Making the impossible happen
How a cricket documentary created in a few weeks went on to be a global success
There are times when the sun shines and everything feels like it’s meant to be. And that’s what making these two projects felt like. They were challenging, but immensely rewarding. 

In 2015 the Cricket World Cup was hosted in New Zealand. The opening game was played in Christchurch. It was the first major international event held here since the 2011 earthquakes that destroyed the city. A huge opportunity for the city to tell the world it was open for business. 

Belmont was commissioned by CERA, the Christchurch Earthquake Recovery Authority, to create a one-hour TV documentary and a video for the opening ceremony of the World Cup. 

Telling the Christchurch story through a cricket lens

Executive Producer Jane Mahoney was a Senior Marketing Advisor at CERA. She recalls: “Because of my background producing TV commercials, I ended up managing CERA’s video content. We were capturing positive rebuild stories that weren't being reflected in the media. 

“The idea for the cricket documentary came from Mike Henstock. He worked in CERA’s business engagement team, promoting investment in Christchurch. He was a cricket fan, and he saw the Cricket World Cup coming to Christchurch was a chance to tell the Christchurch story through a cricket lens. We had a captive international audience, and it was an opportunity to let people know what was happening here.

“Mike saw the doco as such a strong opportunity that it became a passion project for him. Because of his connections, he was able to go to the cricket community and secure funding. That was a very impressive achievement when there were so many pressures on resources, and everyone had their own rebuild projects.

The Cricket World Cup coming to Christchurch was a chance to tell the Christchurch story.

Pulling rabbits out of hats 

Jane explains: “The documentary wasn’t financed by CERA, but they agreed that Mike could work with me to help make it happen. So, I got involved as executive producer. My role was to do an initial draft outline and consider who might tell the story. I also worked out a production approach and an initial budget, so we knew how much money we were looking for. Then I put out a brief to local production companies, inviting them to pitch for the job.

“I was keen to use a local company. Belmont had been doing a bit of work with me on CERA videos, and they stood out as being able to tackle something of this scale, and because of Rick's experience in telling stories. I really trusted he could pull together a team who would do justice to the story. The doco was for a discerning international audience. It needed to be of a high standard. It was important to get it right.

“The timing was extraordinarily tight because getting funding wasn’t easy. Mike started pitching funders in October. But we didn’t get the green light until the 16th of December, and we needed to have the video finished by the 28th of January to get it to the various TV networks.

“It was one of those situations where I saw the weeks ticking by and thought, it's going to get to the point where we’re not going to be able to deliver this. I've got to draw a line in the sand. And then at the very last possible minute we got funding and it was all go.”

How to make a documentary in 43 days

Jane remembers what an extraordinary feat the documentary was. “The first step was to pull together a writing team and refine the script. We wanted to celebrate the role cricket played in Christchurch’s recovery from the quakes. And we also wanted to tell the story of cricket in Canterbury from 1850 through to the opening of the new Hagley Oval, and show the significance of the Cricket World Cup to the people of Christchurch. 

“We nutted out who we needed to tell the story. We wanted key people in the Christchurch and New Zealand cricket community as well as people involved in the rebuild. Then we ripped into scheduling interviews. We ended up interviewing 20 people over that difficult Christmas period. Rick also had to pull together a team to film the Boxing Day test at Hagley Oval, because it was the opening test played on that ground, and we needed to capture that moment.

“Not only did we have to shoot the footage, but we also had to source and license all the archival material we used. Usually that process alone takes four-five weeks. Rick had his team working on it over Christmas and managed to pull it off in a fraction of that time.”

Screened in 84 countries and played more than 982 times

Looking back, making a documentary in less than two months seems like an impossible feat. But we did it and got it off to the TV networks on time. Jane recalls how people reacted. 

“It’s a powerful story about the rebuild and the role of sport in community connection in a time of crisis. And the quality of the story is reflected in the documentary’s incredible viewing stats. It was screened in 84 countries and played more than 982 times. Mike used his contacts to get global distribution through STAR and ESPN as content for stations to screen during the Cricket World Cup. It was good content in its own right, and a handy filler they could play if there was a hold-up with weather or scheduling changes. 

“The documentary was really well received locally as well. The Hagley Oval was the first major anchor project to be completed. So, it was a real boost for Christchurch residents. It was important to celebrate that and to celebrate the grassroots recovery work happening within the cricket community, as part of the story of hosting the Cricket World Cup.” 

“An intense project like this reinforces the importance of having the right video team. When you're working at pace, you need to know your team are going to be contributors, prepared to go above and beyond. There was very little margin for error in our timeframe. And it wasn't ideal timing over the summer holidays when everyone is away. Luckily, we chose the right people. Belmont said "Right, we're going to give this our best shot and make this happen." They weren’t put off by our limitations of time or budget. They gave it their all.” 

Opening the Cricket World Cup

CERA also commissioned Belmont to make a video to be played as part of the opening ceremony for the Cricket World Cup. 

Jane recalls: “That video required a different approach. It needed to be beautiful. It required strong visuals, emotive editing, and sound design. It’s testament to the diversity of Belmont’s skills that they’re able to pull both projects off. They’re very clever at communicating on an emotional level, as well as storytelling.

“Our expectations in terms of production values were very high. I remember at the time thinking that the launch event organiser had put a hell of a lot of trust in us to deliver something to going to live up to the production values of that whole event. And Belmont totally delivered.” 

Respecting your reputation 

Jane explains why she chooses to work with us on her video projects. 

“The thing that’s always stood out for me is Belmont care about your project. Rick really respects every project and gives it his best. As a client, you feel he makes a point of understanding what you want to achieve and takes pride in delivering something even better. You feel valued and you know Belmont will go out of their way to do the best job they can.

“You'd be surprised, but sometimes that isn't the case. There's nothing more frustrating than commissioning a project, then realising the production company's heart and soul’s not in it. 

“Whereas with Belmont you get 100% commitment. They're a tight team who’ve worked together for a long time and have this intuitive creative process. They're great to work with, super nice people, and whatever challenge you throw at them, they over deliver. 

“They respect my reputation as well. If I commission Belmont to do a job for my client, then my reputation is at stake. Respecting reputations and valuing clients is just as important as technical and storytelling skills. And Belmont offer the full package.” 

How to make a documentary in 43 days

Making a documentary in less than two months seems like an impossible feat. But we did it and got it off to the TV networks.

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