Fran Davies-Cooper

Documentary, New Zealand, 2008. 04’10 mins.
Team: Jessica Waterhouse, Patrice Sutherland, Esther Currie

As part of DESI 322 in 2008, we formed groups in order to create a short film based on a hoax, or untruth. The idea for Fran Davies-Cooper was inspired by the comedic talent of Australian, Chris Lilley. Fran Davies-Cooper plays with the competitive nature of the New Zealand sporting environment. Through this we explore what happens when a person exists in a world where winning isn’t a matter of life and death, its the participation which counts.


Fran Davies-Cooper, a kind yet solitary character shares with us her story. A true blue kiwi, Fran has always had a passion for sport, which was encouraged from an early age by her parents. Early attempts at various sports were not so successful (Fran likes to think of them as stepping stones towards a brighter future) and so she worked towards becoming what she terms as a professional supporter, with a soft spot for those who struggle in the competitive world of the New Zealand sporting environment.  For Fran, it is not about winning but the joy one experiences from simply participating. Now, in 2008, she resides in North Dunedin and has become dedicated supporter of team sports, especially grass roots rugby. To top this all off, Fran has been nominated for the prestigious Volunteer Of the Year Award 2008, for her dedication to encouraging those of all abilities to ‘get in there and give it your best’. Fran Davies-Cooper takes us on a journey through the ups and downs of Fran.


To start the ball rolling, we made contact with the local ‘Junior Metropolitan Rugby Club’, to ask for permission to film a children’s rugby game. To our delight they were happy to help us out and referred us to Jan and Pete Hannah, of the ‘West Tairei Junior Club’ at Outram.

With Fran’s paua framed nana glasses and bright multi-coloured jacket we were ‘rearing to go’ and so made the trip to West Tairei to begin filming. We successfully filmed all our planned clips plus some extra shots that encouraged us to make slight changes to our original concept and storyboard.  With the aid of a hand held microphone, we were able in ensure good sound quality and help capture the atmosphere of the rugby ground.

We had to experiment with natural and artificial lighting when filming the interview scenes at Fran’s home, due to the natural light being so poor. We managed to use three sources of artificial lighting using desktop lamps.  In terms of props for the interview scenes, Fran’s costume consisted of comfortable homely clothing (her bright choice of jumper and jacket contrast nicely with her somewhat dull and seemingly boring existence!) while sitting on a couch, with fair play mottos, certificates and sporting photos strewn over the notice board behind her to help set the scene.  All of these elements helped add to the solitary and somewhat sad atmosphere we were striving for, creating a believable homely setting for Fran.

Behind the Scenes

Initially we started with a strong idea of what, as a group, we wanted to achieve however struggled in the beginning stages of the project to clearly explain what it was we were actually doing.  This led to a slight delay in our efforts for production. However once we started filming initial confusion became clear, especially with the help of Sarah’s acting and impromptu talent, although it did take right up until the last week when we finally settled on a ‘Fran’ as our character’s name, having previously been indecisive: she had been called both ‘Bev’ and ‘Cheryl’.

We also had a few technical problems with the camera, which proved to be fairly stressful.  At first we were unable to remove the files off the camera and then the clips would play but with no sound.  To fix this a fairly lengthy process was undertaken, involving downloading new software and using a p.c to import the clips.  Battling the weather was another element which had a decisive impact on our movie, as the story line required most of our filming to be carried out outdoors and Dunedin weather in August is not particularly conducive to this!   A couple of Saturday mornings were spent standing around in the freezing cold, ankle deep in mud, at various rugby fields. However, as to not to waste any opportunity, we decided on a few of the days when the weather was not particularly nice, to practice filming with borrowed camera equipment and actress, as well to foresee potential issues that might arise, such as sound and image qualities.

Editing was a time consuming process and finding times for all three of us to meet up was somewhat of a challenge.  We ended up deciding that evenings were the most convenient for all of us, and many a late night was spent watching clips rendering in the design computer labs. Making a movie, even just a short 5 minute mockumentary, is a lot more time consuming than we originally thought, however the whole process from concept planning, storyboarding, filming through to editing was an enjoyable experience, despite some of the setbacks we encountered.

We are proud of the final outcome, and hope that Fran will bring enjoyment to all those who take the time to watch her in action.


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