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BONES BRIGADE: Skater Culture

Stacy Peralta’s latest documentary grinds deep into heart of skateboarding culture via the original members of super skate crew The Bones Brigade.

Words: Brad Clarke
Images: Courtesy of Tony Friedkin and Grant Britain

Before skateboarding hit the mainstream and Lil Wayne started rocking Vans there were pioneers of the sport that influenced every aspect of the culture, while paving the way for generations of skateboarders to come. The Bones Brigade: An Autobiography is a documentary film that chronicles the lives of a young skateboard team that shaped the landscape in the ’80s.

Stacy Peralta, who is the director of this film and most noted for his previous film work on skater culture including Dogtown and Z-Boys and the 2005 Lords of Dogtown, and counterculture including the underrated Crips & Bloods: Made in America, also sits as the co-founder of the iconic skateboard company Powell-Peralta for whom the official Bones Brigade rode for. Peralta himself hit the streets to recruit amateur skaters with raw natural talent, but he probably never imagined finding a group that would dominate the sport for a decade plus and still have an impact to this day. Documenting their experiences then and now, Peralta’s film features the six original team riders: Mike McGill, Rodney Mullen, Tommy Guerrero, Steve Caballero, Lance Mountain and the sport’s most recognizable name, Tony Hawk.

The Bones Brigade doc looks back at how these young kids progressed from being relatively unknown to being nurtured and encouraged to push the limits of skating. And that’s exactly what they did. For instance, Bones Brigade member Rodney Mullen invented the “Ollie”. Yes, he invented the “Ollie”, the most fundamental trick in the game that every beginning skater must learn before they can accomplish any other trick. And you’ve probably heard of a “Mc Twist”, the inverted, backside 540 air out of a half-pipe that was invented by team rider Mike McGill. This move is a staple at every half-pipe competition from here to Australia. Let’s not even get started on Tony Hawk. The “Birdman” has contributed over fifty tricks to the world of skateboarding which includes his most monumental trick, “The 900”, not to mention his extremely successful video games, brands and tours.

It’s important to note that the Bones Brigade had a pivotal role in transforming the culture of skate and bringing it to the masses. Early on Stacy Peralta and his partner George Powell enlisted the help of their friend and artist, Craig Stecyk, with a marketing campaign for the team. What they came up with was the first-ever skate video. The Bones Brigade Show sold over 300,000 units, which at the time was unheard of in the industry prior to its release in 1984.

The video intrigued the public, opening up their eyes and allowing them access to the bowls, ramps, streets and competitions of skating right from their VCR’s. Nowadays skateboarding is almost defined via videos or video parts. Ask any real skateboarder what their favorite video or part is and they will give you a clear answer, down to the details of where they first saw it and how many times they would watch it a week. With a vast amount of skate companies in the business these days, videos are now a staple in the sport, premiering in massive theaters, being filmed in 3D and with top notch production. Hell, lots of companies even release videos specifically through iTunes, which is a true testament to how The Bones Brigade cemented the notion of skate videos into the culture.

The premiere of the film went down in Salt Lake City at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival with great reviews. The extensive interviews of former team members along with photos, promo spots and home video shot on Super-8 give you an unprecedented look at how a group of kids nurtured and progressed skateboarding in its earliest stages of growth. If you’re a true skater, a newbie, fan, or just utterly clueless about the skate realm, this is still a movie that anyone can enjoy. In short It’s a historical era that you want to revisit, even if only to see how its main characters helped to shape a lifestyle that still resonates with the youth almost 30 years later.

Stacy Peralta’s current film, No Room For Rockstars, a documentary on the infamous Warped Tour, is presented by VANS and is on view at select theaters nationwide for one-night only, TODAY, March 1, 2012. For more details and locations, visit their site HERE.

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