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LORDS OF DOGTOWN

The Look Of Dogtown
For a movie whose story is so closely tied to location – the unpolished, hardscrabble look of 1970s Venice Beach – where and what to shoot were crucial decisions for any production designer. Chris Gorak had collaborated on several films as an art director with Hardwicke, herself a celebrated production designer for years before turning to directing. Both trained architects, they had a short-hand way of communicating and problem solving.

Cinematographer Elliot Davis, a trained architect in his own right was another ideal addition to the mix. "We definitely didn't want to do anything clichéd, or overstate the styles of the time,” says Gorak. "We wanted it to feel real, so our approach was to get an authentic texture to the film, and find the urban beach vibe that Venice had back then.”

But with Santa Monica and Venice having been transformed over the years into havens for condos and hotels, Gorak and location manager Brad Bemis had to look elsewhere for a less sanitized environment. Says Gorak, "At the time, Venice was a no man's land, where no one wanted to be except kids and troublemakers. So we had to recreate that texture. The Pacific Ocean Pier (P.O.P.) doesn't exist anymore. And we tried to shoot Venice as much as we could, but would find ourselves in alleys for grit and texture. So we went to San Pedro for a lot of the locations that needed that coastal beach feel. San Pedro hasn't been ‘Starbucked' yet, so it felt more like Venice back then. "

THE PACIFIC OCEAN PARK (P.O.P.) was a mostly dilapidated amusement park – long past its ‘60s heyday -- by the time the Z-Boys began surfing there. "It was a playground for outlaws,” says Peralta. "It really defined the topography of what Dogtown was, a seaside slum.” It was the natural jumping off point for the movie, but it no longer exists. That meant it had to be rebuilt in all its junked glory, a very daunting task. The "new” P.O.P. needed to be a wooden, decrepit pier, yet have some depth to it. It had to be in an area that had waves so the actors could surf and filmmakers could get the shots they needed. And it needed a ferris wheel. In a true sign of the times, the ferris wheel was purchased on e-Bay. But where to film? Eventually the filmmakers chose Imperial Beach, California, very close to the Mexican Border, as the site. The locals embraced the filmmakers and encouraged them to build on their beach adjacent to the pier, where a set could be half on the beach and half in the ocean.

"Imperial Beach was chosen because the tide wasn't too extreme and the waves broke somewhat close,” adds locations manager Bradley Bemis. "The city was amiable to filmmaking, it had a good look and the best waves, so we chose I.B.”

The filmmakers brought in the original Z-Boys to sign off on the details, to make sure every rusted barrel, broken sidewalk and busted-up piece of signage conformed to how they remembered it when they were adventurous trespassers. "I think in many instances it's much better than it was because it's the way people think it should have been, which is far better than the sticky reality we were stuck with,” says Craig Stecyk, who documented the Z-Boys in now-memorable photographs and articles. "To stand in it was eerie.”

"It was like stepping back thirty years,” says Tony Alva. "It was pretty incredible.”

THE ORIGINAL ZEPHYR SHOP served as a second home – a focal point of social gathering -- to the local Dogtown kids. The store sold surfboards and a number of other surfrelated items but in the evening turned host to local bands and was the place to be if you cared about all things surf and skate. As one can imagine, the Venice shop was every bit as eclectic as its owners and patrons. "We also found the Zephyr Shop location in San Pedro,” says Gorak. "We needed a street quiet enough where we could close down and film. It had<

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