Bonus Brigader: John Oliver

10.17.13 – The Skateboard Mag

In 1987, John W. Oliver’s boss at The Sunshine Store flowed him two tickets to the Santa Barbara premiere of Powell-Peralta’s The Search for Animal Chin. The chain of events that followed reads like any skater’s dream.

Bonus Brigader: John Oliver
As Told To Keith Hamm
Photography Courtesy Of Powell-Peralta


A few months later, John’s dad landed a warehouse job at the Powell factory in Santa Barbara and John became an R&D kid “testing” prototype decks and wheels. In 1990, father and son worked together to help build the Skate Zone—Powell’s 17,000-square-foot indoor skatepark. That’s where John first started filming his friends, which led him to produce films for the Church of Skatan and eventually landed him a staff position as Powell’s videographer. George Powell later put John in charge of preserving the Bones Brigade media archive, where he eventually headed up the special-edition DVD rereleases of Powell-Peralta classics The Bones Brigade Video Show, Future Primitive, and The Search for Animal Chin.

John Oliver airs frontside under the watch of his father John Oliver Sr., 1988.

Fast forward to 2011: Stacy Peralta was in preproduction on Bones Brigade: An Autobiography, and he turned to John for help: “Stacy called me about working on the documentary as a producer. I was blown away. George had the foresight some fifteen years earlier to preserve the Bones Brigade archive and to have Stacy launch the documentary was a very exciting experience for me. I’ve always been grateful to George and Stacy for all the opportunities they have afforded me, but I suspected this one would be the ultimate.

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Framed-up mini ramp at the Powell Skate Zone, 1990.

“Early on, Stacy didn’t think the movie would be nearly as cool as it turned out. But once he started conducting the interviews, everyone really started opening up. On day one of production, the first few interviews went well, describing the era and the Bones Brigade’s role in skateboarding. But during Rodney Mullen’s interview he wound up taking us down an emotional path into his childhood.

“He really laid it on the line and it kind of set a precedent for the rest of the guys. They all seemed to step up their commitment to the movie. I believe Rodney changed the whole game, especially Stacy’s thinking on the project. I remember Stacy walking off the set one afternoon saying, ‘There’s something happening here.

John ollies the Chin sculpture between two jump ramps south of a town called Guadalupe, 1990. Photo: Scott Starr

“Most of what was happening would make it into the feature film. A lot of it would not. There were many interesting stories told that didn’t really have a place in the main film, so we decided another vehicle for this content should be created. And now, close to three hours of unused interviews, deleted scenes, and on-set interactions fill Bonus Brigade, a collector’s edition of bonus footage that we’re releasing October 25 on DVD and online.

Oliver gets hands on with the edit.

“When Stacy finished all the interviews back in February 2012, he was so blown away by the footage he stepped up the deadline so we could submit a version of the movie to the Sundance Film Festival in the fall. As we got closer to Sundance and being finished with the film, some bittersweet feelings started coming over me. I was elated to see this project come to and end. It was an amazing experience, but I was sad to have it come to an end.

“The film was a great success at Sundance, but our Santa Barbara premiere felt more legit because it was in Powell-Peralta’s hometown, and most of the folks in the audience were from the skate industry.

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BBers in front of the Arlington Theater in Santa Barbara, 2012. Photo: Matt Collins

“As the lights dropped, people were screaming and shouting, and I found myself reflecting back on that first Animal Chin premier when I was a kid sitting next to my dad and where my life has gone from there—testing out new boards and wheels, building ramps with my old man, filming my friends at the Skate Zone, preserving of all that archival footage, and working alongside Stacy on this unexpectedly personal documentary.”

For more details about the October 25th release of Bonus Brigade, visit