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A fresh documentary short exploring the surprising ways the beauty and wonder of mathematics manifests in nature.
71 backers pledged £5,835 to help bring this project to life.

About

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Many people believe that mathematics and science somehow detract from the beauty of nature. We respectfully disagree – for science has shown that nature is mathematics and mathematics nature. With the right kind of eyes, flowers are no longer just flowers and stars are no longer just stars. Rather than subtract, science and mathematics provide an extra dimension to appreciate the beauty of nature: a new kind of aesthetic and a new kind of elegance. We're creating a film that offers everyone this wondrous new perspective: one that shares the spirit (if not the budget) of the new generation of Cosmos. Filmed with specialist equipment in studio and outdoor locations, this gorgeous film will be equally engaging to the uninitiated as it is to science enthusiasts and, most importantly, to the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Olga and Lawrence with Prof. Ian Stewart
Olga and Lawrence with Prof. Ian Stewart

We're not alone in this. We've been encouraged by and had consultations with many luminaries in the field, including Ian Stewart, the UK's premier populariser of mathematics; Douglas Hofstadter, author of the best-selling Gödel, Escher, Bach; Marc-Olivier Coppens, director of the new Centre for Nature Inspired Engineering at UCL and Oscar-winner James Marsh, director of Man on Wire and Project Nim (who has repeatedly reviewed our script and will contribute right through to the final cut).

We're here to ask you to add your name to this list. We've finished filming (and, yes, the footage gives us goosebumps!) but post-production is expensive and we're near the end of our student budget. Please, please help us by getting involved in something amazing. We're offering some quality, one-of-a-kind rewards in exchange for your pledge. Even if you're not in a position to contribute then anything you could do to spread the word would help this rarest of films – a beautiful, fun take on serious mathematics – to make its way out of the editing suite and onwards toward the festivals.

Please help us out in whatever way makes the most sense for you. If you’re interested, keep reading for more details.

And thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.

This film will all at once be arresting, unorthodox and accessible. We’re well aware that scientific documentaries can be yawn-inspiring as well as awe-inspiring. Our watchwords from day one were accessibility and engagement. We present serious subject matter in an irreverent, unexpected way – a David Lynch-inspired mini odyssey, influenced by Monty Python's Flying Circus (with a pinch of QI to keep it interesting).

Armed with his degree in Mathematics from Cambridge, our intrepid host Lawrence will guide us though this new world. A world filled with surprising commonalities between disparate phenomena: the distinctive tree structure in a head of broccoli could be a product of the same universal rules that create the extraordinary complexity of the capillaries in our lungs. The path of charged particles racing from sky to earth in milliseconds to form lightning could hint at the same universal constraints that guide the path of a river moving across a continent from mountain to sea over eons. Even the growth of our fingers mirrors the growth of our arms.

Our stylistic influences were eclectic, ranging from Seafield Head’s hyperchromatic Divertimento, to the excellent microscopic art of biochemist Linden Gledhill, to a certain off-the-wall promotional video made for Guinness in 1971.

Absolutely! Principal photography has wrapped, so we’ve finished filming. Despite the short film length, we chose three separate locations to keep a good tempo: an old anatomy theatre at a central London college, the Glasshouse at the Royal Horticultural Society Garden Wisley, and a verdant and lush outdoor location just off the LOOP (London Outer Orbital Path).

As we hinted in the intro, similarity in the face of wildly varying distances is one of the fascinating features of the world we wanted to highlight. We chose equipment that could accommodate these colossal changes of scale: a charming macro lens from the 1940s for those extreme close-ups, and an astounding 25-250mm Angénieux zoom lens, made by the same company that provided NASA with equipment for a number of their programs, including the Ranger program, Project Gemini, and Apollo, among others.

All this equipment worked beautifully to help us realise our vision, which included treating the humble broccoli like a Hollywood A-lister – meticulously lighting florets, leaves and stalks in a manner worthy of Marlene Dietrich. We pulled out all the stops, going for long takes (often employing the use of that insane Angénieux zoom lens), slow-motion, candle-lit scenes, dramatic zooms and smooth slider camera moves – all in an effort to be a cut above the standard science documentary. As well as the footage we shot ourselves, we have secured access to microscope footage from a microscopy expert who has worked with the BBC, and even more from a member of the National Centre for Scientific Research in France.

You can help by getting involved! We’re film students working on a very limited budget. We need your help – either through pledges or just by spreading the word to anyone you think might want to back this unique film. We can already see this documentary is going to be magical. We’re asking for your help to get us over the line in exchange for some great rewards – just check out the list on the right to see what you can get.

With your help we can pay for expensive archive footage (aerial shots are both necessary and eye-wateringly expensive), sound design, sound mixing, colour grading, transcoding, VFX, music composition, among others. It goes without saying that we are not taking any payment from the budget so every penny you pledge will go towards making a top-quality, relevant and necessary documentary as well as your exclusive reward.

If we don’t hit our target your credit card is not charged – and we’ll miss the chance to convey our excitement at the wonder and beauty of science to the world.

Once again, a hearty thank-you from the whole team for your support, your time and your consideration to back our project.

 A little information about the rewards

Olga is a professionally-experienced graphic designer with a first-class degree in print design. She would love nothing more than to express her profound gratitude and appreciation for your support by hand-crafting a piece of graphic art just for you. 

We'd like to clear up some terminology. First, we have photogram printing. Olga has chosen this cameraless print-making technique (unaffiliated example here) because she feels it emphasises the aesthetic beauty of nature's familiar shapes.

Next, we have Moiré patterns (demonstrated by the wonderful Roger Penrose here). These complex patterns emerge ghost-like from overlaying multiple transparencies printed with simpler patterns. They really have to be seen to be fully appreciated. Olga has some great ideas for using these patterns along with other materials to make a framed, interactive A3-scale art piece ready to hang on your wall.

Risks and challenges

By far the most risky part of making a film is production – you have multiple potential points of failure: locations, talent, equipment, crew. Time is always tight and any number of things can go wrong. We're lucky enough to have all this behind us.

That leaves minimal future risk. So far, the footage we've shot looks great but there is always the chance that the editing process will expose the need to reshoot some footage. We have just begun discussions with our VFX supervisor and there is the possibility that we may have to compromise on some of our planned effects. Lastly, composers are easy to come by but we haven't confirmed one as without our first rough cut we can't adequately specify our requirements. On top of this, there are the standard risks of working on an ambitious project with a small team – sickness and emergencies of a personal nature.

Most importantly, we are all film students and as such are heavily invested in this film. As this is Olga's graduation film, a failure here would mean that, as director, she would not only fail her London Film School Master's Degree but miss the opportunity to launch her career in innovative documentary film-making.

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    Pledge £2 or more About US$ 2.43

    A special thank-you from the production team on the Matter Patterns Facebook page.

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    The above plus an exclusive HD download of the film.

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    All of the above plus your very own DVD of the film.

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    A hand-numbered, limited-run "Contributor's Edition" of the DVD with packaging identifying the owner as a contributor to the project.

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    Pledge £50 or more About US$ 61

    All of the above plus an entry in the "With the Invaluable Support of" section of the credits along with a thank-you card designed and hand-written by the director.

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    Pledge £100 or more About US$ 122

    All of the above plus an exclusive "Associate Producer" credit with corresponding IMDB credit so your name can join the team on the world's biggest movie database.

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    Pledge £350 or more About US$ 425

    All of the above, including "Executive Producer" credit (with IMDB listing), plus a set of specially-commissioned illustrations inspired by the film's story.

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    Pledge £500 or more About US$ 608

    All of the above plus a personalised edition of the DVD featuring your name and "Executive Producer" credit on the front cover, along with a numbered, limited-run collection of unique photogram prints inspired by the film's story.

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    Pledge £750 or more About US$ 911

    All of the above plus a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have a summer picnic with a live Boa Constrictor Imperator snake (a friendly one, we promise!) and the team, who'll tell you all about how fantastic you are for helping us out.

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    Pledge £1,000 or more About US$ 1,215

    All of the above plus the following: a "Made Possible By <your name>" in the opening credits; an invitation to dinner and drinks at the director's home while you watch the first ever screening with the production team; and finally, a meticulously hand-crafted A3 art piece based on Moiré patterns created by the director.

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    Pledge £200 or more About US$ 243

    All of the above plus a coveted "Executive Producer" credit (with IMDB listing) along with a fun collection of action prints featuring the production team and the stars of the show, both human and horticultural!

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Funding period

- (30 days)