"I studied A-level chemistry", says Thom, "and what I remember from that time were the weird and wonderful experiments. One of them was the Pharoah’s Serpent and I thought it would be great to get that in."
This idea prompted Thom and J-P to get in touch with the Royal Society of Chemistry, who in turn put them in touch with Dr Philip Parsons at Imperial College London, who allowed them to use his laboratory space, and supervised the chemical reactions during filming.
"He was just a wonderful man", said Thom and J-P. "He loved us going over there and he loved sharing his work with us. I think we rinsed his supply of mercury thiocyanate but he was happy to go for take after take."
Unfortunately the plan to use Pharoah’s Serpent hit a snag – the reaction was too hot for the camera sensor. However the team was able to successfully film the dying embers of the reaction and these appear in the latter half of the final video. "These became essential to play off the human elements so we’re pleased we captured it", say Thom and J-P.
Science and art
"It was a lovely day and it's nice to be invited into someone's professional world and be hosted as well as Dr Parsons and his team did. It was a great insight, and the material that we shot, although not used with its original intention, was still very useful. This is not unusual in filmmaking."
Thom and J-P explained that in their work they like to look at the photographic process in a scientific manner. "We aim to make something aesthetically beautiful but also try to show that these things are constructs, they are mediated, and in that translation you can perhaps touch on and unveil the natural world a little bit further."
"We're always looking for weird natural phenomena, and if we could use scientists and the scientific community to get safe access to those phenomena in future then we would definitely do it again. It’s rich pickings!"
Watch the video. See more from Thom and J-P