Monday, December 6, 2010


Apologies for not getting these final blog entries up earlier. We have been very busy planning for, and filming, our documentary. We have now come to the end of this Mantle of the Expert unit of work. Read on to find out what we have been up to over these last few weeks and where we ended up.


This day began with a discussion about how we could use what we had done over the first 4 weeks to make a documentary about the Tangiwai Disaster. We went in to role as the team who works for NZ Documentary Designs. There were lots of ideas shared and a big discussion about what we wanted to include and ideas about how to best sequence the information/events. There was a lot of brainstorming!

Team Planning

It was decided that the documentary would be roughly in 3 sections:

Before the disaster (setting the 1950s/1953 Christmas scene),
The disaster itself and,
Post disaster (including community responses and search and rescue efforts and memorials).

Someone then had the idea to use the poem by Jillian Sullivan, ‘Lilian on the Train to Tangiwai’, to structure the documentary around. Everyone thought this was a great idea and the detailed planning started from there. The poem was divided into its six stanzas and everyone decided on an area they wanted to work on. Small teams then set to work designing specific scenes. Keynote and powerpoint programmes were used to collate images and to write scenes and scripts. More research was done to find specific pieces of information such as details on memorials, newspaper headings about the Boxing Day Match in South Africa, specific images that teams wanted to include etc. Excerpts from letters we had written in role were selected and highlighted, as were sections of Sidney Holland’s speech announcing the disaster on Christmas morning, and the Queen’s speech abut the disaster.

It was a challenging and creative day. There was a lot of information and research to pull together as well as the designing of scenes. Soon the ideas were flowing. People were given roles and scripts and lists of props, to bring in for filming. Everyone was taking the lead in some way and the room was buzzing with creativity and organisation.


The last 3 days of this unit of work were spent preparing scenes and filming. The team managed the whole project and they set themselves high standards. Everyone worked together, at times in small groups and at other times as an entire collective team. There were times for everyone to step up and lead, whether it was directing, filming, or acting. And there were times for everyone to follow, to be a critical audience, set up props for scenes, listen to each other practice lines etc.

Because of time constraints each scene was not able to be practiced to perfection, it was the process that was the most important. Behind every small scene in our documentary was a very high standard of work. In collating the research, designing and planning the scenes, writing the scripts, and organising each set, the teams demonstrated a high level of commitment, creativity, literacy, and self managing skills.

As the teams shared their scenes with each other everyone worked together to think critically about their scenes, adding and changing details as they went so that the scenes best supported their ideas. Feedback was shared and listened to, with everybody actively participating and contributing.

Filming the Scene of Lillian (from the poem) Looking Out the Window Thinking of Christmas

Filming a Model of the Lahar

Filming Xmas Tree Scene: Gathering Around Xmas Tree to Hear Sidney Holland's Announcement of the Disaster

Filming Cyril Ellis Waving Torch

Letters Written in Role Thanking Cyril Ellis for his Heroic Efforts Being Read Aloud as Voice Over

Clarinet Background to Filming of 1950s Images

Bert Sutcliffe Comforting Bob Blair

Banadging Bert Sutcliffe for the Famous Boxing Day Match Scene

Filming a Powerpoint Display of Disaster Images with Guitar Background

Filming the Memorial Wreath Being Dropped in to the Whangaehu River

The Queen's Speech

Filming model of Mt Ruapehu

On our last day together as a group the final scene was shot. Using a list of the 151 victims of the Tangiwai Disaster the team wrote every victim’s name on a small piece of paper in their best writing. Louis then played the guitar while a two people placed the names of each victim on a pile, one at a time. This was filmed as the final scene of our documentary. This small ritual was an idea of one of the working teams and was a powerful and moving end to our work.

We hope that over the next couple of weeks we will be able to share our documentary with our own classes and syndicate.

It has been a wonderful learning journey and everyone has worked very hard on the final product, with passion and professionalism. Well done team!