Eske Willerslev with Marie Louise Jørkov, Department of Forensic Pathology,
Copenhagen University Panum, Blegdamsvej, Copenhagen, Denmark
Financing Pitch Deck for a Feature Length Documentary Film about
The Lundbeck Foundation GeoGenetics Centre
The Human Race
Thank you for the opportunity to present our idea for a documentary film about Professor Eske Willerslev and the Lundbeck Foundation GeoGenetics Centre. As someone who has become acquainted with Professor Eske Willerslev, The Lundbeck Foundation GeoGenetics Centre, and the staggering level of ambition of their research, we are excited and thankful to translate this first hand knowledge in this film.
This is our presentation to potential contributors — a so-called financing pitch deck for the film. Among many things, it introduces the storyline and world of the film, it outlines topics and cast — but first of all — it displays why we believe this project is important and relevant. We hope that this pitch deck will pique your interest and will make you consider becoming part of the project towards the realization of the film. If you have any further questions, you are always welcome to contact us.
A new window has been opened on to our past. Overthrowing old assumptions about humankind, ancient DNA extracted from teeth and bones is rewriting history bit by bit. The Human Race is a feature length documentary film about a monumental mission: Under the direction of world renowned professor Eske Willerslev, the Lundbeck Foundation GeoGenetics Centre have set out to map the complete DNA blueprint of 5,000 prehistoric human beings in order to acquire knowledge about brain disorders. As the DNA library steadily grows, the group of scientists realize that a whole new insight into the story of humankind and human diseases are slowly unfolding before their eyes.
2. Film Pilot
This film pilot — sizzle reel — is made with the intention to express our goals and overall tone of the proposed feature length documentary film. The sizzle reel for 'The Human Race' is a four minute pilot summation of (1) the logline of the film and its main plot points, (2) narrative and artistic approach, (3) direction, sound and cinematography, and (4) introduction to the main character, professor Eske Willerslev.
In a race against time, an international team of researchers embark on a monumental mission: To build a library of nature’s complete genetic blueprint through the history of man in order to acquire knowledge about brain disorders.
4. Synopsis / Brief Project Summary
A Monumental Mission. This feature-length documentary film (+80 min) invites the audience on an eye opening journey into the lives of the scientists who have made it their mission to find and unlock the black box that could conceivably rewrite history of mankind. The team of scientists are looking for answers to questions archaeologists, anthropologists and linguists have wrestled with for decades. As a technological revolution enables them to extract ancient DNA (aDNA) from human bones found by archeologists at excavation sites, stories about the past are continuously reshaped or rewritten altogether. Filmed in a number of relevant locations — from the research laboratories of the the Lundbeck Foundation GeoGenetics Centre in Copenhagen, the lavish halls of the University of Cambridge, natural history museums, and the archaeological sites where bones from human beings originating from as far back as 10,000 years ago has been dug out — 'The Human Race' — is a documentary film that pulls back the curtain on the story of an unprecedented project: To build a library of nature’s complete genetic blueprint through the history of man. Under the direction of world renowned professor Eske Willerslev, the group is working against the clock to determine the complete set of genetic information of 5,000 prehistoric human beings who lived between 10,000 years ago and 1850 AD.
5. Topics Summary & Cast
This project is important, timely and relevant for many reasons. The Lundbeck Foundation GeoGenetics Centre addresses some of the most fundamental questions: What DNA have we—modern humans—inherited from prehistoric human beings? Where does neurological diseases and psychiatric disorders come from? How can we characterize the evolutionary paths and processes, which led to the genetic architecture of brain disorders? With each ancient genetic sequence, scientists learn new information about human traits and common diseases in contemporary humans, as well as the violence of infectious pathogens. In many cases, this will overturn theories and resolve age-old debates. Consequently, filming for the documentary film can not be postponed for too long, as sequencing of ancient bones is initiated and results are produced continuously. In order to delve into the genetic history of brain disorders, Eske Willerslev, Thomas Werge and Rasmus Nielsen will work with colleagues from the UK and the USA to perform complete DNA mapping – sequencing – of a total of 5,000 human beings who lived between 10,000 years ago and 1850 AD. This means that the oldest samples originate from as far back as the Palaeolithic Age. The genetic material comes from bones and teeth – typically, material stored in archaeological collections in museums – and the DNA stems from both Europe and western Asia.
The Lundbeck Foundation GeoGenetics Centre is collaborating with Illumina, an American producer of DNA sequencing equipment. This has unleashed the process of sequencing ancient genomes. Illumina’s equipment is able to supply heaps of additional engine power. One of the brain disorders Eske Willerslev, Thomas Werge and Rasmus Nielsen will be studying while their extensive library of ancient DNA profiles is growing is CADASIL. This is a rare, hereditary disease which, today, is untreatable. There are estimated to be between 120 and 300 sufferers in Denmark.The centre will establish a previously unprecedented research platform of three large-scale genomic panels generated from ancient human remains and sediments. These panels will hopefully give us answers to questions such as: Where do neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's and psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and ADHD come from?
The cultural and social relevance is evident: Ancient DNA has moved beyond esoteric science and into the center of everyday conversations about identity, health, culture and politics. Although it is the DNA of ancient peoples being studied, the information obtained is having an impact on the lives of living people.
'The Human Race' revolves around a wide range of topics. However, the primary focus is on how outstanding research contributes to better world. The film is about a team of exceptional researchers within the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. Their research makes the world smarter, enables us to rethink who we are and how we are all connected, they helps us to address global challenges and benefits society. Underlying themes and topics of the film:
One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide. In many ways, brain disorders remain a scientific enigma, but ancient DNA analyses can provide insight into the evolutionary history of human diseases. A primary goal is to unlock the vault of knowledge about mental illness and thereby contributing to ground-breaking new approaches to the development of medicines and other treatments. The aim of the analyses is to glean new knowledge about brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, ADHD, schizophrenia, and CADASIL. In order to delve into the genetic history of brain disorders, Eske Willerslev, Thomas Werge and Rasmus Nielsen will work with colleagues from the UK and the USA.
Suggested cast to be interviewed with a special focus on the above topics:
Prof. Eske Willerslev is head of the Lundbeck Foundation GeoGenetics Centre and holds a Lundbeck Foundation Professorship at University of Copenhagen
Prof. Thomas Werge works at UCPH and the Mental Health Services, Capital Region of Denmark, and he is an expert in the genetics underlying psychiatric and neurological disorders.
Rasmus Nielsen is an expert in biostatistics and a professor at both UCPH and the University of California, Berkeley, USA.
Andrew Schork is Research Leader at Institute of Biological Psychiatry (IBP), Mental Health Services, Sct. Hans, Roskilde.
Representative(s) from the The Lundbeck Foundation
6. Lead Character
The Protagonist. Eske Willerslev (born 5 June 1971) is a Danish evolutionary geneticist notable for his pioneering work in molecular anthropology, palaeontology, and ecology. He currently holds the Prince Philip Professorship in Ecology and Evolution at University of Cambridge, UK and the Lundbeck Foundation Professorship in Evolution at Copenhagen University, Denmark. He is director of the Lundbeck Foundation GeoGenetics Centre, a research associate at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, and a professorial fellow at St John's College, Cambridge. Willerslev is a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences (US) and The Danish Council on Ethics. In 2010, a team led by Willerslev sequenced the genome of a 4,000-year-old man from the Saqqaq culture of Greenland from his hair. This was the first ancient human genome to be sequenced.
Eske Willerslev with Marie Louise Jørkov, Department of Forensic Pathology,
7. Personal Motivation
Cambridge University. When I was first introduced to the buzz surrounding Professor Willerslev and his 5,000 Ancient Humans Project, I immediately recognized the remarkable opportunity to capture a unique project at a pivotal moment in science history. It was in the summer of 2019. Organized by the Carlsberg Family, professor Willerslev was being interviewed by science journalist Lone Frank at The People's Democratic Festival on Bornholm. Producer, Jacob Levin Krogh, and I immediately decided to contact Professor Eske Willerslev to hear if our thoughts aligned with his. We were soon invited to a meeting in Eske Willerslev's office at the Natural History Museum in Copenhagen. We presented our thoughts about making a documentary. And fortunately, it took Eske Willerslev less than fifteen minutes to endorse our film project. And to our surprise, it did not take him fifteen minutes more to invite us to a 3-day workshop at Cambridge University with his team of 60 researchers. Initially, I was motivated to follow the project because of the monumental size and ambitions of a project that might rewrite big chunks of history of mankind. Willerslev and his team has established a completely new field of research within molecular biology and developed new methods that enable us to uncover information about our past that is hidden in ancient DNA. The groundbreaking research of Willerslev and his team on ancient humans addresses some of the greatest and most fundamental questions: Where do we come from? What DNA have we—modern humans—inherited from prehistoric human beings? However, during the workshop, I soon realized that the project also includes countless underlying themes and human stories of being human in this world, about friendship, passion, and outstanding talent. I am also motivated to follow Eske Willerslev as a character because of his creative process. He is a highly visionary, motivational and inspirational scientist and a great advocate for interdisciplinary research.
Simon de Tusch-Lec, Director
I especially hope that this project will help dispel some of the taboos and prejudices that surround brain disease.
8. Artistic Approach
Personal Storytelling. With a dedication to powerful storytelling and a state-of-the-art visual style it is our ambition to delve into the wonder of science simultaneously embracing the poetic narrative about passionate scientists who have dedicated their lives to research. The film team has an extensive experience with film projects that see storytelling as an integral element in advancing our joint mission. With more than fifteen years of experience in producing films that achieve high levels of community education, self-efficacy and beneficial behavior change, award-winning director Simon de Tusch-Lec aims for stories that have the power to motivate and inspire. Producer Jacob Levin Krogh ensures a high production value and a process where all competences and resources come into play in the best possible way. With our experienced and acclaimed cinematographer, Benjamin Kirk, DFF we ensure a strong and present visual expression. The visual style of 'The Human Race' is characterized by cinematic techniques contributing to a high-end production value: Wide-angled tableaus. Cinematic movements using dolly grip. Evocative, lyrical and sensuous sound design. Fascinating and exclusive locations. A distinctive color grade. Straight-to-camera interviews using a mirror box for an intimate and personal style. These artistic approaches can be seen in the sizzle reel in section 2.
9. Audience Engagement and Social Impact
Change. Documentary films can help fuel change and drive impact. 'The Human Race' operates at the intersection of the field of scientific communication and storytelling. The aim is to advance the use of film as a powerful tool to reach, engage and influence audiences. Using creative storytelling, documentary techniques and innovative artistic approaches, the documentary film will be working on making an impact. We look for a social return on investment. Personal stories of being human in this world, told through talent, passion, dreams and experience will enable us to produce an engaging and inspiring documentary film that leaves a lasting impression. Audience Engagement is a strategy designed to activate audiences and constituencies toward a specific goal.
It is our aim with this documentary film
1. to increase awareness in the field of neuroscience, neurological diseases and treatment
2. to present and disseminate the research and results of the Lundbeck GeoGenetics Centre
3. to counteract prejudices and taboos about mental illness and brain diseases
4. to convey the importance of scientific research contributes to a positive societal change
5. to show how a interdisciplinary group of researchers is shaping the future of treatment of brain diseases
6. to inspire the next generation of scientists with a special focus on girls and young women
7. to counteract fake news
8. to attract young scientist from all over the world to Denmark
9. to convey the importance of interdisciplinary cooperation
10. to contribute to a scientifically literate society
As this film will be suited for social engagement, we aim for viewers to take action after seeing our film. Potential activities could include organizational partnerships, educational guides, targeted stakeholder/community screenings, social media strategies, multi-platform activity, or social change campaigns.
I very much hope that this film about our work at Lundbeck Foundation GeoGenetics Centre can find financial support. A film about the Centre will raise awareness of the importance of ancient DNA and research into the brain. The film will help us document our findings as they come and will allow us to reach a broad audience with the message of how important it is to create more knowledge about the diseases that affect the brain.
Intended Audience. When looking for a social return on investment, it is absolutely crucial that we know exactly which target groups we want to reach. Based on the aim of the documentary film, described in section 9, the intended audiences are (1) the broad population and (2) the group of girls/young women who can potentially choose an educational and career path in science.
1. A Broad Audience. This film tells a universal story and caters to a broad national and international audience. There are a number of smaller audiences that may have particular interest in the film's subject. However, to activate audiences and constituencies toward the goals described in section 9, it is absolutely crucial that the film does not only cater to esoteric groups with prior interest in and knowledge of the subject. This orientation towards a very large group is of great importance both for how the film communicates and how the distribution plan is organized.
The focus on targeting the film to a broad audience — that does not have prior knowledge of the topic — is of great importance to how it communicates the topic. Particular emphasis will be placed on the film having the power to fascinate and entertain. There is also a focus on the didactic elements, where important concepts must be conveyed in a way that is understandable for most. Both the creative team and the cast have been selected based on their skills to educate, engage and influence audiences.
2. Girls/Young Women. We stand to gain a lot by exposing young girls to STEM fields and encouraging those who are interested to follow their hearts and minds. Simply focusing attention on one age group cannot cure all societal issues that influence career choices among females. Correcting the negative perceptions that girls develop at a young age can, however, lead them to embrace science when they reach high school. In this context representation of young women in a film such as The Human Race is essential. This goal is reflected in our casting for the film, where we will present a large number of female PhD-students affiliated with the center. See section 5. These interviews will also be spread on social media targeted this target audience (Girls/Women 13-17 years of age) to achieve optimum effect.
Age. We aim for film with appeal to young people all the way down to the age of 13.
Maria Madrona, Research bioanalyst at Lundbeck Foundation GeoGenetic Centre, Globe Institute
Copenhagen University, Øster Farimagsgade, Copenhagen, Denmark
Inclusion. To make 'The Human Race' available for people with hearing problems, captions will be included. In order to make distribution in other countries possible, subtitles in 15 different languages will be made. In case of interviewees with heavy accents, subtitles will clarify what is being said.
12. Interactive Elements
Engagement and Reach: The project will be enhanced through multi-platform and ancillary elements. Nine short film portraits (2 min.) of the cast will be excerpted from the long documentary. This film format has proven to be ideal for sharing on social media. These personal testimonies are aimed at presenting trustworthy and relatable stories. This format is suitable for sharing from partner and sponsor's social platforms and for disseminating via partners. In addition, we wish to generate social engagement by creatively harnessing the technological innovations of Voices of Europe; a social network and mobile application. Read more, www.voicesof.eu/community.
Seven of these films will be specifically targeted girls and young women. Each of these seven films portrays a passionate researcher in Professor Eske Willerslev’s team at the Lundbeck GeoGenetics Centre, thus drawing a specific and detailed picture of what a career in science can look like. We primarily wish to cast inspirational young women who have the strength to motivate and empower our target audience. At the same time, the casting will ensure ‘representation’ and will counteract the misconceptions that science applies to boys and men. To break down stereotypes, these films offer a voice to the women in the team to and in that way become role-models for girls and young women who potentially could choose STEM. The length of the films, dramaturgy etc. is tailored to the media used by the target audience: Social media platforms such as Instagram. Please, go to section 5 to the cast.
This film will give a voice to our young researchers and help inspire the next generation of scientists.
13. Distribution Strategies
Distribution and Marketing Strategy. Film festivals are at the top of the list for jumpstarting the process of distributing the film. Film festivals are a great way to get exposure for the film, building a buzz and creating a lever for disseminating PR-stories. It’s a golden age for documentaries. This is primarily due to streaming services like Netflix. Our goal is to partner up with Netflix or a similar streaming service for the purpose of achieving a tremendous international reach. We will draw on social media to advertise the film and tease with above mentioned short films. We will use the Facebook marketing tools, enabling us to target groups in society we particularly want to reach.
Digital distribution of documentary films, through download and streaming, is rapidly becoming the standard method for distribution. We plan to release 'The Human Race' on a major digital distribution platform (Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, Hulu, Pure Flix, RightNow Media, Google Play). We have budgeted for the initial cost to establish distribution these platforms. However, possible distribution contracts may be negotiated, which would offset this cost.
14. Details / Executive Summary
Title: The Human Race
Subtitle: How a Genetic Revolution is Rewriting Human Evolution
Production Companies: Voices of Europe in Association with Move Copenhagen
Length: Feature Film / 80-90 minutes
Genre: Documentary Film
Total Cost of Production: DKK 2.995.000 (USD 491.460)
Scheduled Release Date: April, 2023
Filming Locations: Copenhagen and Roskilde, Denmark,
Cambridge, United Kingdom, among other locations.
15. Key Personnel
Director: Simon de Tusch-Lec
Producer: Jacob Levin Krogh
Director of Photography: Benjamin Kirk Nielsen, DFF
Script & Creative Consultant: Andreas Kofoed
Editor: Rasmus Stensgaard Madsen
Composer: Sergey Cheremisinov
Colorist: Kai Ivanovic
Executive Producers: Jacob Levin Krogh & Simon de Tusch-Lec
16. Advisory Board
Mikkel Winther Pedersen
17. Credited Cast
Prof. Eske Willerslev
Prof. Kristian Kristiansen
Prof. Thomas Werge
Dr. Fernando Racimo
Alba Refoyo Martinez
Prof. David J. Meltzer
Marie Louise Jørkov, Ph.D.
Dr. Mikkel Winther Pedersen
Tina Blumensaadt Brand
Dr. José Victor Moreno Mayar
Dr. Morten Allentoft
Lasse Vinner, Ph.D.
Lasse Folkerssen, Ph.D.
Andrew Schork, Ph.D.
Dr. Martin Sikora
Fabrice Demeter, Ph.D.
18. Knowledge Partners
Lundbeck Foundation GeoGenetics Centre, Globe Institute, University of Copenhagen
The Research Institute of Biological Psychiatry, Psychiatric Hospital of Sct. Hans - affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Copenhagen, and representing one of the six partners in the major iPSYCH Initiative (Lundbeck Foundation’s Initiative for Integrative Psychiatric Research) – the world’s largest psychiatric research project.
The Department of Historical Studies, University of Gothenburg
Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen
National Museum of Denmark
19. Network Partners
Astra, National Science Center, Denmark
Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies, Aarhus University
The Saxo Institute, University of Copenhagen
Anthropologist Association, Denmark
The Association of Archaeologists, Denmark
Tina Blumensaadt Brand, Laboratory technician at Lundbeck Foundation GeoGenetic Centre, GLOBE Institute, Øster Voldgade, Copenhagen, Denmark
20. Production Companies
Voices of Europe & Move Copenhagen
21. About Voices of Europe
Voices of Europe is a Danish non-profit organization established to strengthen civic and democratic participation through intercultural dialogue across Europe.
Voices of Europe uses new media and documentary films to raise awareness of environmental and social issues, actively involve citizens and strengthen common values and prospects across Europe. One of three action areas is: Science communication. The mission of Voices of Europe is to present outstanding and talented researchers and to communicate and disseminate their work within the natural sciences, social sciences or humanities. False news is harmful to societies. It makes the world less informed, and it erodes trust. Voices of Europe is committed to disseminating evidence-based information and collaborating with news organizations and educational institutions to develop products, providing tools and services to counteract fake news and to disseminate science.
Prof. Eske Willerslev
Prof. Noemi Katznelson
Martin Sønderlev Christensen
Thomas Wiben Jensen
Mette Margrethe Elf
Kirstine Føge Jensen
22. About Move Copenhagen
Move Copenhagen is a creatively driven production company. Move Copenhagen advance the use of film as a powerful tool to reach, engage and influence audiences. Move Copenhagen shape stories, provide production and distribution and create strategies for outreach and engagement. With non-profit organizations, funders, businesses and social entrepreneurs, Move Copenhagen work on projects that see storytelling as an integral element in advancing our joint mission. Move Copenhagen produce and distribute documentary films and new media products used in schools, social networks, public cinemas and brought to citizens at large through our growing network. Move Copenhagen is a creative agency promoting worthy causes. Somewhere between social marketing and social entrepreneurship we use creativity and innovation as a force for good. Our goal is to improve society by producing documentary films and creative advertising campaigns that achieve high levels of community education, self-efficacy and beneficial behavior change. We produce and distribute documentary films and new media products used in schools, social networks, public cinemas and brought to citizens at large through our growing network. Documentaries can help fuel change or can be incorporated into larger established campaigns to drive impact. We work at the intersection of storytelling and social change. We advance the use of film as a powerful tool to reach, engage and influence audiences. We shape stories, provide production and distribution and create strategies for outreach and engagement. With non-profit organizations, funders, businesses and social entrepreneurs, we work on projects that see storytelling as an integral element in advancing our joint mission.
Private Investment: Secured
Locking Shooting Script
Hiring Key Department Heads
Breaking Down Script
Storyboard and Shot List
Scouting and Securing Locations
Casting and Hiring Crew
Getting Permits and Insurance
Scheduling Shoot Days
Arranging for Equipment Rentals
Director of Photography
Equipment & Insurance
Sound editing — ADR and Foley
Music: Composing and Producing
Titles, credits, and graphics
Trailer and distribution materials
Total Production Cost (DKK ex. VAT)
Remaining amount to be raised (DKK ex. VAT)
25. Funding to Date
Funding. All sources and amounts raised to date distinguished between potential sources of funding and secured amounts. Status of other sources of funding currently under consideration, whether to be applied for or pending:
Private Investment: DKK 375.000 Secured
Move Copenhagen: DKK 300.000
Voices of Europe: DKK 75.000
26. Thank You
Thank you for the opportunity to present our idea for a feature film about Professor Eske Willerslev and the Lundbeck Foundation GeoGenetics Centre. We hope that this pitch deck has piqued your interest and you will give us the opportunity to present the ideas at a meeting. We are confident that a collaboration will enable us to fully elevate the idea and we hope you will consider financial support for the project.
27. Contact Information
Jacob Levin Krogh
Producer & Partner
Telephone +45 27281952
2200 København N
28. Links, References and Litterature
Agency for Science and Higher Education, ’Mænd og kvinder på de danske universiteter – Danmarks talentbarometer 2017’, 2017 [Accessed March 1, 2020].
Good, J. W. J. &. W. L., ’The Effects of Gender Stereotypic and Counter-StereotypicTextbook Images on Science Performance’ in The Journal of Social Psychology, 2010.
Fjord Jørgensen, M. et. al., ’Putting the spotlight on STEM possibilities for youths in Denmark. Does gender play a role in developing youths’ interest in STEM?”, The Think Tank DEA, Copenhagen, February 2019
Krogsgaard-Larsen, P., Thostrup, P. & Besenbacher, F., ’Scientific Social Responsibility: A Call to Arms’, Journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition, Volume 50, Issue number 46, 11.11.11
Lundbeck Foundation, ‘Danske forskere vil spore hjerne-blodpropper 10.000 år tilbage’ [Accessed March 1, 2020].
Riis Andersen, J., Besenbacher, F. et. al, ’Bridging the talent gap in Denmark Insights from female representation in STEM’, McKinsey&Company, Innovation Fund Denmark, October 2018
Shapiro, J. R. & Williams, A. M., ‘The Role of Stereotype Threats in Undermining Girls’ and Women’s Performance and Interest in STEM Fields. Sex Roles,’ 2012 66(3-4), p. 175-183.
Zimmer, C., ’Eske Willerslev Is Rewriting History With DNA’, The New York Times [Accessed March 1, 2020].