It was one of the first motorcycle books I ever picked up. You may have heard of it, Robert M. Pirsig’s ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’. I was told by others, and after a few pages in by Robert himself, that this was not a book about motorcycles. Still, the title was too inviting not to dive in. While primarily grounded in philosophy, Pirsig words also beautifully capture the essence of what it is to ride. He writes “In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You're a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame. On a cycle the frame is gone. You're completely in contact with it all. You're in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.” This particular quote was forever cemented in my soul and subsequently drove the discussion behind our partnership with Chattanooga-based Pathfinder Films and director Leif Ramsey. He reached out wanting to collaborate. To play. To create. After a brief meeting we shook hands, and got to work. In his own words, Leif shares what happened next.
- Chris Logsdon, Founder GSCo.
THE HANDSHAKE PRODUCTION
Words: Leif Ramsey Images: Pathfinder Films & Chris Logsdon
The Honda Pioneer side-by-side chattered around a hairpin corner, struggling to grip the road. $100,000 of camera equipment swinging off the back. Five feet away — in the lane for on-coming traffic — a 998cc a black cafe-style Honda CB1000R downshifted once, twice, and three times to keep the RPMs pegged on the inside of the turn.
Philippe, the driver of the Pioneer called his boss, “Hey Casey, bad news. Don’t worry no one is hurt. (Pause) Yeah...I kissed the guardrail. (Pause) The Pioneer is in pretty bad shape.”
The project started with a handshake agreement. No money changed hands, just a lot of goodwill. The partners were Godspeed Co, an apparel company; Southern Honda Powersports, the largest Honda powersports dealer in the U.S.; and Pathfinder Films, a commercial production company.
The story was inspired by a quote from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:
“On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.”
The bike in SHP’s fleet that fit the ethos of the script was a CB1000R, Honda’s 2019 ode to a sport café-racer. It’s powered by a 143 horsepower, 4-cylinder, that lays down 76 pound-feet of torque and has a top speed of 141mph. There’s a tradeoff for all that power, at 467 pounds wet, the CBR has some mass. That didn’t stop Kyle, our stunt rider, from burning out and riding wheelies for camera.
Production for the 75-second film ran for three days. The script was written to capture the feel of the South — the patina of the Mom & Pop gas stations, the intense green of the deciduous forests in the summer, the drone of cicadas, and the twists and turns of the country roads. Riding in the South is a very different experience than traveling through the desert landscapes of the Southwest United States or forests of Western Canada.
Southern Honda Powersports supplied the bike, the side-by-side and drivers. The side-by-side made for a great camera vehicle, it had excellent mount points for building out a speed rail frame, and allowed for forward and rear mounting positions for the camera. The camera was an ARRI Alexa Mini with vintage Kowa anamorphic lenses stabilized on a gimbal rig. (Anamorphic lenses are what gives the horizontal light streaks from lens flares.) Everything was controlled remotely from the back seat of the side-by-side with a joystick.
Sweat rolled down cheeks in the 90-degree weather. After a pause that must have felt like an eternity to his boss, Philippe fessed up. The Pioneer was fine. No accident had happened. The side-by-side probably needed a new set of tires after a dozen passes in the hairpin, but we had safely filmed some very cool shots.
Read Making of Call of the Wild, a photo story.