Baltimore documentary's fearless star talks high school
12 O'Clock Boys is a new documentary from young director Lotfy Nathan, about a long-running group of dirt bikers who ride in central Baltimore and call themselves the 12 O'Clock Boys, for flipping their bikes nearly vertical on one wheel, pointing up skyward like a clock hand points to 12. Pug, an aspiring rider who’s 13 at the film’s start and 16 now, narrates the movie's gorgeous stunts and police chases, and over the course of the doc transforms from a hard-headed kid with lots of hobbies (pets, fishing, bikes) to a fiercely independent teenager who's hard to keep in the house. 12 O'Clock Boys will screen in New York tonight and open at Manhattan's Angelika Film Center this Friday. Below, Pug, opens up about watching himself mature onscreen, getting serious about high school and Baltimore cops. His mother Coco, who also appears in the movie, chimes in some too.
What do you think of the movie? I liked it. I liked how I watched myself grow up. Before, I wasn’t really thinking about if I was a good storyteller. Then I watched the movie, and I was really telling this story about how bikes go and where it’s nice and where it’s shady. When I first watched it, also, I was like, Damn, was I really that short?
Did you like hanging out with Nathan, the film’s director? That’s my boy! At first I was like, Who is that guy? But he’s down for real, he ain’t no average person. He’s creative. He’s buying me stuff, taking me out places, showing me places, teaching me about culture, telling me to stay in school and do my work.
You’ve biked on courses in the country and in the city—which is more fun? City. Because you be riding in the street and you be riding past people—they be so happy to see the bikes coming through. Especially the little kids. And then when you see them like a couple days or the next day, they’ll be like, "Oh I seen you on the bike, you was killin it!"
What would you say to drivers in Baltimore who think that bikes on the road are dangerous or scary? I don’t know about those people, because I never met em. The other people that I be seeing who are driving next to the bikes, they be loving it.
How do police treat the bikers? They be doing too much. They should just let us ride. Even when we ride in the field, they be trying to chase us. The first time I ever got chased I was scared, but now when they chase me, I don’t even be scared. I’m just looking at em, playing with em, laughing at em. They be so mad.
"When police chase me, I don’t even be scared. I’m just looking at em, playing with em."
Above: Pug these days, age 16.
Is high school different than middle school was? Yeah. I like it better because there’s more people. The activities there are better, and they got basketball games, football games, stuff like that. But I only like school a little bit, not really yet. The only subject I like for real in school is math, because I like to count money. And science, because I like to learn about like the planet and stuff like that.
What at school don’t you like? That people be acting like they don’t got no sense. The way principal do it at our school, they say if one person acts up in our class, the whole class has to suffer.
Do people around town know that you starred in a movie? Yeah, they know about it. It’s cool for real, but I’m not gonna act like, Oh I’m a big shot, and all that.
COCO, PUG'S MOTHER: Big kids be coming up to him in the mall. And sometimes Pug will be riding his pedal bike in the summer, and guy is like, “You’re the one from YouTube, you said I’m a grown-ass man!” And Pug just has to lose him, and keep it moving. Because the movie about to drop, I tell him to stay on the low, don’t be all out in the scene. You just got to be careful with certain things in Baltimore, you know what I’m saying? Because people look at you like, “Oh you made a movie.” They’re looking at you like a millionaire and they just fail to realize it’s an independent film. Just because you see him on YouTube, and see a DVD coming out, they looking at us like we rich and we coming up. But we still in the same place we started.
What do you want to do after high school’s over? PUG: I want to go a good college, like a real real good college, and try and be a veterinarian. But if that don’t work out, Imma be a Motocross rider. I don’t like animals as much as I used to. I still have doves and some fish—a flowerhorn and three convicts.
Are you still as independent as when you were younger? Yeah. I’ve been trying to get a job and stuff. Staying after school so I can get my grades high. Pick walk to pick up my little sister up from school sometimes.
Do you drive yet? COCO: He’s driving my car. He knows how to drive, but he still has to take his permit [test]. Don’t ask me how he learned how to drive, but he did.
Who’s your favorite rapper? PUG: Meek Mill and Yo Gotti. Meek Mill, I like the way he be coming up with verses and how he puts it all together. And how he supports the bikes. Gotti, he just be killin it.
Do you have a girlfriend? No. I don’t do all that, I be chillin. In general, like, I don’t be hanging with too many people like that.
How do you know if someone is okay to trust? If they got the same stuff I got, and they don’t be hating. If they be asking me do I want stuff, instead of asking me can they get something.
Do you ever get lonely? No. I got a phone. You can’t get lonely with a phone!