Creating Chemistry

Episode 6 original started as a retort to a Facebook post somewhere. I’d just published Episode 3: Contact and a local guy had commented about “how it was all good and well to have young guys” who were “waxing lyrical” about their bikes, but what about some “middle-aged, guy who’s divorced, has a dead-end job and who rides to ease the pain”.

Fair enough, I said. “Would you like to feature in the next episode, then?”

“Ah, no, no! Not me! Just sayin…”

“Okay, then. Anyone else that fits the above description who wants to put their hand up?”

And that’s how I met Carl.

There were two things that really stood out for me initially with Carl’s story: first, the fact that he alluded to some narcotic influence during his uni days when he couldn’t ride his bike (which kicked off the whole “Chemistry” idea) and secondly, that he mentioned the smelling of a girl’s perfume at crossings.

I thought, I’ve done that too!

It made me really want to capture that whole sensory experience of riding a bike through the city, particularly the crossing scene, which as you saw in the video, is nearly exactly as how I pictured it in my mind.

The only thing that was missing was the face of the girl.

A good mate of mine, who’s a very talented, successful programmer and businessman and who is also a bit of a man about town, Ben Kay, helped me track down the ideal girl. I had in mind a girl who was a bit iconic in her profile, but with a gorgeous, friendly face. There were a few that initially came to mind with Ben but then he put me in touch with Shianna, who was really excited to be involved. Ben had sent me a photo of her featured in a wedding shoot, with her hair done up in retro rolls (I have NO idea about hair styles) which I loved and asked if she could do that style again for me.

When we shot the crossing scene we had about two hours all up with Shianna. She came dressing in a different shirt that you’ve all seen her in, so we did a few still shots while we waited for the sun to go down a little. To be honest, it was my first time ever shooting a model, so I was a tad nervous. But Shianna was totally fun and relaxed and loved the shots I was getting, which helped me relax a little too.

Once the sun was right we shot Shianna crossing the street right near Carl’s place of work (Yahoo!7 HQ in Millers Point, Sydney). It’s a beautiful area with a gorgeous mix of old and new architecture. Ben and his girlfriend (for the day?) were helping out as extras in the crossing scene, but then he started rounding random strangers up who then, awesomely, spent 10 minutes with us crossing the road about 4 or five times!

It really helped the round the scene out. And Shianna fit the part perfectly. Since the video went live, I’ve had quite a few comments asked why she didn’t feature more in the video. Well, I would have liked to, but it wouldn’t have made sense to the story. Maybe we’ll see more of her in a “Director’s Cut” kind of thing later sometime.

The small area where we filmed a lot of Chemistry was actually on the historic Pier 8/9, one of the original shipping piers which began construction in Sydney Harbour around 1910. There is a tonne of character in the buildings around this area. Fortunately, Carl was good mates with the owner at Pier 8 Café. This was an amazing open space with warm morning light and beautifully textured hardwood floorboards. Nectar, the owner of the café, was unbelievably generous in letting us shoot there for the morning. All in the middle of peak Saturday morning service!

Carl’s story actually evolved during shooting. It was during the second day of shooting that he actually remembered his days hanging out with Dad during the Royal Signals White Helmets demonstrations. The revelation he mentions in the video, about realising why he wears a white helmet and rides a Triumph Bonneville,(I’m pretty sure) happened on set. It was a great experience for both of us as it reminded Carl of his Bonneville heritage and it gave me an origin story with heart.

Each Stories episode is always a little bit biographical, covering certain periods in the riders’ lives that either inspired them to ride or simply moments that remind them why they ride. Carl’s story was very much a combination of the two. In fact, biographically, it spans nearly his complete life from boyhood to now. Additionally, the core of the story is really about the why; all the elements that keep him on two wheels.

Obviously these elements that make up riding chemistry are different from one rider to the next. But hopefully this video helped you to just notice the special elements that make up your riding chemistry.