The Last Ocean: Documentary Production

The palaver of documentary making – almost as enigmatic as the Antarctic toothfish.

The process so far:

  • Nature photographer John Weller knocked on the door of NZ cameraman and director Peter Young six years ago. They’ve been working with Antarctic scientist Dave Ainley, spreading the message of saving one of the last untouched wild places on planet earth, the Ross Sea.
  • It’s been filmed all over the world – from cosy government rooms in New Zealand, to penguin colonies in Antarctica, fish markets in Seoul, Tokyo, New York, important fancy-smancy meeting rooms in Hobart and London to blustery Norwegian docks.
  • We’re now fervently wading through 16TB (terabytes) of that in the edit suite.

We’re in our lair based in Breaker Bay at the Wellington harbour in New Zealand. One of my favourite parts of the day is driving to work in the morning – here’s the view from the production office window:


As there’s so much footage in the data ether, one of the handiest tools in the post-production toolkit is our butcher-paper rolls. On this we write out the basic structure – and they give us a way to easily glance over what we have.



While Peter and Richard Langston work through these and think about the best way to present the story, Jonno and Richard (editor – hereby dubbed “Richard Richard” – sadly we can’t add in last name initials as they both start with L!) physically cut (well, as much as you can with a mouse) the film. I, Jen, float around between all of this – sometimes I’m preparing footage before its cut, other times I’m more admin or web-oriented.


In the left hand corner is Richard Richard – who’s added a bit of ginger to our game.

We review the film regularly to make sure that it’s telling the story that Peter, John and Dave set out to tell those six years ago.  It’s a collaborative process – there’s a lot of verbal to and fro as we decide what’s in the movie – and sometime it resembles a scene from the film in which penguins squabble over rocks. Everyone has their own rock, whether it is a piece of interview, a particular picture, scene or piece of music that they want to keep in.


Keep an eye out for the film’s release! We’ll keep you up to date with our progress I’m sure. Next on the agenda after achieving picture-lock in a few weeks is to mix the sound, grade the pictures and prepare for distribution.

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