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Hero image for Hugh Macdonald: Expos, epics and animated amphibians...

Hugh Macdonald: Expos, epics and animated amphibians...

Interview – 2015

Hugh Macdonald’s filmmaking career included historical epics, Oscar-nominated short films, and lots of time on the road. Macdonald was the lead on three-screen spectacular This is New Zealand (1970), which got crowds queueing at World Expo in Japan, and back in Aotearoa. Over two decades at the National Film Unit, he directed travel films and for historical epic The Governor, and produced the first of many animated shorts. 

McDonald passed away in May 2024. In this ScreenTalk from 2015, Macdonald talks about:

  • Early career advice to try advertising, before he joined government filmmakers the National Film Unit at age 18
  • Noticing some tears from the audience when short film This is New Zealand got its first screenings at the NFU
  • The film's enormous success in Japan, and back in New Zealand
  • The joys of getting out on the road to make travel films
  • The 'unique experience' of directing historical TV epic The Governor
  • Memorable all-nighters planning the series, with workaholic producer Tony Isaac
  • Late night script contributions from an Avalon floor, by Keith Aberdein
  • How the spirit of the NFU changed after longtime manager Geoffrey Scott left
  • Producing animated films for Bob Stenhouse
  • Oscar nominations for Stenhouse's The Frog, the Dog and the Devil, alongside Toy Story director John Lasseter
  • Witnessing the last days of the Denniston railway incline, while making films After Ninety Years and On Denniston
  •  No Ordinary Sheila, his film about writer and naturalist Sheila Natusch,
This video was first uploaded on 30 June 2015, and is available under this Creative Commons licence. This licence is limited to use of ScreenTalk interview footage only and does not apply to any video content and photographs from films, television, music videos, web series and commercials used in the interview.
Interview and editing - Ian Pryor. Camera - Jess Charlton
It was supposed to run for a fortnight for a test. It ran for three months . . . By the time they'd finished running it, it had been running for nearly a year over the four main centres.
– Hugh Macdonald on the Kiwi success of his film This is New Zealand