Diary Of Destruction: The making of Destroying AmErika

by Nikos Constant

It took five years to make Destroying AmErika.

The original idea was to go out and film the first Hook-Ups stunt tour, and make a video with the footage. So we built some ramps, and Willy Santos, Dan Rogers, Geoff Rowley, Jim Greco, Jeremy Klein, and I headed out on the road. Skateboarding wasn’t as popular as it is now, and we rattled across the country in a Toyota van putting on small shows for a couple-hundred kids. The Toyota died in Nebraska, and we bought the Burtmobile¿a large 70s-style family wagon that would catch on fire every time you stopped it for more that ten seconds. We eventually came back with about twenty hours of footage that were put in a shoe box and lost in Jeremy’s room.

We went out on a second tour a year later, this time taking along bigger ramps. Mark Gonzales and Heath Kirchart were added to the core members of the original stunt tour, and most importantly, the Hook-Ups van replaced the Burtmobile. We also added photographer Atiba Jefferson, who would become an integral part of documenting the destruction. Brian Sumner showed up for a couple days of the tour but really missed out on most of the fun. We hobbled back with another twenty hours of footage, which were again put into a shoe box and lost in Jeremy’s room.

In the downtime between tours, Jeremy, Heath, and The Van worked on their now legendary destruction parts for Birdhouse’s The End, which took them a year to assemble the footage with filmer Jamie “Mouse” Mosberg. The End went on to become the best-selling skateboard video of all time, and after some much-needed rest, Jeremy, Heath, and The Van were ready to do another video. This time we were really going to put together all of the tour footage.

The 1999 Hook-Ups stunt tour added Bam Margera and Brandon Dicamillo to the posse as well as a ring of fire. Skateboarding was officially popular at that point, and the mixture of street kids, ravers, and punkers who’d attended the first tour had been transformed into fresh-faced little kids screaming at the top of their lungs for more and more destruction. After we returned with another twenty hours of footage, we got out all the shoeboxes from the other tours and wondered what to do.

By this time, Jeremy had finally moved out of his mom’s house, but he still had to search for the old tapes. With 60 hours of footage, along with additional hours of stuff we’d shot when we weren’t on tour, we knew it was possible to get something together, but first we wanted to destroy a little more.

October 13, 1999Los Angeles, California We started doing “limo nights” on October 13, 1999. Basically, we’d rent a limo and go out to strip clubs while shooting off fireworks and doing everything and anything that seemed crazy. We did this about once a month. The craziest time was when we showed up at the Birdhouse Christmas Party, primed with assorted fireworks, and a group of WWF wrestling fans who went off. Tables were broken with body slams, rooms were destroyed with fire extinguishers, and the police were finally called in to break up the party. From that point on, everybody at Birdhouse knew to make sure they purchased all available insurance when there was a party and Hook-Ups was filming.

January 15, 2000Costa Mesa, California Jeremy had come up with a new ad concept for Hook-Ups featuring himself as the Gayblader getting kicked in the head by his girlfriend, tae kwon do black-belt Ming Tran. We decided to film the ad as a scene and headed down to South Coast Plaza, where she beat him up in various locales. We ended up not using any of the footage from this series in the final version of the film.

January 30, 2000Encinitas, California I’d been working with cinematographer Geno Sivé on a show for ESPN called The Making of the End. We basically went around and shot interviews with the Birdhouse team and edited them together to tell the story. We eventually finished the show, but it turned out to be too gnarlfor ESPN. They thought there was too much blood in Berra’s part, and that the scene with Jeremy and Heath lighting the inside of the van on fire while cruising down the 5 Freeway was just too crazy for a Disney-owned TV network. (Look for this show in a modified form on the DVD version of The End.)

Geno was one of the filmers who worked The End, and he wanted to work with Jeremy and Heath on something new. He thought we could shoot something in 35mm that would probably be the best-looking skateboarding footage ever. He thought we could get a lot more out of the destruction than we could in 16mm or MiniDV. We decided to shoot a couple of key scenes in the video on 35mm as an experiment.

February 10, 2000Santee, California Jeremy got back into the Gayblader outfit to shoot a new scene with Dan Rogers at the Santee skatepark. Basically, Dan was supposed to put Jeremy in a lot of pain. We started shooting, and kids instantly hated Jeremy. They shot their boards at him, told him to “Get the f¿k out of here,” and were basically inhospitable. As soon as they saw Dan tripping him up, they got outright violent. Many pro skaters who were in attendance failed to notice it was Jeremy in disguise and joined in on the vibing. This part eventually made it into the movie as the “Assman” sequence.

February 20, 2000Long Beach, California We showed our first clip of what was to become Destroying AmErika at the ASR trade show. It was a short clip of MiniDV tour footage mixed with destruction. Preorders started coming in.

March 8, 2000Huntington Beach, California Geno brought his cameras up to Birdhouse to shoot our first scene in 35mm. We set up the ring of fire we used on the tour, and Geno ran one camera while I ran another and operated the fire controls. We had a ton of problems with the ring that night¿the propane canisters kept freezing up from so much gas shooting out of them. Geno thought everything had gone fine, but we were skeptical about shooting in 35mm, especially with me on one of the cameras.

March 10, 2000Burbank, California We headed up to Digital Image to look at the film with Telecine artist Darren Woodridge. We were amazed. It looked like a real movie. The image was crystal clear and letter-boxed. We decided to shoot another scene in 35mm with Ming beating up Jeremy in Chinatown.

March 23, 2000Los Angeles, California We chose to enlist Mouse’s help with the Chinatown shot, and we drove up a week early to scout out the scene. Mouse came with his assistant and Geno. Jeremy and I took him though what we were planning to do. He wasn’t stoked. He thought it was going to be too much and backed out. We decided to go ahead and do it anyway.

March 28, 2000Los Angeles, California Geno, Ming, Jeremy, Atiba, and I got to Chinatown early on a Saturday morning. I had rented a flat-bed truck so we could use it as a camera dolly and haul around the glass windowpanes we needed. We were there all day, but we didn’t get everything done.

March 29, 2000Los Angeles, CaliforniaChinatown again. Amazingly, nobody called the cops on us the first day, and our luck continued the next day. Jeremy took a shot in the neck from Ming and went through the glass window. We redid the cake on the head two more times because Ming kept missing Jeremy’s head. Fake blood was flowing. We bought both a live and a dead chicken from the market to slam over Jeremy’s head, but we never did a shot of a live chicken running wild through Chinatown.

April 1, 2000Burbank, California Back at Telecine, we looked at all our Chinatown footage. Amazingly, everything came out, although we had to go back there for another day to get some pickup shots. We decided to shoot the rest of the movie in 35mm. Jeremy and I put together a rough script and brainstormed ideas. We wanted a real actor in the movie, so we decided to try for Mr. T, Erik Estrada, or Gary Coleman. We also decided we needed some girls. We’d used ladies from the Vivid videos in the past, and we had interviewed Kobe Tai for The Making Of The End ESPN special that never ran, so we figured they would be our best bet. Jeremy and Heath had gone to Janine’s house for her kid’s birthday, and although she’d quit the porn business, Janine wanted to be in our movie. We wanted to do a scene with the Hook-Ups nurses, but we needed another nurse. Enter Minka.

It took a while to contact Minka. We tried everything¿we called up Busty Beauties magazine and checked out her Web site, but we couldn’t get through. Eventually we discovered a business phone number, and I left a ton of messages. Finally, I got a call back from her manager, Hank. Minka’s interested. So we’d gotten our two Hook-Ups nurses¿now we had to get them outfits.

April 10, 2000Los Angeles, California Trashy Lingerie is the place to go if you want to get any sexy outfit custom-made. We gave them Janine and Minka’s measurements to get production rolling, and I called up Janine to tell her who her partner was going to be. She wasn’t stoked¿she likes to maintain her “classy” image. We needed to get another girl fast to replace Janine because we’d be shooting the scene in less than a week. I asked Randy at Trashy who he could recommend from the stable of models they use for their lingerie catalogue. He rattled off a few names, which I repeated to Jeremy over the cell phone. One name got Jeremy all excited¿Rachel Sterling: “We can get Rachel? No way! We’ve got to get her, she’s awesome.” After a quick call from Randy, she was on. She got measured for her costume, and we were ready to go.

April 17, 2000Palos Verdes Estates, California We risked shooting in Palos Verdes without a permit because there just wasn’t time to get all the approvals. This made filming very difficult. With Minka, Rachel, a rented ambulance, Geno, and Wade the sound guy all hanging around, the cops arrived right after the first shot. To make matters worse, we were shooting right in front of a private school, and the principal thought we were shooting a porno. I rushed off to try to get a permit from City Hall, and the rest of the crew hung around, shooting footage on the sly.

Seventeen-hundred dollars later¿and after throwing Tony Hawk’s name around¿I got a permit from the city. I rushed back, and because we had a full permit, we took over the beach, driving all our cars down to the sand, quickly trying to get everything in before we lost light. The concept is the nurses are rescuing Jeremy and Heath from the water after their flaming fall from the pier in The End. Minka and Rachel were total pros, and they got every shot first take. Jeremy and Heath are stoked to be in their arms for the day.

Our permit expired at five in the afternoon, and we decided to make it look like Jeremy and Heath are getting wheeled out of a hospital, so we decided to use the private school in the shot. The principal went ballistic on me, accusing me of producing smut. A mother came to my defense, arguing that what we were doing was great. All of the kids hanging around recognized Jeremy and Heath and asked for photos and autographs. Finally, the cops came and kicked us out. Luckily, we’d gotten what we’d come to get¿real live Hook-Ups nurse girls.

May 1, 2000Huntington Beach, California We finally got in touch with some of the actors we wanted in the movie, and they were all asking for outrageous sums of money. Finally, I got the call I’d been hoping for from Erik Estrada’s manager, Konrad Leh. Erik was our first pick to be in the movie, but we figured he would be the most opposed to getting back into a cop uniform. It turned out all our expectations were completely wrong. Erik and Konrad, although they drove a hard bargain, are huge fans of skateboarding.

They agreed to come down with Erik’s kids for a day of shooting at Birdhouse. With Erik involved, it finally felt like we had a real movie.

May 10, 2000Huntington Beach, California We had a big day of shoot we had interviewed Kobe Tai for The Making Of The End ESPN special that never ran, so we figured they would be our best bet. Jeremy and Heath had gone to Janine’s house for her kid’s birthday, and although she’d quit the porn business, Janine wanted to be in our movie. We wanted to do a scene with the Hook-Ups nurses, but we needed another nurse. Enter Minka.

It took a while to contact Minka. We tried everything¿we called up Busty Beauties magazine and checked out her Web site, but we couldn’t get through. Eventually we discovered a business phone number, and I left a ton of messages. Finally, I got a call back from her manager, Hank. Minka’s interested. So we’d gotten our two Hook-Ups nurses¿now we had to get them outfits.

April 10, 2000Los Angeles, California Trashy Lingerie is the place to go if you want to get any sexy outfit custom-made. We gave them Janine and Minka’s measurements to get production rolling, and I called up Janine to tell her who her partner was going to be. She wasn’t stoked¿she likes to maintain her “classy” image. We needed to get another girl fast to replace Janine because we’d be shooting the scene in less than a week. I asked Randy at Trashy who he could recommend from the stable of models they use for their lingerie catalogue. He rattled off a few names, which I repeated to Jeremy over the cell phone. One name got Jeremy all excited¿Rachel Sterling: “We can get Rachel? No way! We’ve got to get her, she’s awesome.” After a quick call from Randy, she was on. She got measured for her costume, and we were ready to go.

April 17, 2000Palos Verdes Estates, California We risked shooting in Palos Verdes without a permit because there just wasn’t time to get all the approvals. This made filming very difficult. With Minka, Rachel, a rented ambulance, Geno, and Wade the sound guy all hanging around, the cops arrived right after the first shot. To make matters worse, we were shooting right in front of a private school, and the principal thought we were shooting a porno. I rushed off to try to get a permit from City Hall, and the rest of the crew hung around, shooting footage on the sly.

Seventeen-hundred dollars later¿and after throwing Tony Hawk’s name around¿I got a permit from the city. I rushed back, and because we had a full permit, we took over the beach, driving all our cars down to the sand, quickly trying to get everything in before we lost light. The concept is the nurses are rescuing Jeremy and Heath from the water after their flaming fall from the pier in The End. Minka and Rachel were total pros, and they got every shot first take. Jeremy and Heath are stoked to be in their arms for the day.

Our permit expired at five in the afternoon, and we decided to make it look like Jeremy and Heath are getting wheeled out of a hospital, so we decided to use the private school in the shot. The principal went ballistic on me, accusing me of producing smut. A mother came to my defense, arguing that what we were doing was great. All of the kids hanging around recognized Jeremy and Heath and asked for photos and autographs. Finally, the cops came and kicked us out. Luckily, we’d gotten what we’d come to get¿real live Hook-Ups nurse girls.

May 1, 2000Huntington Beach, California We finally got in touch with some of the actors we wanted in the movie, and they were all asking for outrageous sums of money. Finally, I got the call I’d been hoping for from Erik Estrada’s manager, Konrad Leh. Erik was our first pick to be in the movie, but we figured he would be the most opposed to getting back into a cop uniform. It turned out all our expectations were completely wrong. Erik and Konrad, although they drove a hard bargain, are huge fans of skateboarding.

They agreed to come down with Erik’s kids for a day of shooting at Birdhouse. With Erik involved, it finally felt like we had a real movie.

May 10, 2000Huntington Beach, California We had a big day of shooting planned for Erik. The night before, we built and shot the wall of TVs with Jeremy and Heath, and we’d filmed the skating on the top of the cop car that we’d bought earlier in the month.

Erik arrived and was great to work with. We storyboarded all the shots, and with Wade on sound, and Geno, John Hampton, and I on 35mm, we turned one long day into practically every Erik shot you see in the movie. We found the doughnut shop the week before, and they let us use it as long as we bought every doughnut in the shop. The crew ate doughnuts all day.

May 20, 2000Huntington Beach, California We’d been trying to get Tony involved with Destroying AmErika from the outset, but his crazy schedule made it difficult to do any filming with him. Finally, he had a night free, but we had nothing to shoot. I quickly set up the video-game scene by renting the games from Birdhouse’s next-door neighbor, an arcade distributor, and getting our pyro guy George Phillips to rig up a couple of old games to catch on fire easily. Tony didn’t know what to expect, but he was cool with getting into his old costume from Gleaming The Cube.

Tony was even more fine with risking getting burned and pulled off his tricks first try. When the fire department came to put out the blaze, they filled our makeshift arcade with water. We could have been electrocuted, but luckily nothing happened.

May 25, 2000Carlsbad, California We got together with Tony for another day of shooting, this time in his local Pizza Hut. The management was totally cool with letting us in to get the shots of Tony making a pizza. The kids chasing him in the Lexus were all from the neighborhood, and they got pizza all over the interior of the car, which is actually owned by Jeremy, not Tony.

June 2000California to Wyoming We spent all of June in full destruction mode. We were wrecking the van, the trees, and everything in-between. We got all the car chases done, along with all the pickup driving shots, and the footage of Heath and Jeremy messing around, but we still needed a grand finale. I wanted to shoot the van or the cop car driving off the roof of a building. John Hampton, who’d been helping us all along, found us a parking garage in Long Beach we could use. The next two months were spent trying to get the permits and insurance to get the shot.

July¿August 2000Long Beach to Burbank, California While we were waiting for permits to clear, Jeremy and I started editing the footage on an AVID in Burbank. We worked nights with our editor Jeff Cranford, and it took us about a day to edit each scene¿then sound effects were added. We used the Warner Brothers’ Foley department (the same crew did all the sound effects for The Perfect Storm) to do footsteps and other background noises, and added extra sounds ourselves using DAT and miniDV. After a month of waiting, we got the permit to shoot the cop car flying off the roof of the parking structure.

August 12, 2000Long Beach, California The day before the shoot, we had done some pickup shots with Jeremy and Heath wrecking the car, while George Phillips and his crew rigged up the cop car with explosives. August 12 was a zoo. Cops and the fire department kept the peace, and Erik showed up for some pickup shots with Heath and Jeremy. Running out of light, we got ready to blow up the cop car and launch it off the roof. Then a minor mistake caused an accidental explosion that prevented the car from going off¿we had no finale.

August 13, 2000Long Beach, California Our insurance for the shoot lasted another two days, so I quickly got another permit from the City of Long Beach and worked out the details with George Phillips regarding getting the car off the roof.

We tried again two days later, and the car went off with the biggest explosion ever. All seven cameras were going, and we got the shot. The principle photography for Destroying AmErika was officially complete.

September¿October 2000 It took another month of editing to complete the movie.

October 21, 2000Long Beach, California The premiere of Destroying AmErika was crazy. Everybody in attenndance decided to destroy Long Beach. The riot police were called out. Look for premiere footage on the Internet and on the Destroying AmErika DVD. The five-year saga of Destroying AmErika is finally over.

planned for Erik. The night before, we built and shot the wall of TVs with Jeremy and Heath, and we’d filmed the skating on the top of the cop car that we’d bought earlier in the month.

Erik arrived and was great to work with. We storyboarded all the shots, and with Wade on sound, and Geno, John Hampton, and I on 35mm, we turned one long day into practically every Erik shot you see in the movie. We found the doughnut shop the week before, and they let us use it as long as we bought every doughnut in the shop. The crew ate doughnuts all day.

May 20, 2000Huntington Beach, California We’d been trying to get Tony involved with Destroying AmErika from the outset, but his crazy schedule made it difficult to do any filming with him. Finally, he had a night free, but we had nothing to shoot. I quickly set up the video-game scene by renting the games from Birdhouse’s next-door neighbor, an arcade distributor, and getting our pyro guy George Phillips to rig up a couple of old games to catch on fire easily. Tony didn’t know what to expect, but he was cool with getting into his old costume from Gleaming The Cube.

Tony was even more fine with risking getting burned and pulled off his tricks first try. When the fire department came to put out the blaze, they filled our makeshift arcade with water. We could have been electrocuted, but luckily nothing happened.

May 25, 2000Carlsbad, California We got together with Tony for another day of shooting, this time in his local Pizza Hut. The management was totally cool with letting us in to get the shots of Tony making a pizza. The kids chasing him in the Lexus were all from the neighborhood, and they got pizza all over the interior of the car, which is actually owned by Jeremy, not Tony.

June 2000California to Wyoming We spent all of June in full destruction mode. We were wrecking the van, the trees, and everything in-between. We got all the car chases done, along with all the pickup driving shots, and the footage of Heath and Jeremy messing around, but we still needed a grand finale. I wanted to shoot the van or the cop car driving off the roof of a building. John Hampton, who’d been helping us all along, found us a parking garage in Long Beach we could use. The next two months were spent trying to get the permits and insurance to get the shot.

July¿August 2000Long Beach to Burbank, California While we were waiting for permits to clear, Jeremy and I started editing the footage on an AVID in Burbank. We worked nights with our editor Jeff Cranford, and it took us about a day to edit each scene¿then sound effects were added. We used the Warner Brothers’ Foley department (the same crew did all the sound effects for The Perfect Storm) to do footsteps and other background noises, and added extra sounds ourselves using DAT and miniDV. After a month of waiting, we got the permit to shoot the cop car flying off the roof of the parking structure.

August 12, 2000Long Beach, California The day before the shoot, we had done some pickup shots with Jeremy and Heath wrecking the car, while George Phillips and his crew rigged up the cop car with explosives. August 12 was a zoo. Cops and the fire department kept the peace, and Erik showed up for some pickup shots with Heath and Jeremy. Running out of light, we got ready to blow up the cop car and launch it off the roof. Then a minor mistake caused an accidental explosion that prevented the car from going off¿we had no finale.

August 13, 2000Long Beach, California Our insurance for the shoot lasted another two days, so I quickly got another permit from the City of Long Beach and worked out the details with George Phillips regarding getting the car off the roof.

We tried again two days later, and the car went off with the biggest explosion ever. All seven cameras were going, and we got the shot. The principle photography for Destroying AmErika was officially complete.

September¿October 2000 It took another month of editing to complete the movie.

October 21, 2000Long Beach, California The premiere of Destroying AmErika was crazy. Everybody in attendance decided to destroy Long Beach. The riot police were called out. Look for premiere footage on the Internet and on the Destroying AmErika DVD. The five-year saga of Destroying AmErika is finally over.

of editing to complete the movie.

October 21, 2000Long Beach, California The premiere of Destroying AmErika was crazy. Everybody in attendance decided to destroy Long Beach. The riot police were called out. Look for premiere footage on the Internet and on the Destroying AmErika DVD. The five-year saga of Destroying AmErika is finally over.