Scout: A Sci-Fi Film

Director Derek Conkins plans on filming his movie ‘Scout,’ once he finishes this semester. Photo by Jason Stilgebouer.

Santa Fe University of Art and Design Film senior Derek Conkins first had the idea for his film Scout up in the Santa Fe mountains with his sister. They were listening to “Woods” by Bon Iver, while Conkins ran through his mind “thoughts of film to shoot for a class.” A huge sci-fi fan, Conkin was thinking about robots, and because the Bon Iver song was sad, he began imagining a stranded robot. And Scout was born. 

Scout tells the story of the military robot Scout 83 and his human soldier counterpart Sarah, both sent into Russia to retrieve classified data files. Scout is unable to speak in the film; however, he still shows emotion while in Sarah’s company.  

Conkins hopes to portray Scout in a way similar to the robot in The Iron Giant, who can’t talk at first, but slowly begins to learn and show more human responses.  

“I’ve always liked the concept of a robot that can’t talk. It’s the expression through what they express through their bodies, that’s what I like,” Conkins says.  

However, the film Scout follows quite a different path from The Iron Giant. Scout 83 and Sarah struggle throughout to reach the extraction point in the Russian Outback where they are stranded. They subsequently come to battle a superior Russian robot, costing Sarah’s life in the process. Whereas The Iron Giant becomes more human, Scout 83 does not.  

“It’s the whole theme that we’ve had where it’s like, ‘don’t lose your humanity over the loss of a loved one,’” Conkins says. “Because we see the relationship between Sarah and Scout earlier in the film and then when Sarah dies, he reverts back to a robot. You lose the human aspects of Scout.” 

The film was partially driven by Conkins’ own loss of a friend in high school. “I just want to spread that message: Even though someone is gone, you can keep pushing no matter what, but don’t lose yourself in the process.” 

Scout has been two years in the making. Pre-production began in 2016 but was postponed due to funding and communication issues. With SFUAD’s closure announcement last spring, Conkins chose to continue working on the film. It will be shot over three days, Dec. 15-17, and, if all goes as scheduled, will be completed by March 2018. 

Conkins wrote the script, is the production designer and is directing for the first time. “I will admit, I never want to direct after this film,” he says. “I’m excited to shoot and I really want to shoot it and I’m really excited, but I just never want to direct after this one…the stresses of being a director, it’s ridiculous. It’s overwhelming.” 

Nonetheless, production has been running smoothly. The cast and crew are currently practicing the fight scene between the Russian robot and Scout 83. Before shooting even begins, Conkins wants to make sure everyone on set is safe.  

“We don’t want someone tumbling down a hill or something like that. So we’re trying to make sure everyone is safe and they’re comfortable with each other, especially the actors and then the surroundings,” he says. 

The only thing currently preventing Scout from being shot is the permit for the site the crew wants in Bandelier National Park. Annabel Durst, Scout’s producer, says she’s on the phone daily with the park’s superintendent, trying to lock in the location and assuage concerns about the scene’s safety.  

Once the film is completed, Conkins and his crew hope to see it accepted into film festivals, such as Santa Fe Independent Film Festival and Sundance Film Festival. “I want to see where it goes,” Conkins says. “My fan base is basically sci-fi nerds.” Though, he adds later, “Everyone’s a little sci-fi nerd within them.” 

Durst encourages those who will see the film and hopes they will believe in the crew and the story as much as she has. “I want people in the industry to recognize that these young filmmakers came together and told a beautiful story,” she says.