The Last Artifact
The weight of the world has been redefined.
The Last Artifact documents the work going on behind the scenes to modernize the measurement system upon which all of modern life depends. Since the French Revolution, the way we weigh the world has been based on a small metallic cylinder about the diameter of a golf ball, located just outside of Paris inside a high-tech vault. Encased within three vacuum-sealed bell jars, it may not look like much, but it is one of the most important objects on the planet. It affects every aspect of our lives from the moment we are born, to the food we eat, the cars we drive, and the medicines we take. This object has helped send men to the moon, and satellites into space. It is an object unlike any other, the last of its kind. It is a literal constant in an ever-changing world, and the weight by which all others are measured.
In 2018, this all changed. This remarkable object was resigned to history and redefined. The Last Artifact tells the story about how this artifact came to be, how it came to pass, and what the future holds. This is the story of The Last Artifact.
About the Film
Montana State University, in collaboration with MontanaPBS, received a $500,000 grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology to support the making of the film. The Last Artifact was co-produced and directed by Emmy Award-winning filmmakers Jaime Jacobsen and Ed Watkins, both of whom are graduates of Montana State University’s Master of Fine Arts program in Science and Natural History Filmmaking.
The film’s production team is composed of an array of MSU film graduates, including Rick Smith, Director of Photography; Parker Brown, Sound; and Stefanie Watkins, Editor. In addition, MSU graduate and MontanaPBS’ Director of Production Scott Sterling will serve as the film’s Colorist and Online Editor; and Aaron Pruitt, another MSU graduate who is the Director and General Manager at MontanaPBS, will serve as the film’s Executive Producer.
Jacobsen, Watkins, spent two years following teams of scientists from around the world as they seek to establish a new definition, weaving together a tale of historical ingenuity, international competition, and dogged determination. “If past experience is any judge, the implications for the future will be compelling. The last big revision in the definition of just one measurement unit, time, enabled the development of GPS, the Internet, and interstellar navigation,” said Watkins.
Filming culminated at the General Conference on Weights and Measures at the Palace of Versailles in France in November 2018, when delegates voted to redefine the weight of the world. “It will be a momentous moment not just for an unsung band of scientists, but for the entire world – which will be the better for it in ways we have yet to imagine,” said Jacobsen speaking of the event.
Awards & Accolades
2021 Northwest Emmy® Awards
Montana PBS’ science film, The Last Artifact, about the redefinition of the kilogram received an Emmy® in the DOCUMENTARY (Topical) category. Recipients include Jaime Jacobsen and Ed Watkins, Producers – Aaron Pruitt, Executive Producer. The Last Artifact garnered an additional five Emmys® in professional ‘craft’ categories:
- DIRECTOR – Jaime Jacobsen and Ed Watkins
- WRITER – NON-NEWS (Short/Long Form Content) – Ben King, Ed Watkins, Stefanie Watkins
- PHOTOGRAPHER – NON-NEWS (Short/Long Form Content) Rick Smith, Scott Sterling
- EDITOR – NON-NEWS (Short/Long Form Content) Ben King, Stefanie Watkins
- AUDIO – Jeremiah Slovarp, Luke Scheeler, Parker Brown, Sheridan Tongue
- 2020, March. Realscreen MIP Pick, MIPCOM. Cannes, France.
- Chosen by the leading international magazine devoted to the nonfiction film and television industries as one of the top documentaries coming out in Spring 2020.
- 2020, April. Faculty Documentary Competition, 2020 Broadcast Education Association (BEA) Festival of Media Arts. Las Vegas, NV.
- Won “Best of Competition: Documentary Feature.” National award.
- 2020, July. British Documentary Film Festival. London, United Kingdom.
- Won “Best Documentary Feature.” International award.
- 2020, August. China International Conference of Science and Education Producers. Shenzhen, China.
- Nominated for a China Dragon Award; >30 minute Science Documentary. International honor. (Award TBA in November 2020).
- 2020, September. # LabMeCrazy! Science Film Festival 2020/2021. Museo de Ciencias, Universidad de Navarra. Pamplona, Spain.
- Nominated for “Best Documentary and Reportage.” International honor. (Award TBA in October 2020).
Film Festivals – Juried Competitions
- 2020, April. 2020 Broadcast Education Association’s Festival of Media Arts. Las Vegas, NV. Virtual event. National, invited.
- Selected as one of 368 award-winning entries, out of over 1,700 total entries to the awards competition.
- 2020, July. British Documentary Film Festival. London, United Kingdom. Virtual event. International, invited.
- Selected to be one of the four feature documentary films showcased in the festival.
- European premiere.
- 2020, August. SCINEMA International Science Film Festival. Australian National Tour. Virtual event. International, invited.
- Selected for National Science Week Community Screenings in the largest science film festival in the Southern Hemisphere. (~600 screenings expected).
- Oceanian premiere.
- 2020, October (forthcoming). Imagine Science Film Festival. New York, NY. Virtual event. National, invited.
- Selected as one of 25 feature documentary films to be showcased in the festival, out of over 1,000 submissions.
- USA premiere.
- 2021, February (forthcoming). # LabMeCrazy! Science Film Festival 2020/2021. Museo de Ciencias, Universidad de Navarra. Pamplona, Spain. Virtual event. International, invited.
- Selected as one of six finalists for “Best Documentary and Reportage,” out of over 1,120 submissions from 92 countries. (Award TBA).
Film & Media Conference Screenings – Judged & Peer-Reviewed
- 2020, July. University Film & Video Association, UFVA 2020 Virtual Conference. National, invited.
- Selected by peer reviewers as an official film and video screening at the conference.
- 2020, November (forthcoming). China International Conference of Science and Education Producers. Shenzhen, China. International, invited.
- Asian premiere.
Scientific Conference Screenings – Invited
- 2019, October. International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM). Le S vres Espace Loisirs, S vres, France. International, invited.
- Private, pre-release screening for ~150 National Metrology Institute Directors from across the globe.
- 2020, May. The Last Artifact film screening in honor of World Metrology Day for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Gaithersburg, MD and Boulder, CO. Virtual event. National, invited.
- 806 “plays” via private Vimeo link.
- 201 attendees in the online Q&A panel following the virtual film screening.
- 2020, July. The Last Artifact film screening, Jason National Educators Conference. Leesburg, VA. Virtual event. National, invited.
- Featured film screening to inspire teachers’ adoption of new physics curriculum.
- 102 “plays” via private Vimeo link.
- 26 attendees in the online Q&A panel following the virtual film screening.
- 2020, August. The Last Artifact film screening, Precision Electromagnetic Measurements (CPEM) and the National Conference of Standards Laboratories (NCSLI). Virtual Conference. International, invited.
- 200 “plays” via private link, out of 380 attendees from 39 countries on all continents.
- PBS Learning Media created a unique digital learning collection devoted to media from The Last Artifact, which contains 12 short videos on Instruments, Measurements, and Units for grades 5-12, available to educators around the globe, starting in summer 2020.
- The Last Artifact will be featured as part of the “Learn at Home” schedule for September 2020, via Distance Learning with MontanaPBS for grades 4-8 during the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Jason Learning, a 501(c)3 organization that provides STEM curriculum and learning experiences for K-12 teachers, will include 5 short videos from The Last Artifact as part of their new physics curriculum surrounding the redesigning of the SI system, to be released nationally in fall 2020.
Domestic Public Television Broadcasts
American Public Television (APT), the largest syndicator of programming for public television stations in the United States, vetted the film with 340 PBS stations across the country, and based on stations’ votes, expects nearly 100% coverage in public television markets.
APT will make The Last Artifact available to public television stations to air and repeat for over six years, beginning in September 2020, through 2026.
The Last Artifact will be highlighted in the September 2020 NJTV / MNET viewer guide, which reaches the largest public television market in the country.
PBS International will make The Last Artifact available to over 2,000 clients in international markets, including cable and public television broadcasters and VOD entities, for the next five years, beginning in April 2020 through 2025.