How to Film Tony Hawk

How do you shoot a point-of-view ad when the POV you need is that of skateboard stuntman Tony Hawk? Not with dollies or cranes. With “the reflexes of a human being,” says longtime Hawk mentor Stacy Peralta.

Peralta, who was part of the surf-style skating revolution in Santa Monica in the ’70s (immortalized in his 2001 film Dogtown and Z-Boys), is a commercial director through Nonfiction Spots. To shoot a new Hershey’s Milk and MilkShakes spot out of DDB Dallas, Peralta gave world champ skater and Hawk buddy Lance Mountain a camera and had him follow Hawk on a nearly vertical ramp.

“He immediately knows what Tony’s going to do, and he knew where to put himself and the camera,” Peralta says. “Someone else could have gotten hurt or gotten Tony hurt.” Peralta also got a couple of usable shots from a 16-millimeter gun camera on the tail of Hawk’s board.

Mountain captured Hawk’s signature move, the 900 (a revolution of 900 degrees). “It took him seven tries to pull it,” Peralta says. “He knows that the camera interprets, and he understands when something’s half right and when it’s completely right.”

Peralta shot the spot at an airport hangar in Santa Monica, on the same ramp Hawk uses for his traveling Boom Boom HuckJam tour, which Morningstar Foods is sponsoring.

Peralta, who won the Director’s Award at Sundance in 2001 for Dogtown (the documentary itself won the Audience Award), says he finds directing ads a bit of a stunt as well. “It’s a completely concentrated amount of time, and I think you’re allowed fewer mistakes because you have so little time to tell the story,” he says. “A film is more like a novel where you can wander a bit.”