Nail-biting thriller Scooter, starring Mitch Lemos (Burn Notice) and Yoshi Zimmerman , is getting a North American theatrical release via Artist Rights Distribution this fall. Matt Wohl, writer-director of the Miami-set feature, let us know how a combination of people making wrong choices and a love of two-wheeled transportation inspired his daunting indie road thriller.
In Scooter, The Three Amigos are life-long best friends and partners in crime. They became internet famous after their YouTube channel went viral. Each episode of their antics has them undertaking some ridiculous challenge. From racing cars to tricycles and from the waters of the South Atlantic to the bottom of a swimming pool, there's no challenge too stupid. Like a pack of cats, they always land on their feet.
Speed did it with a bus, Under Siege did it with a boat... you're doing it with a scooter in Scooter. Might this be the first action-thriller set on a scooter?
Matt Wohl: I think it might be. I can't think of another one.
Was the concept your idea?
Matt Wohl: The concept was my idea. A producer I was working with years ago had said he was looking for a found footage film. I really didn't think I was the right guy. Then, one night the idea formed in my brain... at 3 AM.
And how long did it take to pen the script?
Matt Wohl: I had the idea for years before I actually wrote it. I was working on other things, and it wasn't really a priority. Then, when the idea wouldn't go away I started to write. Since I'd pitched the idea to friends a bunch, the idea was pretty solid in my head. So, I wrote the script in a few weeks.
And is the version on screen now essentially the film you imagined way back when?
Matt Wohl: The film on screen is pretty close to the original concept. There is a component of race and society that wasn't there, but that's one of the things I really like about the final version.
With the social media element of the story, we have to ask, is this a personal story?
Matt Wohl: I suppose in some ways it is. I think the allure of fame and attention causes people to make bad choices. I could easily see myself doing some stupid things and saying... it's what the audience wants. Actually, I did improv for years. I have done stupid things and said, "it's what the audience wants". I guess the difference is that I hope that in my personal story, I rise above that and make slightly better choices.
But should we be aware of the dangers of technology?
Matt Wohl: Absolutely. This film is about living for the technological world, while ignoring the real world. The real world wins. The real world always wins.
Is being a YouTube celeb or influencer hazardous for your health, you think?
Matt Wohl: I don't think it has to be. There are plenty of people who do it well. Then, there's the others. If YouTube wasn't hazardous to their health, they'd find something else to be a hazard.
Scooter is clearly made by someone with a love of both action and thrillers. Any you'd say Scooter was directly or circuitously influenced by?
Matt Wohl: Well, when it comes to found footage, I have always felt that the original Blair Witch did a great job. It was ground-breaking at the time. They had a great construct, and they stuck with it. So, I wanted to make sure we stuck with rules we set out in our film. I also really love road trip movies. I love the Coen's so there's a bit of their influence for sure. There's a touch of Cool Hand Luke in there as well. Also, on a practical level, my son and I were watching a lot of the British show, Top Gear. I wanted to take that feeling, and apply it to YouTubers. My main goal was to add to the "road trip gone bad" sub-genre of films.
What about the 'Scooter' element- is that your preferred method of transportation?
Matt Wohl: Ha. I do own a scooter. My first scooter was a small 50cc thing. It had a top speed of 40 miles an hour. I had to have it towed once, which really amused my neighbours. Now, I own one a bit bigger. But, I've always thought about taking my scooter for a long trip. Then, my brain kicks in, and I think about all the things that could go wrong, and then I ended up with my plot.
At any time during the scripting process did that mode of transportation change though - maybe a jet ski or tricycle?
Matt Wohl: Nope. Scooters all the way. It's what I knew, and they became such a part of the story.
What does the component of the scooter add to proceedings, in your opinion?
Matt Wohl:Scooters give you freedom. It's the same feeling as a motorcycle, on a much smaller scale. When you're riding you get the sense you could go anywhere, do anything. Then the reality that you have a one gallon gas tank and a horribly low top speed set in. So, what does it add, unpredictability. It's also a world most people don't know. We travel in cars. We go on highways. We try to get places as quickly as possible. This is a very different way to travel.
How fast can one of those things go?
Matt Wohl: The ones in the film went just over 40mph.
Did all of your actors know how to ride one or was there a scooter camp before production?
Matt Wohl: One had ridden before, Yosh. The other two had not. So, capturing their discomfort was part of the fun.
Speaking of, where did you find the cast?
Matt Wohl: I used a casting agency, Beth Marshall Presents. They were great. Dondre had worked with our Executive Producer before. He was great.
Can you talk about some of the locations used for the movie?
Matt Wohl: We shot the film entirely in Miami Dade County. The city shots were actually done near where I lived in North Miami. The "country" shots were all in and around Homestead. We rented a county campground, too. Staying close let us have a much more compressed shooting schedule.
Matt Wohl's Scooter screens across the U.S. in October.