Saturday, February 07, 2015


Design: Ryan Johnson
Zach Voss's short film View From A Pedal Buggy (2015) first came to my attention when interviewing Andrew Ellis for both the 2012 edition of i48 and an overview of Idaho film production I'd been commissioned to write for the October/November issue of Fusion magazine. I mentioned to Andrew that I had included Zach Voss in my survey and Andrew responded that he was working with Zach on a documentary film about Gregory Allen's pedal buggies.

For the 2013 edition of Tour de Fat, Zach invited me to join him for the bicycle ride and arranged for me to meet Gregory Allen and to ride one of his pedal buggies. It was an honor and a thrill.

View From A Pedal Buggy had its premiere at the Boise Contemporary Theater's second annual Shorts in Winter, which unfortunately occurred while I was in San Francisco, but Zach was kind enough to forward a streaming link. He later advised that the screening went beautifully. People were engaged and hanging on Allen's every word. The short then went on to receive the Shorts in Winter Audience Award and Zach hopes to make festival rounds in the coming year.

View From A Pedal Buggy is a winning profile of a maverick spirit that will speak to every insubordinate soul who watches it; they will smile with identification. I know I did! "It's a really good feeling to ride down the street on something you built yourself, especially if it turns other people's heads," Allen says in voiceover as Voss's camera explores Allen's cluttered workshop and films over his shoulder as he rides through the streets of Boise, Idaho. "It's a wonderful ride. It's like having a saddle on a butterfly."

Addressing what he perceived as the "problem" of the bicycle—basically, that it's "upside down and backwards"—Allen elected to apply his engineering skills to redesigning this popular form of wheeled transport, incorporating a sense of leisure and comfort obviated by the introduction of Lincoln's V-8 engine in 1931, which sent a wheeling populace—in Allen's humble opinion—"in the wrong direction as fast as that V-8 engine will take us ever since." Allen appeals to a sense of "undivided attention" during the act of transportation, slowing down enough to process what is going on around you. He cautions against a world rushing too quickly towards the future.

Allen became a wood carver as a child, dropped out of high school, and took welding courses in which he excelled, paving the way for a job in the machine shop at Argonne Laboratories; but—because he didn't fit well into a corporate structure—shortly thereafter he became self-employed. Describing himself as "a more-successful-than-usual crackpot inventor", this reviewer sees him as an ecological pioneer whose seeming eccentricity belies brilliant ingenuity and a measured respect for humans in movement.

With crisp editing by Kyle Morck, and Daniel Kerr's deftly balanced re-recording mix of Transistor Send's music, Zach Voss's short film wheels along at a steady, enjoyable clip. Produced by Retroscope Media and partially funded by the Boise City Department of Art and History and the Idaho Film Office (now sadly dismantled by Governor Butch Otter's short-sighted administration), View From A Pedal Buggy—undeniably of local interest—nonetheless registers a wider appeal. The Evening Class wishes Zach Voss and Retroscope Media a good run.

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