From Minecraft to micromobility: how a gamer-turned-filmmaker captured the essence of Superpedestrian

What links us?” — our short film featuring LINK e-scooters — is not a typical micromobility commercial. Then again, Superpedestrian isn’t a typical micromobility company.

Oli Brotherhood had an unconventional entry to film-making: Minecraft tutorials.

Minecraft, launched in 2011, is a “sandbox” game, meaning players build their own virtual worlds and experiences. Oli began creating Minecraft tutorial videos the following year, at age 15, and posting them on YouTube. He now has some 8 million YouTube subscribers, and around 250,000 followers on Instagram.

As his Minecraft world expanded, game walkthroughs became Oli’s livelihood. This created the opportunity for the British gamer to explore other forms of film-making. “My heart has always been in working with moving images so, as my YouTube channel grew, I was able to invest more time into learning about lighting, cinematography, composition, camera equipment and other fundamentals of making films,” he explains.

Oli began making films about a range of subjects — a 70-year-old surfer, a Jui Jitsu practitioner, a ceramicist, a classic car restorer. “I realised quickly that I wanted to make films about people, about their lives and their stories,” he says.

Oli had earlier caught the attention of Superpedestrian’s Director of Communications (EMEA), Ross Ringham, who was executive producer for What links us?

“I’ve been following Oli’s work for quite some time,” Ross comments. “When we began scoping out this project — our first ever shared mobility commercial — we knew we wanted it to be centred around human stories, around people. We wanted to hone in on the lifestyle we aspire to help create — one that is kind to the planet, connects communities and opens up streets. And we wanted to create the sort of aesthetic that top European brands, such as Volvo, achieve.”

After setting out some key parameters, including the theme and total run time, Ross worked closely with Oli and producer Victoria Mantua to develop the storyline and aesthetic. Cinematography and color grading were carefully chosen to present a contemporary yet timeless look, and one that emphasises Superpedestrian’s commitment to quality.

“We chose a stylised natural look, one that was organic and free-flowing,” Oli explains. “This was to help the piece feel warm and personal. We also wanted the camera to feel like a character in the film, which is why we chose single, hand-held camera perspectives.”

“We shot the main elements of the commercial in a single day, which is a very tight turnaround for a project such as this,” says Victoria, who also designed many of the set dressings, including the “memories box.”

“It meant we needed to be extremely efficient in our scheduling, while making sure everyone had time to eat!”

The storyline for What links us? is designed to be universally accessible, following a young person through the highs and lows of life. “The film contains many subtle references to the COVID-19 pandemic but we didn’t want to focus overly on that,” Victoria says. “We aimed to keep the tone positive, with a sense of progression and optimism that fits the mission of Superpedestrian. That’s what informed our whimsical music choice and concluding family sequence.”

It was also important to include small details in the film that might not be noticed at first watch, to mirror the precision that characterises Superpedestrian’s approach to designing and engineering every single element of the LINK scooter. These details include a face mask in the background of one shot, a Polaroid photograph captioned “Best sisters”, and the super-widescreen format that helps express the idea of travelling from point to point.

The commercial was shot on location in the UK, where it remains illegal to ride e-scooters on public roads outside a small number of trial areas in England. The production team solved this hurdle by finding private land to film the riding sequences — but there was another unexpected challenge.

“Our actor had to learn to ride a scooter for the shoot,” Oli explained. “However, this proved straightforward, because the LINK scooter is so easy to ride for a beginner. In fact, the whole crew was very impressed with the LINK scooter. It is robust, sleek and comfortable. It’s evident that it has been designed and manufactured to the highest standards and that it’s very safe. It really suited the style of the film we wanted to make.”

What links us? was released on YouTube and Instagram on Tuesday 7 September 2021. In its first week, the film attracted more than 200,000 views, more than a thousand likes and hundreds of comments.

“It’s my hope that this film elegantly expresses the human-centered vision that is core to Superpedestrian’s mission, and emphasises the thoughtful way we approach everything we do,” says Ross. “If the initial response is anything to go by, we’ll be making many more of these emotional films.”

“I’m so happy with how the film turned out,” Oli concludes. “I still love making Minecraft videos, but this type of film-making reaches a different audience. It has been an artistically and emotionally fulfilling project.”

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