Robin -For this project, I worked with Georgina Cammalleri, a documentarian who filmed a research study involving the administration of the psychedelic drug LSD to twenty healthy human volunteers in the context of functional neuroimaging or ‘brain scanning’. This was the first LSD neuroimaging study of its sort ever to be conducted. The aim of the research is to discover how LSD works in the brain to produce its unusual psychological effects as this is presently not known. LSD is an extremely potent psychoactive drug that can alter the quality of consciousness in a dramatic way; some people describe an experience with LSD to be one of the most profound of the whole of their lives.
It is hoped that this research can inform our understanding of the relationship between consciousness and brain activity. Moreover, historical and recent evidence suggests that LSD may help to facilitate psychotherapy in the treatment of major psychiatric disorders and our neuroimaging work may give us new insights about how LSD can be therapeutically useful.
Georgina – I wanted to strike the right balance between an informative film and a film that delved into the thoughts and feelings of every person in the study, with the drug as the focus and central pull.
I was keen to convey a sense of a journey for the viewer which mirrors the journey of the volunteer during the trial on the drug. The volunteer is thought to “peak” during the MRI scan and so the film is also built to culminate at this point, then branches off into a space detached from its scientific setting to bring us closer to the perspective of the volunteer. It was important for me to show these two views: the one of the scientist leading the study, and the one of the volunteer and their subjective experience.
The film combines different filmic styles – from the actuality of what happens on the day; to the grainy footage of the volunteers’ intimate interviews; to the blue portraits. These all combine to give the viewer a rich and layered experience of the trial that feels all-encompassing.