luke pirie

Marketing Manager | Design Generalist | Otago University Designer of the Year 2008.

Removing Richardson Mockumentary Film


View the full film here 


At the University of Otago, protesters are losing hope as plans are underway to tear down the historic Richardson building and replace it with a car park. This will cause changes with major departments being forced to move and busy walkways beings widened for vehicle access. Arguments have escalated for and against the removal but the buildings architect Ted McCoy supports the change and preventing the demolition does not look promising.

University Architect Christopher Doudney has announced that the building will be replaced with a much needed car park to help solve parking issues on campus. Design historian Michael Findlay described the plans as “the cheapest, nastiest, cost driven piece of planning that you could imagine.” Many university staff and students are still unaware of the proposed demolition which is set for late 2009.

Richardson Research

At the same time as we were filming there was an exhibition about Ted McCoy and his work at the Otago Museum. The Richardson Building (formerly The Hocken Building) is detailed in Ted McCoy’s book “A Southern Architecture” and was displayed in the museum exhibition. Our research revealed structural problems such as “concrete cancer”, when pieces of concrete fall from the building, and the history of the building.

Filmic Research

Picture 1 Picture 2

In order to make our documentary we created a shot break down of an episode of a current affairs show. We chose 20/20 because its stories have a format similar to what we wanted to achieve. This was useful for establishing a suitable tempo, framing shots and making a piece worthy of television.

Ethical Approval

It emerged that because our project was affiliated with the University we required ethical approval. We had to apply for “Class A” ethical approval and wait until the Ethics Committee met on 21 August to discover the outcome. This postponed the filming of our interviews and we had to think of alternative storyboards incase our application was not approved. Thankfully approval came through and with a few conditions we were able to go ahead. All participants in the documentary were required to sign consent forms before filming and then release forms after they had viewed the final product. While needing to gain approval was a set back, it was interesting and useful to learn about the process.

Contacting Participants

Our documentary required us to contact several personalities from the Dunedin community, each recognized in their respective fields. These people volunteered their time and put their reputations on the line for the documentary, so we would like to acknowledge their generosity and thank them for sharing their opinions. These people were Ted McCoy, Michael Findlay, Chris Doudney, Mark Henaghan and Gavin O’Brien.



Producing professional lighting was essential when conducting the interviews. We sourced two photography lights which enabled us to light the interviewee sufficiently. The lights looked good on film, however they soon became hot and were uncomfortable for our interviewees to sit under. Setting up the lights was also sometimes an issue due to space restrictions in some of the locations. On all locations we used the custom white balance setting on the camera as we found this the best way to get the correct balance.


Sound was another important aspect of our documentary. To achieve high quality sound we attached an external microphone to the camera which allowed us to record the sound closer to the interviewee and reduce the impact of background noise. Unfortunately for the first interview we used the wrong audio setting on the camera, and as a result we were unable to use the footage.


Having the right equipment with us also took practice and we found ourselves at Ted McCoy’s office ready to conduct his interview without extension cords to connect the lights to the power points. For each interview we took a printed example of the previous interviews so that the composition of the shot was consistent. We took a tripod to all our filming locations, as we found that hand held shots had too much movement and did not look professional.


Editing was a long and involved process. We began by breaking down our interviews into the questions that we asked the interviewees and then we identified specific quotes that we considered relevant to our documentary. This enabled us to find the clips that we wanted to include. Our filler footage of the building and its surroundings was broken down into shots, and dated. This enabled us to quickly find the footage that we needed.

While putting the documentary together we found that we had to adjust the sound levels with every interviewee and the narrator and balance the colours to create consistency throughout the film. Editing also involved considering appropriate transitions between shots, such as cuts and dissolves. We also added titles to the bottom of the screen to introduce our interviewees. Some footage was placed over the interviewee while they were talking to illustrate their point, or add interest while they were talking for an extended amount of time.


We set up a blog for our project which was a useful communication tool between the team members. Now that the project is complete it also provides a history and reference. For more in depth information about our project you can visit our blog at,


As a thank you for the participants in the film we presented them with a copy on DVD and a card. It was also nice to have a packaged copy of the documentary for our own archives and portfolios.

A copy of the DVD and thank you card given to our participants.

A copy of the DVD and thank you card given to our participants.



This entry was posted on February 2, 2010 by in Short Film & Video.

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