Over the next two weeks, we at IDA will be introducing our community to the filmmakers whose work will be represented in the DocuWeekTM Theatrical Documentary Showcase, August 8-14 in New York City and August 22-28 in Los Angeles. We asked the filmmakers to share the stories behind their films--the inspirations, the challenges and obstacles, the goals and objectives, the reactions to their films so far.
So, to continue this series of conversations, here is Stacy Peralta, director of Made in America.
Synopsis: Renowned documentarian Stacy Peralta examines the story of South Los Angeles and the gangs that inhabit it. Blending archival footage and photos with interviews of current and former gang members, educators, historians, family members and experts, Peralta brings his dynamic visual style and storytelling ability to this often ignored chapter of America's history. Over 30 years, gang warfare has caused the death of over 15,000 people in Los Angeles, yet this epidemic of violence is virtually ignored and continues largely unchecked today. Made in America examines the cause of this gang warfare and explores how the cycle might be broken.
IDA: How did you get started in documentary filmmaking?
Stacy Peralta: I began making hour-long skateboard videos and films for my skateboard company, Powell-Peralta in the 1980s. I'm actually credited with starting the action sports video revolution as a result of those videos. Prior to that experience, I had never thought of becoming a filmmaker as I hadn't imagined I was capable. But from the success of those videos, I went on to directing many diverse forms of TV, which eventually led me to writing, producing and directing documentaries.
IDA: What inspired you to make Made in America?
SP: Being a documentary filmmaker allows me to investigate subjects I'm interested in understanding from a more complete perspective. The African-American gang situation in Los Angeles (my hometown) has been going on for over four decades. I was interested in finding out what the causes of this problem were, how they originated and why the problem continues decade after decade with virtually no long-term solutions in place.
IDA: What were some of the challenges and obstacles in making this film, and how did you overcome them?
SP: The primary challenges when we began were figuring out how to gain access to the various individuals who inhabit the most active gang-infested neighborhoods. It was a situation where I was introduced to one person, who introduced me to another person and so on until I met the one I was looking for. Once the introductions were made I would then explain who I was, what my intentions were and what I was looking for-before ever showing up with a camera crew. Overall I found most every gang member I met to be very direct, straight up and responsible, and I had no issues with any of them as long as I treated them with respect, honesty and consistency.
IDA: How did your vision for the film change over the course of the pre-production, production and post-production processes?
SP: The overall scope of the film became much larger than I had originally intended, due to the inclusion of history. History ended up playing a bigger role in the film as it really informs the present in regards to the current state of things in many of these affected neighborhoods. So many past obstacles have come into play to cause the gang problem, and we present them in the film, step by step.
IDA: As you've screened Made in America--whether on the festival circuit, or in screening rooms, or in living rooms--how have audiences reacted to the film? What has been most surprising or unexpected about their reactions?
SP: Every screening has turned into a town hall meeting. Audience members don't want to leave the theater when the film is finished; they want to stay and discuss the film. That is every filmmaker's dream.
IDA: What docs or docmakers have served as inspirations for you?
SP: None. One of the reasons I make films is to see the films I make. My documentary style of filmmaking is a bit of a reaction against the traditional form.
Made in America will be screening at the Arclight Hollywood.
To view the DocuWeek schedule in Los Angeles, visit http://www.documentary.org/content/docuweek-los-angeles.
To purchase tickets to DocuWeek at the ArcLight Hollywood, visit www.arclightcinemas.com.