Meet the Filmmakers: Stacy Peralta--'Made in America'

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.