Storytelling Through the Periodic Table in Global Filmmaking Project '94 Elements'
It’s pretty typical to see a hard division between the sciences and the arts, with filmmaking sitting firmly in the second category. This despite all the science that goes into making all those shiny cameras, computers and software that keeps us all being creative, but what if there was an organic way to close the divide?
Mike Paterson, the filmmaker behind the Large Hadron Collider series of documentaries Colliding Particles, recently launched 94 Elements, a documentary project with chemistry woven into its very fabric. Using the periodic table of elements as a base, 94 Elements explores the very pertinent questions of consumption, sustainability and environment through the lens of the elements by commissioning directors to capture stories from around the world which document how we use the things we do, where they come from and how much we have left:
There are 94 naturally occurring elements, from Hydrogen to Plutonium. Together they make up everything in the world. The stories of the elements are intimately connected to the stories of our own lives. Everything we use and create is made from them. Our own bodies are mostly made from just 6 of the elements. They affect our lives in countless ways, and their stories reveal our relationship with our resources and the patterns of our economies.
Aside from the compelling trailer, 94 Elements has already posted four element films on the site: Sundance winner Nino Kirtadze takes on gadolinium in The Scan, Paterson covers copper in Acid and Dust and germanium in The Eye Clinic and to date for my money the most personal, yet universally relatable film covers the very air we breath in oxygen The Old Man and his Bed from Marc Isaacs:
Isaacs shot the oxygen themed film in a London Hospital ward that handled severe respiratory conditions, choosing that element because of its scope for a story which presented itself on a simple human scale. Of his production approach Isaacs says:
After a little consideration, I decided to shoot the film with Bob over one long night. I decided just to be there and experience something of his situation without any tricks, complicated structural considerations or big narrative ideas.
David Katznelson (cinematographer) myself and Guy stayed at Bob’s flat all night, sleeping in the room next door so we could shoot him waking up. As we packed our kit in the morning, Bob couldn’t thank us enough for taking an interest in him and his life.
Sometimes films come together quite simply without too much agonizing.
The project aims to capture stories for all 94 elements on film over the next few years, incorporating online, location and interactive elements as it does. And, as anyone who’s heard They Might Be Giants’ Meet The Elements knows, elements combine to make compounds, which is where 94 Elements opens up to existing film submissions in The Mix Lab such as Murray Fredericks’ ‘Salt’ entry.
Elements + compounds could equal a veritable mountain of periodic related films over the coming years. 94 Elements is currently on the tale end of an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for the next films in the series and last week held a pitch session at Sheffield Doc/Fest with teams vying for the chance to bring boron, tungsten, gold, francium and osmium to screen. The osmium pitch from Helmie Stil took the honours for a film that will look at fingerprinting in a Holland prison.
Is there an element or compound film you’d pitch/suggest to the project?
Link: 94 Elements