Did you skate when you were younger?
Hill: Oh yeah, terribly. I worked at a shop called Hot Rod and I was there every day for four years, and I'd say I was 100% dedication, 14% skill. I was terrible, but it was definitely, like, a lens that I saw the world through. What draws this kid in [in the film] are these anti-authorities. He's getting the shit kicked out of him at home, but he sees these kids across the street and how they deal with authority, and that speaks to him. He also sees how close they are. It really at its core is this "animal kingdom" movie. This young cub working his way up the animal kingdom. He's getting to see and build a family outside his home for the first time. When you're that age, your friends are more important than your family. It's true. Your friends mean more to you than your family and you're looking for a family that you're building yourself.
What is is about skateboarding that lets that happen? It's an essential part of this movie.
Hill: Yeah, and that's exactly what I said before. It's the anti-ethic of skateboarding that kind of drew me in. It's either for you or it's not. You know, the music, the way you're speaking to people, the way you interact. It gives you a very severe ethic. Is there something going on in the background?
There might be. I'm actually in a bathroom right now because this was approved at the last minute and I couldn't get a conference room for this call.
Hill: I dunno, I just hear someone talking, I can't tell what it is. Maybe I'm just crazy. You're in a bathroom right now?
Hill: You're awesome.
Thanks. So, if there's an echo on my end, I'm sorry about that.
Hill: No worries.
The '90s setting is part of the movie, but it's very much in the background, except when Seal starts playing.
Why set this movie in the '90s and not today?
Hill: Well, first of all, it's just when I grew up. A tried-and-true reason that filmmakers often do coming-of-age films -- it's like a band's first album. What do you have to reflect on? The first 20 years of your life. And that's the era I grew up in. But even the title was meant to be a misdirect, like a joke: You think it's gonna be like that '90s movie, and then it's this really raw, heartbreaking movie. It's not a nostalgia film. There was talk of not setting it in the '90s and the reason I ultimately did was because the characters wouldn't have cell phones. When I was growing up in the '90s, we didn't have cell phones, so what it allowed for was these real connected and intimate conversations to take place. Now, if things seem too intimate or too charged, you just pick up your phone and avoid it by going on Instagram. And these kids, myself included, were, out of boredom, sort of forced to talk about things you don't really talk about.