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KPBS Midday Edition

Q&A With Director of 'Bread, Salt & The Graphite Kid'

A soap box workshop held with kids from the film "Bread, Salt & The Graphite Kid."
David Romero, Eddie Grace Arts & Film
A soap box workshop held with kids from the film "Bread, Salt & The Graphite Kid."
Q&A With Director of 'Bread, Salt & The Graphite Kid'
Q&A With Director of 'Bread, Salt & The Graphite Kid' GUEST: David Romero, filmmaker, 'Bread, Salt & The Graphite Kid'

This is PBS midday edition. I'm wearing Cavanagh. A group of kids in Barrio Logan with screwdrivers and wrenches in hand are literally building their way to soapbox racing glory. Their dream is to race in the world famous All-American Soapbox Derby and two of those kids are close. They're in Akron Ohio preparing for the first annual Derby this Saturday. A new documentary tracing their journey airs tonight on PBS television. Here's a preview. You notice these kids raised like. Soapbox Derby was kind of like the social event of the year. Steppingstones just like the kids are kids no matter. Sort of. But also a celebration this. This soap box cars are all non motorized vehicles that kid drivers race downhill the car and the driver combined cannot weigh more than 240 pounds. Hey PBS reporter Matt Hoffman sat down with filmmaker David Romero to talk about his film Brad salt and the graphite kid. Here's that interview. So David we're sitting inside cafe moto here in Barrio Logan and this is a special place because this is sort of where the idea for the film came from. You kind of told me that story. Sure. So I was out having coffee with friends and one of them was talking about this group of community guys in the Sherman Heights area in Logan Heights area who sponsor this race every year and this is this team right here in Barrio Logan and they meet here in Cafe MoDOT. They meet at the table right behind you here. And on Saturday mornings they come and they plan for the year and they organize everything in this room to be done at the Bread and salt building which is right across the freeway here right across from Chicano Park in the back there. And so basically this is where it all happens from the title bread salt graphic that people might not know that it's about soapbox racing but I know you just kind of explained what the bread the salt was but what is the. Who is the graphic. Well oddly enough the name of the building really has nothing to do with the name of the movie. You would think you would put those two together but I'll just say that you have to see the film first to see how it makes sense. We knew that that the name was going to be a little more obscure for people to understand but once you see it it kind of all makes sense and the graph I kid is a legendary figure in Starbucks racing. And his story kind of unfolds throughout the film. You kind of learn who he is and his significance to San Diego and his significance to the World Championships. The story takes place in Lara Logan and falls a soapbox racing chapter here who supports the program locally here. So for 20 years there's been a group of these gentlemen who have dedicated their lives really to helping the kids in the area participate in the sport around the country. The sport is largely attended by families and kids who could afford the cars the cars themselves could cost up to a thousand dollars to to maintain and to buy into for the wheels and everything involved with racing where kids presumably in the area just wouldn't have that extra cash or their families wouldn't. San Diego is one of the only teams that supports an inner city team to get to the World Championships. So that's why what these men are doing. Guys like James justice and George Williams and the guys that run the program are so important and that's why vendors like Cafe MoDOT and the great maple and hash also Gogo who go largely unsung until now who support these guys. And everything that they do for the kids here and I guess does soapbox racing have a big following here on number one and the film one to one family who stumbled upon a race said they'd never heard of it or seen any advertising. So how did they get the word out about this. So getting the word out is really tough for these gentlemen. These gentlemen are old school right. And you learn that in the film they're they're used to doing things old school wise and sometimes that means you're not completely hip to like the new technologies and social media and the ways to get the word out. I realized that when I started making this film I thought this film was going to be a one year deal took me four years to get the full story for this part of that is realizing that these guys need help they need help to get the word out. They need financial help and supporting the team it's the same thing that happens every year for them. So for them to be doing this for 20 years representing San Diego at a world class event is something that we need to get the word out. And when you talk about kind of that kind of old school style no soapbox racing has been around since the 30s. And the theme in your film is old school discipline meets Generation Z. So I guess what do you think kids learn from racing soapbox cars or being involved in this that's the most important thing that they learn I think is responsibility. One of the gentleman says in the film that in his opinion we don't give enough responsibility to the kids these days. You know that's debatable how you want to look at it but that is one of the things that they push forward. One of the themes is that at the beginning of the season each kid is given a car and told this is your car for the year. You have to maintain it. You have to clean it. You have to do everything that we that we teach you to do with it. Fix the brakes fix the steering and these kids learn how to use tools they learn how to be responsible for their vehicle and ultimately that's a vehicle that will take them to the world championships if they qualify. And then for yourself as a filmmaker and as a native San Diego and growing up here why he shouldn't do this and telling the story I was interested. So I grew up in this area. And anything that gives anyone an opportunity who might not otherwise have this type of opportunity I support and that's why I wanted to spend some time on this story that. The one year wasn't good enough that we had to learn more about these gentlemen. We have to learn more about the team. It took us three years we went to Akron Ohio for the World Championships three consecutive years for this and of course it hits close to home because this is where I grew up right. And for other San Diego is on my watch. What do you think something that they can get out of it. You know I think what they would get out of it is that it doesn't really matter what community it is whether it's Barrio Logan whether it's La Hoya La Mesa wherever that the kids are all the same. They're looking to participate in something they need mentors ship no matter what they do who they are. They need responsibility. And this is one of those programs that helps the kids in this area. There are strong programs in Alpine for instance that are doing great work with the kids out there their own race team. So this isn't just something that needs to happen here in Barrio Logan this needs to happen to small communities. That was filmmaker David Romero speaking with PBS reporter Matt Hoffman. Romero's film breads salt and the graphite kid airs tonight on PBS television at 830.

“Bread, Salt & The Graphite Kid” is a film that explores old school discipline as it meets with the youngsters of Generation Z who are competing in the All-American Soap Box Derby.

In the documentary film, youngsters are seen working with mentors to build their own gravity-powered, nonmotorized cars. Originally, the cars were built from old, wooden crates, but modern cars are built out of fiberglass or aluminum.

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The kids then compete in downhill races, striving to get to the All-American Soap Box Derby World Championships in Akron, Ohio.

The documentary premieres at 8:30 p.m., Thursday on KPBS TV. Ahead of the premiere, KPBS spoke with the film’s director and producer David Romero of Eddie Grace Arts & Film.

Q&A With Director of ‘Bread, Salt & The Graphite Kid’

Q: David, we’re sitting inside Cafe Moto which is a special place because this is sort of where the idea for the film came from — can you tell me that story?

A: I was out having coffee with friends and one of them was talking about this group of community guys in the Sherman Heights area and Logan Heights area who sponsor this race every year and this team right here in Barrio Logan. The organize everything … to be done at the Bread & Salt building which is right across the freeway from Chicano Park.

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Q: The story takes place in Barrio Logan and follows a soap box racing chapter here. Who supports the program locally?

A: For 20 years there’s been a group of, as I said before, these gentlemen who have dedicated their lives really to helping the kids in the area participate in this sport. Around the country, this sport is largely attended by families and kids who could afford the cars. The cars themselves could cost up to $1,000 to maintain and to buy — for the wheels and everything involved in racing. Where kids presumably in the area wouldn’t have that extra cash or their families wouldn’t. San Diego is one of the only teams that support an inner-city team to get to the world championships.

Q: Does soap box racing have a big following here? In the film, one family who stumbled upon a race said they had never heard of it or seen any advertising — so how do they get the word out about this?

A: So getting the word out is really tough for these gentlemen. These gentlemen are old school and you learn that in the film. They’re used to doing things old school-wise and sometimes that means you’re not completely hip to like the new technologies and social media and how to get the word out. I realized when I started making this film, I thought this film was going to be a one year deal — it took me four years to get the full story for this. Part of that is realizing that these guys need help. They need help to get the word out, they need financial help in supporting the team. It’s the same thing that happens every year for them so for them to be doing this for 20 years representing San Diego at a world-class event is something that we need to get the word out.

Q: When you talk about that kind of old-school-style, soap box racing has been around since the 1930s. And a theme in your film is old-school discipline meets Generation Z, so what do you think kids learn from racing soap box cars and being involved in this?

A: The most important thing I think they learn is responsibility. One of the gentlemen says in the film that in his opinion we don’t give enough responsibility to the kids these days. That’s debatable however you want to look at it, but that is one of the things that they push for and one of the themes is that at the beginning of the season each kid is given a car and told, ‘This is your car for the year, you have to maintain it, you have to clean it, you have to do everything that we teach you to do with it. Fix the breaks, fix the steering.’ And these kids learn how to use tools, how to be responsible for their vehicle and ultimately that’s the vehicle that will take them to the world championships if they qualify.

Q: For yourself as a filmmaker and a native San Diegan growing up here, why were you interested in this and telling this story?

A: So I grew up in this area and anything that gives anyone an opportunity who might not otherwise have this type of opportunity I support. And that’s why I wanted to spend some time on this story. One year wasn’t good enough, we had to learn more about these gentlemen we had to learn more about the team… It doesn’t really matter what community it is. Whether it’s Barrio Logan, La Jolla, La Mesa — wherever that the kids are all the same. They’re looking to participate in something. They need mentorship no matter what they do or who they are. They need responsibility and this is one of those programs that helps the kids in this area.

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