2006 Documentary
Piece By Piece


This webpage has been restored and archived for use as supplemental reading for Chu Li's course Documentary Film I for 1st year film majors. A grant from the Web Archive Project provided funding for the restoration after the site was recognized as an historically significant document. TNG/Earthling's CEO Bob Sakayama contributed technical assistance. Development and hosting chores were handled by TNG/E's Rev Sale. Students may download the entire reading list and course syllabus from the film department's website.



This was the official website for the 2006 documentary Piece by Piece.
Piece by Piece "documents the history of San Francisco’s controversial graffiti art movement, with a fast-paced journey into the world of San Francisco street art, as seen through the eye of the artists. Chronicling more than 20 years of creation and destruction––honestly, accurately and critically, the film takes you alongside those who lived in what is arguably one of the most influential youth cultures of our time.”
The actual documentary can be seen on YouTube at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Ub8uRFzUCQ

Content is from the site's 2006 archived pages as well as from other outside sources.


Piece By Piece Documentary 2006 Trailor
The History of San Francisco graffiti , Documented.

Piece By Piece documents San Francisco's graffiti culture from the early 1980s to 2004. It is narrated by San Francisco graffiti artist Senor One, better known as Renos. The San Francisco Bay Guardian's Cheryl Eddy singled the film out as the highlight of the 2006 Hi/Lo film festival, calling it "an educational experience" and "a thoughtful document". In a full review for that same paper, Johnny Ray Huston said it was "a thorough history that still makes time ... for abstract, lyrical flowing passages". Huston complained that sections such as those featuring Tie One or Reminisce could make movies in themselves, and wished to see more detailing of artists' entries into the legitimate art world. He concluded that the film and director "succeeded at a mighty task" and were interested in displaying "a deep but entertaining understanding of the city as both a historical site and a nexus for contemporary change". Rory L. Aronsky in Film Threat wrote that the documentary "gets this graffiti culture completely right" while for Dennis Harvey in Variety it was "an excellent overview of two decades' graffiti in San Francisco"





San Francisco graffiti often plays neglected stepchild to its cousin to the East. Piece by Piece, a documentary showing this Sunday in New York as part of Vision Fest 2005 and on July 26th at Ocularis in Brooklyn, takes an in-depth look at the writers, styles, and history of the West Coast city. From New York, the flick goes on a Canadian tour sponsored by Grind magazine and The 7th Letter.


Piece by Piece is a groundbreaking film that documents San Francisco’s highly controversial graffiti art movement. A story told by those who live the experience, Piece by Piece offers an intimate journey into the most intriguing and misunderstood artistic movement of modern youth culture. By detailing the last 20 years of San Francisco’s graffiti, this tale offers the most candid and accurate story behind the writing on the wall in Northern California.

I. THE BIRTH 1983 1993

The first segment of Piece by Piece lays out the fundamentals of San Francisco graffiti by document-
ing topics that laid the groundwork for today’s Bay Area graffiti. Items covered are “Cholo” writing, the impact of PBS’s Style Wars (1983), and the development of San Francisco’s defined style. This segment includes not only San Francisco’s graffiti originals, but also commentary from noted New York writers such as Seen, Cope 2, and Case 2. It also covers the tragedy of Dream One, an SF graffiti pioneer and a vocal figurehead in Bay Area urban welfare activism.


Expanding on the discipline of San Francisco style, the second segment elaborates on what it takes to establish credibility among the graffiti community and how San Francisco became an international magnet for ground breaking graffiti styles yet to be seen in other parts of the world. This segment features classic works from writers such as KR and the horses of Reminisce, following writ- ers and documenting their creative expression. The film features well-known graffiti artists such as: Grey, Buter, Joro, Norm, and Barry McGee (Twist).


While graffiti is largely considered an underground move- ment, it’s no secret that this art form has invoked a huge response from everyday citizens. The final segment of Piece by Piece explores the wide range of public opinion towards graffiti by bringing a voice to the citizens of San Francisco and the law enforcement officers who claim

to represent their interests. The film also captures the artists’ heartfelt confessions of their love and addiction to graffiti art and typographic lettering, as well as their social activism, and short life span of their work.

In summation, Piece by Piece is an authentic film that documents the last twenty years of San Francisco street art more honestly, accurately, and critically than any media piece has ever done before. Comprehensive and complete, this movie is a fast-paced journey into the world of SF street art, as seen through the eye of the artists–and compiled, piece-by-piece

featured artists

Erupto, Fury, Igni, Jase, Maseo, Mque, Nate, Neon, Omen, Phine, Phresh, Piccaso, Poesia, Quake, Raeyvn, Rolex, Saytr, Sibl, Skew, Skrag, Spie, Sprays, Trem, Twick, UFO, Vogue, TMF, TWS, ICP, AS, THR, HTK, FSC, BMB, MSK, AWR, AOK, LORDS, BA, GTB, KUK, OSD, BST & more.
Erupto, Fury, Igni, Jase, Maseo, Mque, Nate, Neon, Omen, Phine, Phresh, Piccaso, Poesia, Quake, Raeyvn, Rolex, Saytr, Sibl, Skew, Skrag, Spie, Sprays, Trem, Twick, UFO, Vogue, TMF, TWS, ICP, AS, THR, HTK, FSC, BMB, MSK, AWR, AOK, LORDS, BA, GTB, KUK, OSD, BST & more.


featured artists
Dug, Saber, Cycle, Grey, Seen, Dream, Tie, Kr, Revok, Twist, Renos, Crayone, Diet, Ub-40, Deen, Buter, Giant, Jorone, Vegan, Kode, Norm, Reyes, Abhor, Awe, Bless, Bzaro, Case2, Charo, Chief, Cope, Cuba, Cyme, Cypher, Darks, Dj Rise, Emuse & more.


Underdog Pictures is a small group of hardworking and talented individuals with a passion for film and arts. We live, work, and play in the city of San Francisco where this documentary was conceived. Graffiti is not only an integral art form of the urban landscape, but an expression of social and political issues. Piece by Piece was created to expose this unrepresented subculture and bring it to the public.

Piece by Piece is a well-rounded and accurate documentation of the graffiti movement, something that has not been done since the early eighties and has never been achieved in regards to the West Coast. Director Nic Hill started this film in February 2000 and has spent the past four years of his life capturing the true nature of San Francisco graffiti and its evolution through film.


  • Graffiti partners
  • Cholo writing
  • Bus hopping/tagging
  • Influence of Style Wars (1983)
  • Rise of “hip-hop” culture
  • ”Styles,” ”Crews,” ”Beef,” and “Battles” Typographic analysis of graffiti Influence of Dream One
  • Psycho City
  • Letters versus Imagery
  • ”Pits”
  • SF locals vs. outsiders
  • Legal issues
  • Undercover “graffiti squads” Cover-up of Tie One’s murder
  •  Proposition 21 – felony punishments
  • Writers’ motivation for graffiti
  • Temporary nature of graffiti

major interviews
Dug1, Crayone, Cycle, KR, Grey, Revok, Saber, Renos, Deen, Joro, Giant, Phresh, Abhor, and many more.

  • Kid 606 TIGER BEAT
  • All Bets Off
  • Bored Stiff

Piece by Piece incorporates the following film types: miniDV, VHS, Super8mm, & 16mm.

Director & producer
 Nic Hill
Associate producers
Ed Walker Jr., Tom Quickel, Noah Tsutsui
Editors Nic Hill, John Murillo
  motion graphics
Adam Hazard
Senor One
Graphic design
Brishen Mahoney, Mike Tran


Nic Hill
2004 Tenderloin, SF Guru Khalsa



Nic Hill graduated from the University Of San Francisco’s Media/Film Studies program. Here, he learned commu- nication theory in regards

to the media and primarily focused on documentary filmmaking. He was also
an assistant producer on various short films for local SF director Melinda Stone. Later, his short “Diet” (2003) took Best in Show at the Mira Costa DV Festival in San Diego. He currently lives and works in San Francisco as a director and editor.

selected credits

Piece by Piece, 2004 documentary feature

Diet, 2003 documentary short

Meals on Wheels, 2001 narrative short

Senor One
2002 N Judah Tunnel, SF, Jon Parker



Bay Area native Senor
One is a well-known and respected graffiti artist. His legal works have appeared in premier art galleries throughout San Francisco, San Jose, Portland and Los Angeles. However, Senor’s primary focus is performing public works in metropolitan cities like SF, LA, NYC, Paris, Berlin, Switzerland, Austria and Italy. Beyond the streets, his graffiti is also featured
in magazines, books, and
is occasionally known to appear on a boxcar or two. In addition to his art, Senor also studies and researches graffiti culture and its effects on society. His longevity and dedication has gained him recognition for a truly distinct style.



Documentary “Piece by Piece” explores the history of San Francisco’s graffiti art movement

PUBLISHED: February 12, 2008 /www.eastbaytimes.com/| UPDATED: August 15, 2016

San Francisco graffiti artist Jeloe painted this on the side of a mass transit wall using five different colors of spray paint.

Public officials and property owners may consider graffiti an act of vandalism, but documentary film maker Nic Hill views the painting and scratching of images and letters on buildings and bus stops as “free artistic expression in a land of consumerism and big business control. It’s arguably the last form of free speech.”

Local graffiti artist Jeloe agrees. He fell in love with graffiti art in 1983 as he rode a bus home from a San Francisco 49ers game at Candlestick Park with his father. He was just 5 and, as he looked up to the roof of the bus, he saw an entire world of colorful lettering and characters. His dad explained “tagging,” and that it was “wrong” and said that people got away with it by just hitting anyone who gave them any lip.

Jeloe remembers thinking one word: Cool.

Since then, Jeloe has become a recognized graffiti artist in the Bay Area and around the world. San Francisco was his training ground and his alma mater.

“It was a fun and exciting place to be,” Jeloe recalled. “The schooling I got from paying attention to and being a part of what was going on there is priceless For graffiti, San Francisco was Harvard.”

Hill has captured the world that inspired Jeloe and hundreds of other graffiti artists in the film “Piece by Piece,” part of KQED’s “Truly CA” series of independent documentaries that showcase the Golden State. The documentary delves into the history of graffiti art and profiles the people who lived it. The film airs tonight at 11.

Like the city itself, San Francisco street art has transformed a lot over the last 25 years. Between 1993 and 2000, people from all over the world flocked to the city to do graffiti; the scene they found was already in full bloom. Local stylists like Jeloe became internationally known for their diversity and unique flare.

But things have changed. Harsh penalties keep all but the heaviest risk takers off the streets and rooftops. The graffiti art scene is not what it once was and its practitioners say it will never be that again.

The documentary is especially valuable in capturing the inherently temporary nature of illegal graffiti. Because their work is often removed or painted over, many artists photograph it. Gathering a comprehensive collection for public viewing requires the right connections — connections Hill fostered through his own years in the world of graffiti art.


“Graffiti was sort of a stepping stone for me,” he said. “I got into filmmaking from there. It’s all about channeling creativity. There’s a similar connection.”

According to Hill and street artists like Jeloe, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s zero tolerance position on graffiti has driven a lot of talented artists out of town. And while new graffiti emerges almost every night, it’s painted over nearly as quickly.

“The entire N Judah tunnel used to be covered with burners; it was like a preserved art gallery in there,” Hill said. “But about a year ago, the city painted over everything; and now anytime someone gets up, it gets covered up right away.”

In the early 1990s, with the closure of such legally overlooked graffiti venues as “Psycho City,” which was a series of empty lots on Market Street where artists threw up huge burners and tags in broad daylight, illegal street art exploded in San Francisco. This was when many young artists became overnight criminals.

Nowadays, people who do $400 worth of graffiti damage in San Francisco can be sentenced to up to one year in jail and a $10,000 fine. More than $400 worth can be treated as a felony, even for minor, with possible jail time of up to three years and a fine of up to $50,000. Parents and guardians of minors arrested for writing graffiti can also be fined, and even jailed, for failing to supervise their children.

Additionally, the city offers its residents monetary compensation for anonymous tips leading to the conviction of anyone doing illegal graffiti. Other programs help local volunteers paint over street art themselves.

Merle Goldstone heads the city Department of Public Works’ Graffiti Watch Program, through which residents are encouraged to adopt four city blocks to prevent and remove graffiti from public property. She sees graffiti as defacement and says: “We want the city to look clean, and keep people feeling safe.”

Mohammed Nuru, Deputy Director of Operations with San Francisco’s Department of Public Works, has taken a leading role in the city’s fight to abate graffiti. He’s chairman of the Graffiti Advisory Board, which meets once a month at city hall to share information and advise the city on possible legislations and ordinances that would help curb graffiti.

“Graffiti is not art. The main difference between graffiti and art is permission,” said Nuru. “There’s nothing good about going and defacing someone’s property.”

According to Nuru, the number of graffiti-related arrests the city makes increases every year, and more often than not, the apprehended artists are from out of town.

“Our city is a destination for a lot of these vandals, said Nuru. “We’re spending millions of dollars fighting graffiti, when we could be using that money to make the city more green and clean, and to help the homeless.”

But there is also the soul of a city to worry about. A local art movement grew into a microcosmic legacy that is purely San Francisco.
“When graffiti is done right, it’s a reminder of the liberality of a city, where there really is diversity and options,” said Jeloe. “Graffiti is physical proof that there are people who are deeply rooted in culture, and they’re not just sheep.”


IMDb User Reviews

******** An interesting film on graffiti and the culture behind it

3 April 2005 | by empireofnothing
This documentary focuses on the graffiti art scene in San Francisco and the colorful characters that have been active and influential in expanding this controversial, and for the most part, illegal art form. The film does a good job of covering many different facets to graffiti and its diverse styles and purposes. The foundational reason for engaging in such an illegal and temporary expression of art, considering that 90% of the works featured in the film are now gone, is to simply put up your mark for self-fulfillment and in many cases to inspire other graffiti artists and people that will see their work. Throughout the film it is also made clear that most of the people that engage in something that is usually considered vandalism actually love their city, and is one of the very reasons they do it.


Piece by Piece is a groundbreaking film that documents San Francisco's highly controversial graffiti art movement. A story told by those who live the experience, Piece by Piece offers an intimate journey into the most intriguing and misunderstood artistic movement of modern youth culture. By detailing the last 20 years of San Francisco's graffiti this tale offers the most candid and accurate story behind the writing on the wall in Northern California. Never has such an in-dept and balanced document been created representing San Francisco graffiti. 100 hours of footage and interviews have been collected for over 4 years and have finally been edited into a cohesive documentary film.