THE HUMAN RACE

Financing Pitch Deck for a Feature Length Documentary Film on
How a Genetic Revolution is Rewriting Human Evolution

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: In a race against time, an international research team have set out to map the complete DNA blueprint of 5,000 prehistoric human beings. 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. The Human Race is also a personal story about professor Eske Willerslev and his goal of making his mark on human history and the future of the human race. However, in his relentless attempt to reach his goal, Eske Willerslev gets swirled into the political, ethical and existential tangle his work creates.

1. Pitch Reel (3 min)

2. Logline

In his relentless attempt to build a library of the complete genetic blueprint of the human race, a famous professor gets swirled into the political, ethical and existential tangle his work creates.

3. Tagline

When examining the past you never know what you will find.

4. Brief Project Summary

Under the direction of world renowned professor Eske Willerslev, 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. As the DNA library steadily grows, the group of scientists realize that a whole new insight into the story of humankind is slowly unfolding before their eyes.

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 countries all over the world—from the research laboratories of the 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.

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Eske Willerslev
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Move Copenhagen

5. Focal points and Cast

The focal points of the film are suggested by the multiple meanings of the title — The Human Race:

1. The struggle to survive and adapt has been a race over the many thousands of years man has existed. Evolution has adapted humans to extreme physiological conditions (divers, mountaineers and arctic peoples). This struggle to survive through the ages, has probably also required adaptations of the brain

2. For decades, different scientific disciplines have tried to understand this evolutionary elimination race. They have raced with each other to answer contentious questions and to dominate the narrative. Today — to a certain extent — collaboration across disciplines has replaced the race between disciplines. However, the race between disciplines has instead been replaced by a race between different interdisciplinary research groups in different parts of the world.

3. The title also refers to the personal race in the competitive world of research. Competition in science promotes a drive within the scientific community to excel. However, there is often a price to pay on a personal level.

Eske Willerslev

Eske Willerslev is not exactly how one imagines a scientist in the world elite. As a boy growing up in Denmark, Eske Willerslev could not wait to leave Gentofte, his suburban hometown. In his youth he was at odds with the law, he was dyslectic, and he struggled academically. As soon as he was old enough, he would strike out for the Arctic wilderness with his twin brother Rane. Eske Willerslev is one of the early pioneers of the study of ancient DNA, and today he remains at the forefront of an increasingly competitive field. His colleagues credit his success to his relentless work and to his skill at building international networks of collaborators. Eske Willerslev led the first successful sequencing of an ancient human genome. His research on a 24,000-year-old Siberian skeleton revealed an unexpected connection between Europeans and Native Americans. At the age of 33, Willerslev became Full Professor at University of Copenhagen – the youngest in Denmark at the time. He is a member of The Adventurers’ Club and has led expeditions to amongst others Siberia and Greenland as well as lived as both a fur trapper and a native indian. He has held a number of prestigious professorships and been awarded numerous awards, including the Rosenkjær Award and the Genius Award from Danish Science Journalists for “an impressive array of research successes in the public eye, combined with a unique tour-de-force through university”. He is one of the few scientists that has succeeded in approaching and being accepted by several of the World’s indigenous peoples, which even led to the adoption into the Native American Crow-tribe under the indian name of “Well-Known Wolf“.

Thomas Werge

Competitive, easily bored and curious are words that describe the nature of Professor Thomas Werge. Back in the 80s, Thomas graduated as a biochemist and molecular biologist from the University of Copenhagen. However, biology bored Thomas while studying so he studied philosophy simultaneously. His studies took him to the Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, and when he graduated, a mixture of restlessness and ambition drove him to Italy, where he became part of the neurologist Rita Levi-Montalcini’s group the year after she received the Nobel Prize in Medicine. Today, Thomas is head of the Research Institute for Biological Psychiatry at the Psychiatric Center Sct. Hans. Thomas Werge’s academic breakthrough came in 2008. At the same time as Eske Willerslev mapped the first genome from a dead human, Thomas demonstrated that some very specific genetic mutations predispose to schizophrenia. This was a research breakthrough published in Nature. Knowledge that schizophrenia is a hereditary disease had existed for many years, but this study was the first to prove the theory and point to very specific disease mutations in our genome, and thus opened up completely new approaches to the treatment of the disease.

Svante Pääbo

Swedish geneticist and one of the pioneers of aDNA. Eske Willerslev raced against Svante Päabo to become the first to sequence an ancient genome. Reaching the finish line three months prior to Svante, Eske won the race. Eske could have reached the finish line a year and a half earlier if only he had had more money and if the people at the Danish National Museum had told Eske about the Inuk’s hair. Svante has always been considered more privileged than Eske Willerslev. His father was a Nobel Prize winner, and Svante has had access to the best samples. Svante is the director of the Department of Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany — a main competitor to the Eske Willerslev’s Centre.

Rane Willerslev

Rane Willerslev is Eske’s monozygotic twin brother. They may have perfectly identical DNA and most definitely almost identical DNA. Rane and Eske’s father was born in 1916.  Their upbringing was very old-fashioned. The father set up competitions between the boys. Obstacle courses and various physical competitions. He set up beds in the garden for them to crawl under and out of. The twins had knives and rifles, they shot each other with. Their father gave them tobacco so they could learn to smoke. Rane and Eske were very close as children. They did their first expeditions to Siberia together. But then came a period of 15 years in which they needed to separate from each other. And they started to ‘race’ against each other. This time it was an academic race. The competitive spirit and winning mentality of the brothers was created by their father. Eske believes that the competitive upbringing has been unhealthy for their relationship. The boys’ competitions, set up by their father in a desolate farm, is where it all starts. Rane Willerslev is professor in Anthropology. In his academic career, he has travelled extensively and has a particular interest in primitive tribal cultures, both present and prehistoric. On 1 July 2017, he was appointed director of the National Museum of Denmark. However, Eske and Rane are no longer competing on an academic level. Rane stopped his academic career in 2017 after feeling burned out. It can be argued that Eske Willerslev has won the race against his twin brother.

6. Relevance & Importance

Who are we and how did we get here? This project is important, timely and relevant for many reasons. Few subjects fascinate us as much as human origins. The 5,000 Genome Project addresses some of the most fundamental questions: Where do we come from? How did we get here? What DNA have we—modern humans—inherited from prehistoric human beings? Where do neurological diseases and psychiatric disorders come from? With each ancient genetic sequence, scientists learn new information about how ancient people moved around and interacted in the ancient world and about their health. In many cases, this has helped overturn theories and resolve age-old debates. In other words, the genomes of the long dead are turning up all sorts of unexpected and controversial findings, laying out bombs into the halls of established wisdom and generating facts about who we are and how we got here. 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.

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. Their research makes the world smarter, enables us to rethink who we are and how we are all connected, they help us to address global challenges and benefit society by dispel some of the taboos and prejudices that surround neurological diseases and psychiatric disorders.

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Move Copenhagen

7. Director’s Personal Motivation

When I was first introduced to the buzz surrounding Professor Eske 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 Eske 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 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 film. And to our surprise, it took Eske Willerslev less than fifteen minutes to get on board with idea of making a film about his project. 15 minutes later on he had invited 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. Eske 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 and Thomas Werge as characters because of their creative process. They are highly visionary, motivational and inspirational scientists and great advocates for interdisciplinary research.

8. Audience Engagement and Social Impact

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 show how a interdisciplinary group of researchers is rewriting history of the human race
2. to convey the importance of scientific research contributes to a positive societal change
3. to inspire the next generation of scientists with a special focus on girls and young women
4. to counteract fake news
5. to counteract prejudices and taboos about mental illness and brain diseases
6. 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.

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9. 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. The visual style of The Human Race is characterized by cinematic techniques contributing to a high-end production value: Wide-angled tableaus. Cinematic movements. Evocative, lyrical and sensuous sound design. Fascinating and exclusive locations. A distinctive colour grade. Straight-to-camera interviews for an intimate and personal style.

10. Our Team

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 produces and distributes 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 behaviour 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.

 

Director: With more than fifteen years of experience in producing films that achieve high levels of community edu­ca­tion, self-efficacy and beneficial behaviour change, award-winning director Simon de Tusch-Lec focuses on universal stories about human beings and aims for stories that have the power to motivate and inspire. Read more.

Producer: Jacob Levin Krogh has a massive experience in cre­ating partnerships across sectors and disciplines. Jacob Levin Krogh was involved from the very beginning and was one of the main forces behind the establishment of the film festival CPH: DOX. He ensures a high production value and a process where all competences and resources come into play in the best possible way.

Cinematographer: Benjamin Kirk is a graduate from the MFA Cinematography program at the AFI Conservatory. His Thesis film “Slut” earned him an award for “Best Cinematography” at the 2015 Hollyshorts Film Festival while “29” was awarded a Danish Academy Award. Benjamin Kirk has been admitted to the Danish Society of Cinematographers and is working on feature length films, TV-series and commercials all over the world. Read more.

Script & Creative Consultant: Andreas Kofoed has been directing documentaries since 2001, focusing on universal stories of human existence. His films have won awards at numerous festivals, including Tribeca, Silverdocs, Full Frame, Sheffield Doc / Fest, Nordic Panorama and CPH: DOX. Read more.

Executive Producer: Kirstine Barfod received an EMMY, a Cinema Eye award for Outstanding Achievement in Production, and a 2020 Academy Award nomination for producing THE CAVE, directed by Oscar-nominated director Feras Fayyad (LAST MEN IN ALEPPO). She has produced and co-produced a dozen feature documentaries, documentary series, including IBRAHIM, THE MAGIC LIFE OF V, and REUNITED. She has been a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 2019. Read more.

For more information about the team go to www.movecph.com

11. Intended Audience

This film caters to the wider international audience. We wish to convey the story of the film in an understandable manner (14+ audience).

12. Distribution, Outreach and Marketing Strategies

We are aiming for a comprehensive, global festival run, followed by Nordic, European and North American broadcast and networks distribution.

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. We will draw on social media to advertise the film and tease with short films. We will use the Facebook marketing tools, enabling us to target groups in society we particularly want to reach.

Our target audience includes those with an interest in science, evolution, and human existence more generally. But while foreign-language documentaries are often limited to niche audiences, we are confident that The Human Race — a character-driven science film — can achieve broader appeal. Ultimately this is a film about passion, human existence, and perseverance, a universal theme we believe will engage a wider documentary audience worldwide. The critical success of recent international documentaries centered on important issues proves films like this can thrive in the global market.

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Move Copenhagen
Move Copenhagen
Move Copenhagen

13. Knowledge Partners

Section for Geogenetics, Globe Institute, University of Copenhagen
The Department of Historical Studies, University of Gothenburg
Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen
National Museum of Denmark

14. 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

15. Key Personnel

Director: Simon de Tusch-Lec
Producer: Jacob Levin Krogh
Director of Photography: Benjamin Kirk, DFF
Script & Creative Consultant: Andreas Kofoed
Production Consultant: Kirstine Barfod
Editor: Rasmus Stensgaard Madsen
Composer: Sergey Cheremisinov
Colorist: Kai Ivanovic
Executive Producers: Jacob Levin Krogh, Benjamin Kirk,
Simon de Tusch-Lec & Kirstine Barfod

16. Production Timeline

PRE-PRODUCTION: Summer 2019/Fall 2021
PRODUCTION:
Winter 2022/Summer 2022
POST-PRODUCTION: Fall 2022
ROUGH CUT: Winter 2023
PICTURE LOCK: Winter 2023
RELEASE: Spring 2023

The Human Race
Move Copenhagen
Move Copenhagen

17. Details

Title: The Human Race
Subtitle: How a Genetic Revolution is Rewriting Human Evolution
Production Company: Move Copenhagen
Genre: Documentary
Length: 80-90 minutes
Scheduled Release Date: March 1, 2023
Country: Denmark
Language: English/Danish
Filming Locations: Copenhagen, Denmark,
Cambridge, UK
Los Angeles, California, USA and more.

18. Pitch Reel (14 min)

19. Selected Scenes

20. Contact Information

Jacob Levin Krogh
Producer & Partner

+45 27281952
jacob@movecph.com
movecph.com
voicesof.eu

Move Copenhagen
Birkegade 25
2200 København N

Thank you for the opportunity to present our idea for a feature film about Professor Eske Willerslev and the 5.000 Genome Project. 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.