MAKING SXS: The Scooter.

‘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.

 This deleted scene from South By Scooter gives the Official Mission Scooter the diagram treatment.

This deleted scene from South By Scooter gives the Official Mission Scooter the diagram treatment.

There’s something so awesome about exploration vehicles. Take The Discovery from 2001 A Space Odyssey, Bathyscaphe Trieste, or the Apollo Lunar Module for example. These vehicles are more than just transportation, they are characters themselves, enablers of epic adventures, extensions of explorers bodies, and they are homes - protecting their inhabitants from the outside world as they plunge toward their goals... It was in this spirit that I created the South By Scooter Official Mission Scooter.

It took three attempts to build a scooter that would be suitable for the South By Scooter mission. I have always admired the economy of the design popularized by the ‘Razor Scooter’, a popular method of transport that I badly wanted when I was in primary school but never had. Finding one of these scooters and riding it around was the catalyst for the idea that became South By Scooter, so I figured that was as good a place to start as any for my design.

As with all of the props in my film I attempted to create an archetypal - cartoony - design... How little does it take to describe a scooter? Basically it’s an L with wheels...

Mk 1: The Cardboard Scooter.

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I knew from the outset that the scooter wouldn’t actually have to scoot - as the plan was to move the set around the action, rather than the action around the set. With this in mind I figured a sturdy cardboard scooter (with cardboard wheels) would do the trick, and whipped this one up in an afternoon. 

The cardboard scooter looked cool but literally fell apart when I stood on it. I was worried that Filming would be impossible If I was constantly stopping to re-build the scooter, so I went back to the drawing board... So to speak. There were no drawings.

Mk 2: The Conduit Scooter.

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The inspiration behind the second scooter was to build it out of conduit piping and gaffer tape, which is cheap, colourful and chunky. Great! So I dragged Liz down to the hardware store and bought a whole heap of conduit, some ‘conduit connector bits’, and gaffer tape. Liz was bored out of her mind! But whatever, I got my materials.

 

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Dad taught me how to use a Japanese hacksaw and I went to town on the piping, again making up my scooter design completely as I went along. I sawed, and sawed, and sawed, and used up what seemed like kilometres of tape. By the end of it I had my conduit scooter. I retained the cardboard wheels of the first scooter and even build a little axle assembly out of smaller gage conduit.

I was pretty proud of myself! I thought I had it, so I packed everything up and brought the scooter into my room, even showing it off to a few people. But it didn’t feel right. This scooter had none of the simplicity that I admire so much in small folding scooter designs. It didn’t look much like a scooter, and it was massive!! Also... Cardboard wheels!? Nah.

Mk 3: The South By Scooter Official Mission Scooter.

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After a couple of days of being pretty grossed out by the hulking mess of plastic that was my second scooter, I set about making the simplest and most compact design that I could with the conduit that I had left. I kept the handlebars and vertical bar from the second scooter and scrapped the rest.

I realized I needed to get some proper wheels so that the thing would actually be able to roll around and take my weight. I went to the local department store and found a kids scooter kit that had a great front wheel assembly. I bought two kits (the back wheels weren’t suitable) and took them home. Conveniently the wheel assembly was the perfect size to jam into the conduit! So I used the wheels and discarded the rest of the kit components. 

This scooter came together beautifully, with a much more straightforward design, way better colour scheme, and more of that stereotypical scooter look that I wanted. It even kind of works as a scooter if you ride it in a particular way...

I made some felt hand grips for comfort, added some extra tape (just in case) and customized it with some big ‘M’s for Max. The South By Scooter Official Mission Scooter was complete!!

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 The not-quite-complete South By Scooter Official Mission Scooter.

The not-quite-complete South By Scooter Official Mission Scooter.

I'll be back next week with another making of post. 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.