York Alec Shackleton is a filmmaker and former professional snowboarder, widely known for his early films dealing with edgy real-life tales of troubled youth and lives gone wrong. His latest stint behind the camera, ‘’Disturbing the Peace’’, features Guy Pearce, Devon Sawa and Barbie Blank and tells of a small town marshal who is forced to do battle with a gang of outlaws planning a heist.
I’m intrigued — what came first, professional snowboarding or filmmaking?
Snowboarding came first – I’ve been snowboarding since I was 12 years old. I started competing when I was about 18 and I rode professionally until I was about 28. At which point, that’s when I kind of started making the transition over to filmmaking, only because I had an agent and, so, at the time there wasn’t a lot of snowboarders who were out there and every company wanted stunts done. So I was getting booked on a lot of Mountain Dew commercials and Levis commercials and stuff like that. And real quickly I kinda progressed from just doing the stunt work to them actually wanting me to be the performer, ya know, the actor. So, I did a few jobs and started moving up that line and really quickly realized that acting wasn’t something that wasn’t interesting to me, it’s kinda nerve-wracking actually, so I was very drawn to the other side of the camera and at that point I just kinda went for it, ya know, the old story of getting in the mailroom and working your way up…
Might you combine both loves one day? A snowboarding movie!?
Haha – So I tried that in the very beginning, it was one of the first scripts I ever wrote. Ya know, it’s hard to sell a screenplay, it’s not an easy thing to do, it’s a real craft. Anything you do in the movie business, even publicity, management, agents – every one of these jobs is it’s own craft, it’s its own artform. And so, when you get into the screen writing world, you begin to realize that not everything you think is cool or you think people want to see is what necessarily what the studios think people want to see. So, I think, the smart filmmaker and the decision I came to very quickly sas that I’m not gonna write for myself and what I like, I’m gonna write for what these studios say the market place wants, you know, because I want to get movies made and I’m not here to necessarily put my opinions in the movies and get a point across to people. I make them for the love of the art and I really enjoy giving people entertainment to watch
When did you decide to make the transition from acting to directing?
So, like I said, it was a progression. As I was progressing out of my snowboarding career I was like 28 years old. I know that seems weird, but I was getting old for the industry, ya know (laughs)…Shaun White was coming up, he was like 12. It had just gotten to the point where the tricks had gotten very extreme and I was on my way out of that sport. So there was this natural progression into acting because the two sports went hand in hand and you can see with the X Games how they really try to push those athletes into a rockstar status. So, clearly, everyone wanted us to be actors and it was just an easy, natural transition into that work. But it wasn’t until I got into acting that I got very serious and made the decision ‘ Okay, this is something that I want to do and think I could be good at “ and I started to take filmmaking very seriously .
Where did the inspiration for this particular movie come from?
For Disturbing the Peace, the screenplay was already written. But when I read the screenplay, I was really drawn to it because I had grown up in the 80s watching a lot of those action films like “Roadhouse” and stuff like that. So when I read it I said, you know, this is something you don’t see really anymore, it’s very similar to those types of movies and I feel like those were the types of movies that really invoked emotion and really took you on a journey. I think some of that has been lost over the years in the storytelling process of what we do and so, I liked It for that reason and thought it was something we could do that could spark up some old nostalgia and that combined with obviously the talent that was attached to the film and the actors that wanted to do it. Any opportunity you have to work with Guy Pearce or Devon Sawa, those are experiences you have as a director that you don’t just get every day because those are actors that bring such an enormous professionalism to their work.
Did you have to do a bit of research into the Texas rangers?
Yea, any time you’re coming on to any film I think it’s really important to, in a lot of ways, master that subject matter even if it’s not something that interests you. At least be able to answer any question at any time about that subject so there definitely a lot of research that goes into every single story you do, especially with a story that’s about law enforcement because law enforcement is pretty cut and dry and so its important to make sure that you’ve got all the small little details right because when law enforcement watches these movies they’re gonna be picking up on all the details, not that the main part of the audience is, but you want to make sure that the film is as well researched as possible and you’re hitting as much of a demographic as you can in the audience.
What does Guy Pearce bring to the movie?
Someone like Guy Pearce, you’re dealing with an actor who has an enormous amount of experience. From that experience comes work ethic as well so when someone like him shows up on set its not like they’re just showing up and they’re doing their work, ya know. With Guy Pearce we spent an enormous amount of time together off set going through each scene, going through the dialogue, talking about the route of the character and why they were doing what they were doing and what those choices were going to mean to the audience. We spent a lot of time discussing all of that. So with him, you’re gonna get a lot more than just an actor. You’ve got somebody who’s highly experienced actor who’s also a great songwriter, singer, guitar player, musician and also has directed his own films. With someone like Guy Pearce you get an enormous amount of extra creativity that’s coming from outside the acting world.
How would you say the film differs from the likes of Sons of Anarchy?
I don’t think you can really compare the two. Sons of Anarchy is a great show and it follows a true story that was taking place during a certain time in California, written by someone who was clearly involved in that situation done in an episodic format. With this film we’re really just trying to throw it back to the 80s action movies and take you on a really fun ride and not getting too serious about the realism of the bike gang lifestyle.
“Disturbing the Peace” is in select theaters, on demand and digital on January 17