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Talking pictures: Filmmakers make waves in Utah

'Riding Giants' creators at home at Park City event

As the saying goes, you can't go home again. But if you're filmmakers Stacy Peralta and Sam George, you can go to Park City, which they say feels like their home away from home.

Peralta discovered his love for Park City and the Sundance Film Festival when his 2000 documentary "Dogtown and Z-Boys" became a hit there. (The film won the Audience Award for most popular documentary and Peralta took home the Best Documentary Director Award.)

"They sure knew how to make a guy feel welcome," Peralta said with a laugh. "But seriously, that might have been the most gratifying experience of my life. I really had no idea that my film would be so well-received."

Speaking by cell phone from a small airport in Southern California, Peralta said he experienced a similar sense of what he calls "belonging" earlier this year when he returned to Sundance. This time, he had with him the big-wave surfing documentary "Riding Giants," which he co-wrote with his longtime friend George, who was a former associate editor of Surfer magazine.

"Stacy told me how unbelievably warm and gracious the people are at Sundance," George said during the same interview, as Peralta passed him the cell phone. "But I really didn't believe him until I experienced it myself."

George is hoping to relive the experience when he returns to Park City on Thursday for the Sundance Institute's monthly Documentary Film Series, which will kick off with a free screening of "Riding Giants."

Peralta is unable to attend the screening as he's currently working on some follow-up projects, including feature films based on both "Dogtown and Z-Boys" and "Riding Giants." But he says he's grateful for the attention Sundance officials have given his movies — the success of "Dogtown" led Sundance officials to give "Riding Giants" a coveted Opening Night Premiere slot at the 2004 festival.

"That was really an honor," Peralta said. "I believe that's the first time it's ever been done with a documentary. But I think that just goes to show how well (festival director) Geoff Gilmore knows his audiences, and how well he knows movies. He was convinced that our movie was the right choice there. And as it turns out, he was right."

Peralta said he and George work well as creative partners. "Sam is one of the few people in this world who can tell me I'm wrong and get away with it," he said with a laugh.

The two men met in 1975 when 17-year-old Peralta gave George a lift to the beach. "I think he had just gotten his driver's license," said George, "and he picked up this straggly-looking hitchhiker dude with his surfboard — me. We've been friends ever since."

Ironically, George had to hitchhike to a Salt Lake screening of "Riding Giants" for Sundance. "I got left behind and I was worried that with all the festivalgoers and skiers on the road I wasn't going to make it.

"Luckily a bunch of kids recognized me and asked me if I was 'that guy who did the surf movie,' They got me down there and I got them in to see the movie, so it was a pretty good deal all the way around."

The Documentary Film Series at the Park City Library Center will continue on the first Thursday of each month, excluding February, when it takes a brief respite after the conclusion of the 2005 Sundance Film Festival's 10-day run.

Upcoming films in the series include "The Control Room" (Dec. 2), "Imelda" (May 5) and "DIG!" (June 2). The Jan. 6 selection will be a to-be-named documentary that will be featured in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For a full schedule of films or information about the upcoming Sundance festival go to www.sundance.org.


If you go. . .

What: "Riding Giants"

Where: Park City Library Center, Park City

When: Thursday, 7 p.m.

How much: Free

Phone: 435-649-8118

Web:www.sundance.org


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com