Creative Associates - still from Pseudotachylyte

How do we understand distant history and the future of earthquakes through the surface of landscape and through documentary film?

The black and white documentary film ‘Pseudotachylyte (54 min, 28 sec) portrays how scientists explore landscape; through the microscopic view of the world to an understanding of deep time.

In 2017, a team of international geo-scientists investigated the Arctic landscape of the Lofoten Islands in Norway in order to examine causes of earthquakes originating deep below earth’s surface. In an exceptionally well-preserved field site, this natural laboratory provides a rare ’window’ into these exposed rocks that were once deep below the surface of the earth and the ocean. The rocks formed more than 2 billion years ago, almost half the age of planet Earth.

Most earthquakes occur in the upper 20 km of the earth’s crust, where rocks are cold, brittle and elastic, and able to build up the tectonic stresses released in sudden earthquakes.

Below this depth, the lower crust is hotter and rocks there typically deform plastically and steadily, rarely accumulating enough stress for large earthquakes.

Despite this, some of the largest earthquakes initiate in the lower crust.

The aim of this expedition was to improve the understanding of these deeper and potentially devastating earthquakes by mapping out the fault zone network and assessing where and when geologically ancient earthquakes occurred.

Ultimately, information derived from these ancient fault roots will be used to infer processes occurring at depth along faults that are currently active in modern earthquake zones.

Pseudotachylyte had its International Premiere at Bergen International Film Festival 2019:

Selected for the Norwegian Feature Documentaries Competition 

Selected for the Golden Owl Competition (a film and science competition awarded by the University of Bergen)


Creative Associates - still from Pseudotachylyte
Creative Associates - still from Pseudotachylyte
Creative Associates - still from Pseudotachylyte


Dr Lucy Campbell University of Plymouth. Lucy is a specialist in rock deformation, with a particular interest in communicating science.

Dr Åke Fagereng Cardiff University. He specialises in fault zone rheology with particular interests in the controls on active fault slip styles.

Dr Elisabetta Mariani University of Liverpool. She specialises in experimental rock deformation and rock rheology and microstructures to constrain small to large scale processes in the Earth’s crust and mantle. 

Dr Luca Menegon University of Plymouth. He specialises in field-based studies of rock rheology and deformation processes in the continental crust. 

Dr Giorgio Pennacchioni University of Padua. He specialises in structural geology.

Still from Heidi Morstang’s film Pseudotachylyte


Directed, edited and produced: Heidi C Morstang

Cinematography: Patrik Säfström (fnf)

Sound design: Paul Donovan

Track lay: Jon Cawte

Foley: Jon Cawte and Tom Chilcott

Colourist and online: Christian Short

Post-production manager: Miles Hall

Consultant: Iain Stewart

Creative Associates - Filming on location for Pseudotachylyte

Films at 59

Founded in 1990, Bristol-based Films at 59 is an award-winning independently owned pre- and post-production house. In 2018, it won the best post-production company in the UK.

Films at 59 is an official Albert Affiliate – environmental sustainability for Film and TV. The company supports the Code of Best Practice in Sustainable Filmmaking as set out by Filmmakers for Conservation.

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Creative Associates

The Sustainable Earth Institute's Creative Associates projects aim to explore novel and innovative ways of communicating research and develop a portfolio of case studies of the different creative approaches possible.

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The Sustainable Earth Institute is about promoting a new way of thinking about the future of our world.
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