, but at least I can reach them and let them know.
Channel Nonfiction: From I’ve read, those fans are the people who actually spend the money, or a greater portion of them, versus more generic traffic?
Stacy Peralta: That’s it. That’s absolutely it.
Channel Nonfiction: What about the work aspect of it? As a filmmaker I’d imagine you’re busting your ass to make these films happen and they you turn around and have to go to ‘x’ number of meeting and do ‘x’ number of interviews. Has it been that much more work to release BONES BRIGADE via the direct-to-fan method?
Stacy Peralta: Yeah that’s the part I don’t like. There’s three acts to making a film. The first act is conceiving the film and getting the money for it. That takes a long time. The next act is making the film. The act after that, the third act, is selling the film. It’s doing hundreds of interviews and in this case actually physically being involved with the distribution of the film. It’s a lot of work. I will not fool you or anybody else by saying that it isn’t. It is an amazing amount of work. Even if I was with a distributor it would still be an amazing amount of work because I’d be on the road for three to four months traveling the country doing press junkets. And it’s harder on documentary filmmakers because we typically don’t have famous people in our films so were the person who has to go out and speak for our film. We can’t rely on actors. It’s a lot of work. You’ve got to really want this to do it.
Channel Nonfiction: If you know you’re working for yourself, I’d imagine you’re more apt to have a positive outlook on an event because you’re working for BONES BRIGADE toward the ownership of your product. Was that a more tolerable situation?
Stacy Peralta: Yeah, it was relative to the ownership but I had control over it. I hired the PR company we worked with. I decided how we’re going to position ourselves, how we’re going to cut our trailer. So we had control over how we wanted this handled. There was a freedom in that and certainly I wanted this to work because we had a lot riding on it. If it failed, it failed because of us. And if it succeeded it succeeded because of us. And I didn’t have to rely on someone else. Or think do they get my film. Do they know how to sell my film, which is what you typically worry about when you sell your film. Will that company understand how to market it and sell it?
Channel Nonfiction: That’s something you know how to do from the skateboarding industry. Do the two industries compare at all?
Stacy Peralta: What compares is you’re trying to figure out who your market is. Now here is something that we didn’t succeed at. When we went to Sundance, it’s interesting when you go to Sundance because you really find out who likes your film at Sundance. And sometimes you are surprised by who likes it. For instance, when we went to Sundance we discovered that girls and women really, really liked the film. Now when we released the film we tried to market it in a way where we’d get women as well but we didn’t. Because it would have taken so much more might, marketing might, to really capture a female audience. So what’s happened is, now that it’s on Netflix, it’s slowly filtering out to that female audience. So as much as we knew that it was there we didn’t know how to do it ourselves, we knew how to get our core audience but we didn’t know how to get that core audience but we didn’t know how to get that female audience that was responding to it so well as Sundance.
Channel Nonfiction: How did you discover that? Just through surveys? What do they do out there?
Stacy Peralta: No, when they do the Q & As at the end of the films, we had so many women responding to the film that it was shocking. Women were coming up in tears they were so touched by the film. It was a total surprise to us. We weren’t expecting that. But what’s really been interesting is it’s coming back now because I was checking the surf about four weeks ago and this young mom comes up to me. She’s about 31 years old. She goes ‘Are you Stacy Peralta?’ I said ‘Yeah.’ ‘Oh my god my husband and I just saw your film last night. It’s not a film I would have ever seen or even known about but he was a skateboarder so he wanted to watch it. I sat down with him.’ She goes, ‘I just loved the film.’ And I go ‘Where’d you see it on?’ ‘We saw it on Netflix.’ And I’ve heard this from a number of women. So it’s slowly reaching that core group.
Channel Nonfiction: Now that’s its streaming on Netflix, can you feel that people are seeing it more?
Stacy Peralta: Oh my god. When Netflix released the film that’s when I realized the film was really being seen. You know each stage you feel it. You feel it when you release it digitally, you feel when you release it from iTunes. But when it hit Netflix, I was starting to get calls from people that don’t even know that I make films. And they were saying, ‘Oh my god I didn’t know realize you’d done this film and you were in this film.’ So the strangest, strangest people ended up seeing the film. And a lot of them told me that the reason that they saw it is because of the recommendations that Netflix does, ie, if you like these films well then you might like these other films. So a lot of people were seeing it as a result of that. That’s very very powerful because people that would never get exposed to these films are now seeing them because they simply have a subscription to Netflix. And they are not paying per film, it’s an all you can eat deal. And so they are seeing all these random films that would never even hear about films like the kind of films that I make.
Channel Nonfiction: That’s awesome.
Stacy Peralta: Well, it’s just another piece of the puzzle that made this work. Because here is what so few filmmakers understand. When you are a filmmaker like myself, who makes documentary films, the distributors they tantalize you with a theatrical release. And every filmmaker wants that. It’s really important to our egos. But really the theatrical release on a film like this means nothing. They are very small, there’s no TV advertisements, very few people know they are there. The reason the distributors want films like mine is that they want to sell them to iTunes and Netflix and they want to make those sales themselves. And they want to sell it on DVD. So most filmmakers think distributors want your film because of theatrical but they don’t. They want it for all the other businesses. And I realized this from my last films. There is no reason to even have a theatrical anymore, it just doesn’t pay. It’s a terrible blow for a filmmaker if their heart is set on having a theatrical, but it’s fairly meaningless.
Channel Nonfiction: Have you thought about getting into Kickstarter at all? Explored that yet?
Stacy Peralta: No. I haven’t had to. So far, you know since I’m getting another film off the ground right now and we have a perspective investor involved but right now what we’re doing the kind of due diligence with him. We’re explaining to him how much film is going to cost, why it’s going to cost this much, ah, who we think the audience is, how we’re going to construct the film … we’re in that part of the process right now. If we’re successful with him, then I won’t have to go look elsewhere. So far I’ve been very successful with investors that were interested in investing in specific films where I haven’t had to do the Kickstarter thing.
Channel Nonfiction: I think what’s happening is that Kickstarter is tapping into the core audience from one end and say Topspin is tapping into the core audience from the other end.
Stacy Peralta: Right. Well, Kickstarter is doing it sooner. Kickstarter is in a sense, doing, taking a Topspin model, but they’re using it as their investment. Where the Topspin model is showing you hey you can do this all yourself you don’t need the middleman and they’re democratizing it.
Channel Nonfiction: Did you have to pay a lot to use Topspin?
Stacy Peralta: No. You pay a small licensing fee for their software and then you pay them, I believe they get 15% of everything that sells off of their site, which is extremely fair. And they will also fulfill the orders. They have a whole warehouse that does all that stuff. But they didn’t have to do that with us because we have that intact ourselves.
Channel Nonfiction: Is there anything I haven’t covered regarding the Topspin model?
Stacy Peralta: Well yeah, here is something really important, is that I believe Topspin helped us sell in all the other markets, and here’s what I mean. We have about 50,000 fans on our Bones Brigade website that Topspin pulled together for us. A lot of those fans did not buy directly from us. A lot of them did and a lot of them didn’t. The ones that didn’t went right to iTunes. We may not have made those sales directly but we advertised that it was gonna be on iTunes. So they knew they could go either way. Some fans may not have been comfortable putting their credit card down to yet another website when they already had their credit card at iTunes and so we made those sales at iTunes. Point being that being with Topspin helped us across the board. It helped raise the awareness of our film across the board. So whether we were selling directly from our site that was connected to them, or from iTunes or something else, I think it all helped in what they did. And the other thing is that this is the ground floor. We’ve established that this works. If it works now I can’t even imagine what programs and opportunities are going to be in play five years from now. Because this wasn’t available 10 years ago in any way shape or form.
Channel Nonfiction: Are you going to do direct-to-fan distribution again?
Stacy Peralta: I would certainly like to, but again it always depends on who finances the film. If that person is also willing to take this chance because financiers like getting their money paid back. So sometimes they don’t want to take a chance and the just go with the status quo, but I would certainly encourage this.
Channel Nonfiction: Hopefully it doesn’t lead to films that have tons of merchandizing in them but rather allows filmmakers to not have to beg for money at some point.
Stacy Peralta: It’s not about merchandising, what this whole thing about is building your audience, that’s what it’s about, that’s where the power is. If you can build an audience, then your audience knows you’re coming out with a film. Right now if you’re a filmmaker, how the hell does your audience know when you’re coming out with a film? Well they’ll find out when they see the trailer, they find out when they see TV advertisement with the trailer. But what if you could simply go directly to them. It’s not about product. It’s about the personal connection the filmmaker has with the people that like what he does. And as a bonus if they like him enough, maybe they’ll want more, like maybe they’ll want a special DVD or a special shirt, or a special product or a special collector’s item from that shoot. You know there’s a lot of people that like to collect this stuff. I can see a day where a filmmaker goes directly like this and sells off wardrobe and set pieces that were in his film to people that love the film. I can see that happening. And I can see that money going towards his next film. Instead of that stuff just going into some warehouse somewhere and sitting and collecting dust. Right now it’s open to interpretation, it’s open to investigation, it’s open to invention. How is this ultimately going to play out? The good news is that the small fish like me now have the ability to do this without going through the typical distribution channels that’s enabling us to be self-sufficient and independent.
Channel Nonfiction: CRIPS AND BLOODS: MADE IN AMERICA is one of my favorite all-time documentaries and I’ve seen a lot of documentaries. What has been the feedback from that film, what is the update on some of the issues?
Stacy Peralta: I can only tell you that those people who we featured in the film who are now part of the solution they’ve all told me that they’ve been getting support from all over the world from people who have seen the film. And those who have seen the film, they are seeing that world from a different perspective. And there’s a lot of people that have wanted to get involved by donating money and time and help. So it’s been very affective for them. And it’s been very affective in showing the film to government officials, in showing the film at schools and colleges because it’s helping to change people’s perspectives, which is why we did the film in the first place. So that the feedback that I’ve gotten. It’s been very gratifying.
Channel Nonfiction: Good. Good. The title for that documentary is MADE IN AMERICA, and the skateboarding story is obviously very American. What type of stories are you drawn to in general?
Stacy Peralta: Well I seem to be drawn to stories about subcultures. You know I’ve done skateboarding, I’ve done big wave surfing, I’ve done gangs. I’ve done rock ‘n, roll, a film called NO ROOM FOR ROCK STARS, I produced which is a really good film about what it takes to be a musician in today’s music world. I’m in the process of getting a film off the ground about a number of street artists and why they do what they do. So I seem to be interested in subcultures and understanding subcultures. And you know underdogs.
Channel Nonfiction: Music, especially in today’s world, as music costs go up, how did you license the incredible music in MADE IN AMERICA? How can you afford that music? And I read that when you start planning a film, you hear the music first. Is that true?
Stacy Peralta: Yes. I look for what I think the film wants to sound like and once I start finding those songs. Those songs kind of inform to me what the film is then going to be. I got really lucky on my very first documentary DOG TOWN AND Z-BOYS. We were able to put together one of the finest soundtracks ever put together for a documentary film. We had music by Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Rod Stewart, Aerosmith on and on and on and on. As a result of that film, a lot of people in the music industry seemed to like the way I handle music in my films. There was that part of it. And so they gave me good deal. The other part of it was, it’s amazing how many people in the music industry are former skateboarders. And how many of them in the 80s rode my boards. So people seem to have an affinity to me, so I’ve been able to perhaps get a little better deal on my music licensing. I still pay a lot of money but I don’t pay what a lot of people play. But you know, just to let you know, music is typically a quarter of my budget. That’s a lot of budget. You know that’s a lot of money, but I can’t overstate the importance of the right music.
Channel Nonfiction: The film you’re working on now is about street artists, is that the film you talked about putting together a business plan for? Any other projects in the works?
Stacy Peralta: I’ve usually got one to two projects in some form of development stage. Right now I’m working on trying to get two different docs off the ground – both are contingent upon getting the funding. One of them is about a group of street artists that are planning a colossal joint art project. The other is about a legendary figure name Gerry Lopez. I should know something about either one of them moving forward within the next two months.
Channel Nonfiction: What are five of your favorite documentaries?
Stacy Peralta: I don’t have a top list but here is one that comes to mind: WHEN WE WERE KINGS.
Channel Nonfiction: Do you prefer shooting digital or film?
Stacy Peralta: I’m beginning to be a huge fan of digital. The Alexa is an amazing camera as is the Canon 5D. But in the end it’s not about the cameras it’s about the lenses. It’s all about the glass.