Review Fix chats with “Dragonslayer” Director Tristan Patterson, who discusses the inspiration behind the film and what the project has meant to him.
A Grand Jury Prize Winner for Best Documentary at SXSW 2011, the film is a candid look at pro skate boarder Josh “Skreech” Sandoval and the trials and tribulations of his life.
Here are the first couple of questions of our half hour interview with Patterson.
Review Fix: On the film’s official site, you say you met Skreech at a party and you wanted to capture his wavelength and preserve it. What was your original vision like for this piece and how did it change during filming?
Tristan Patterson: I think the thing that initially decided me on this project was that the economy had just collapsed and there was a foreclosure crisis going on. It just felt like we had reached this cultural tipping point, where the future just looked really grim. I think it was similar to what the country was going through in the ‘70s. Maybe every generation goes through it, but in the ‘70s, that gave life to the punk generation, like there is no future, this is the decline of Western civilization. On the heels of that came the ‘80s, this crazy boom time. I just felt like this time around, it doesn’t feel like the ‘80s anymore. It feels like maybe this is the tipping point.
I was at that party because I had heard that the guitarist from this Californian Punk Band, The Adolescents was going to play in the driveway. I thought that it just seemed weird. When I got there, it was the punk generation providing music for these kids who were going crazy. These were the sons and daughters of Reagan babies and the kids from the people of the punk generation. I was curious as to what this was all about. This party ultimately reminded me of all these youth and revolt films I loved as a kid growing up. There’s this whole genre of films like “Over the Edge,” “Rivers Edge” and “Suburbia.”
So when I met Skreech, he struck me as a character from one of those films. The fact that those were films from 30 years ago and this was all happening now really interested me. I thought that he had this weird poetry in him, like the weird things that would come out of his mouth were so indicative of the time. It was as simple as that. I knew I wanted to film him. I didn’t know if it was going to be good enough to film a feature-length movie. When he told me that he skated in backyard swimming pools, I thought I’d follow him for a weekend or something and see what happens. It kind of evolved from there.
What I think is so great about him is he is who he is. The more I got to know him, the more I learned about his life obviously, which made him more of a complex person, but that initial impression I had of him never broke. He such an authentic person; I think that’s what I really love about him.
Review Fix: How receptive was he to the project?
Patterson: I tracked him down about a week after I met him and told him to meet me up in Fullerton. I think we met at a Koo Koo Roo at a strip mall. I told him that I wanted to film him over the course of the summer and the idea would be that I would make something that when you watch it, you’ll say, “Yeah, cool. That’s what this summer felt like.” And he just said, “Yeah, let’s do it.” And literally, two days later, I started filming him.
Right away, I gave him a flip camera. I had this weird sense that he’s this creative kid and I wanted to see what he’d shoot. I never gave him any other direction other than this is the button to record and not to lose any of the extra equipment. And almost right away, during the first day of shooting, the stuff he was coming up with, combined with my footage was the basic framework of the film. There was something about this collision of our footage, which is more observational and quiet and sort of more beautiful and his footage, which is so much more immediate and in your face. Like one of the first things he shot was the scene when he’s at the party and he screams, “I’m just drunk and shooting my eyes.” I thought it was great; it’s like reality television, mixed with elegant high art.
For more information on the film, head to Dragonslayer’s Facebook page, here.
Stayed Tuned for Part II of our Q & A with Patterson later in the week…