The story of the Venice and Santa Monica “Dogtown” skateboard scene of the mid-’70s, long the subject of subcultural lore, has finally hit the big time with the new feature film Lords of Dogtown, which will be released in theaters nationally by Columbia Pictures on Friday, June 3rd.
Locally, the film will show Mann’s Criterion 6, 1313 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica; the Regal Marina del Rey 6, 4335 Glencoe Ave, Marina del Rey; and The Bridge: Cinema de Lux, The Promenade at Howard Hughes Center, 6081 Center Drive, Westchester.
The film is based on the wild times of the Zephyr Skate Team, whose adolescent members were known as the Z-Boys, and whose aggressive style changed the direction of skateboarding from a children’s fad to a bad boy craze.
The film was directed by Catherine Hardwicke, with a script written by Z-Boy team member Stacy Peralta, who later became a successful skateboard manufacturer and film director.
Santa Monica resident Peralta directed the documentary film Dogtown and Z-Boys, released by Sony Pictures Classics in 2003, which told the story of Dogtown through interviews with the skaters and vintage skate footage shot at competitions and in backyard pools.
The documentary served to reignite and spread interest in the Venice and Santa Monica scene that radicalized the sport of skateboarding.
The Z-Boys became famous for pool skating and radical behavior.
“Low-riding cement lovers, these outlaw surfers took to the curves and walls of neighborhood pools and invented a whole new style of skating,” according to Columbia Pictures.
“Because we had these wheels of urethane, a plastic substance that gripped the concrete, we could now ride vertical,” says Lords of Dogtown scriptwriter and original Dogtown Z-Boy Stacy Peralta.
The main Z-Boy skaters in the film are portrayed by actors Emile Hirsch as Jay Adams, Victor Rasuk as Tony Alva, John Robinson as Stacy Peralta, and Michael Angarano as Sid Gianetti.
Tony Alva choreographed the stunts for the skaters in the film and actually taught the actors — some of whom had never stepped on a skateboard before — how to skate, according to Columbia Pictures.
Though much of the Lords of Dogtown production was filmed in Venice and Santa Monica, production designer Chris Gorak and location manager Brad Bemis (known for his documentary film, Venice: Lost and Found, about Venice culture) had to look elsewhere to find the vibe of 1970s Venice.
“At the time, Venice was a no man’s land, where no one wanted to be except kids and troublemakers,” says Gorak. “So we had to re-create that texture. So we went to San Pedro for a lot of the locations that needed the coastal beach feel. San Pedro hasn’t been ‘Starbucked’ yet, so it felt like Venice back then.”
Filmmakers also had to re-create the Pacific Ocean Park Pier, a dilapidated pier around which the Z-Boys surfed.
For this, they headed south to Imperial Beach in San Diego County, just north of the Mexican border.
For some of the Z-Boys involved in the film project, seeing their youths come to life on the big screen was a riveting experience.
“It was a really emotional thing to experience, because I’m not only seeing a time zone that I remember vividly come to life, but I’m seeing a person play my life and my best friends’ lives,” says Peralta. “I don’t even know how to make sense of it.
“You’re just inundated with these images. You don’t know if you’re stepping into a dream or if it’s a reality. It was a very Twilight Zone experience.”