MAKING SXS: The Survival Suit.

‘Making SXS’  is a series of posts documenting exactly how I made my film South By Scooter, from conception, thru production, to release. To see the full series of posts click here.

 An early design for the South By Scooter survival suit.

An early design for the South By Scooter survival suit.

One of the very first images that came to me for South by Scooter was that of Max enthusiastically wrapped for warmth in a massive tangle of scarves. Every great adventurer needs an outfit and this, I decided, would be perfect my adventure to the South Pole.

The Scarf Suit - First Attempt:

 A rough first attempt at the survival suit

A rough first attempt at the survival suit

My initial idea was to buy the scarves, and to somehow pin them together into a massive suit that I could slip on over my head. I wanted it to look like my mum had frantically whipped around the house before I left gathering every scarf she could find and wrapping me up to keep me warm... 

I got myself a hoody, a bunch of scarves and  some nappy pins and gave it a shot. But it didn’t really work. The scarves weren’t ‘scarfy’ enough. As is often the case with what I do - the real object looked less convincing than a fake one would!

The Scarf Suit - Second Attempt:

 Work in progress on the first scarf.

Work in progress on the first scarf.

I realized that for Max to truly inhabit his imagined Antarctica, he had to be made from felt just like his provisions and much of the world around him.

 Some of the scarfs - incomplete.

Some of the scarfs - incomplete.

So I went back to the drawing board and came up with a ‘more advanced’ survival suit based on some scarfs of my own design. Using the South By Scooter mission colours - red, gold, and purple - I attempted to design an iconic felt scarf, one that communicated the fact that it was a scarf in a cartoony kind of way. This meant patches of colour and chunky tassels on the end. 

At first I toyed with the idea of creating just one long scarf that I could wrap around myself to form the suit, but this didn’t achieve the scarf-overload look that I wanted.

 The short scarfs.

The short scarfs.

After testing various different ways that I could wear it I settled on using the long scarf as the ‘neck scarf’ to form the top portion of the suit, and then produced a number of smaller scarfs to tie around my torso and cover my legs.

I had no idea how many scarfs I would need so I just kept making them and making them... I kept on trying them on and thinking ‘needs more scarfs’, I still think that... but I had to draw the line somewhere: I ended up with nine. The neck scarf is roughly 4.7 meters long and the others are each around 1.7 meters long.

It was the scarves that made me give in and buy a sewing machine. I’d never used one before South By Scooter, but if I hadn’t picked on up I would still be sewing scarfs!

The Hood.

   Robert Peary  the first man to reach the North Pole.

Robert Peary the first man to reach the North Pole.

 Max in his Survival Suit.

Max in his Survival Suit.

In the Polar exploration lookbook you tend to see a lot of awesome hoods. No legitimate explorer would dare set off without one, and I am no exception!

I really liked the idea of my hood being separate to the body of my suit so that I could take it off like an Astronaut's helmet. This seemed like a pretty desirable/awesome feature to have especially because it was summer and my survival suit would be my home for the duration of the filming/mission (I didn’t make a tent).

As with just about everything on this project I had no idea how to make a hood... So I just kind of guessed and made it up as I went along. The design came together as a big padded hood with felt a felt ‘fur lining’. I sewed the felt ‘fur’ pieces on individually by hand which took what seemed like forever hurt my little fingers (once you have a few layers felt is pretty tough to get through).

The sore fingers were worth it. The hood is warm, comfortable, and lends tremendous credibility to every exploratory action I take whilst wearing it!

 The hood - in progress.

The hood - in progress.

 Bonus - Dad wearing the hood. It suits him better!

Bonus - Dad wearing the hood. It suits him better!

The Mittens.

 The mittens.

The mittens.

Given the icy conditions in Antarctica, mittens were essential. The mittens are a good example of how you should never just assume a task will be easy.. I had to re-make them several times because I kept on making them too small for my hands. Eventually I hit on the correct size and made them a little more heavy duty with some trim and some faux-leather felt pads which were inspired by my cat Reg’s paws.

The Shoes.

 The shoes are a whole other story!

The shoes are a whole other story!

Perhaps the craziest part of the survival suit is the official mission sneakers. But I want to show you exactly how I made them so I’m going to save them for another post. 

 

 

 

The South By Scooter Survival Suit:

 Finished! The Official South By Scooter Survival Suit.

Finished! The Official South By Scooter Survival Suit.

So that’s how I made the survival suit for South By Scooter. I hope you enjoyed this post! I’ll be back next week with another installment of Making South By Scooter.

Until then, if you haven’t seen it you should check out the film. If you have any questions you can get in touch with me on twitter @maxpiantoni or use the contact page.