Hugh Macdonald began his long, award-studded career at the National Film Unit, where at 25 he directed ambitious three-screen spectacular This is New Zealand (1970), which was seen by 400,000 New Zealanders. In the 80s he produced Oscar-nominated short The Frog, the Dog, and the Devil and established his own company, continuing a busy diet of commercial films, train documentaries and animation.
As manager of the National Film Unit, David Henry Fowler oversaw the organisation's move from Miramar to Lower Hutt. In 35 years of filmmaking he worked in both government and private sectors: writing, directing, and producing memorable films ranging from commercials to features. After his career at the top was cut short by ill-health, he continued to pass on his knowledge and experience in advisory roles. Image credit: Archives New Zealand, ref AAQT 6421 B57
For 20 years Kathleen O'Brien was the only woman director at the government's National Film Unit. Her films were invited to festivals overseas. Known for her work involving children and education, O'Brien's directed comical road safety short Monkey Tale (1952), and the moving Story of Seven Hundred Polish Children (1966).
After managing to introduce drama and dance into his post WWII films for the National Film Unit, filmmaker Michael Forlong spent the remainder of his career directing features in Europe. In 1972 he returned to New Zealand to shoot children's tale Rangi's Catch, discovering actor Temuera Morrison in the process.
Arthur Everard spent almost two decades making films for the National Film Unit, including directing award-winning rugby short Score and joining the team behind Commonwealth Games doco Games ’74. In 1984, Everard became New Zealand’s Chief Film Censor, a position he held for six years.
Although best known as a writer, Maurice Shadbolt also did time as a filmmaker. In his 20s he made a number of films at the National Film Unit, as part of a career that encompassed fiction, journalism, theatre and two volumes of autobiography. His classic Gallipoli play Once on Chunuk Bair was made into a feature film in 1992.
Remembered by his colleagues as “the leader in capturing New Zealand scenery on film from 1923 to 1954”, Bert Bridgman began his career as a cameraman in the days of silent film, and later directed the Centennial film One Hundred Crowded Years. He served as a war correspondent in the Pacific for the National Film Unit and was chief colour cameraman at the time of his death.
Dunedin businessman and artist, Fred O’Neill, whose hobby of making quirky animated films brought him international recognition, sent his Plasticine hero to Venus thirty years before Nick Park got Wallace and Gromit to the Moon. O’Neill’s films encouraged children not to take up smoking, brought Māori legends to the screen in a novel way, and entertained young viewers in the early years of New Zealand television. Image credit: Stills Collection, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision. Courtesy of the Fred O'Neill collection.
A pioneer of New Zealand film and star of 1940 classic Rewi's Last Stand, Ramai Hayward is credited as Aotearoa’s first Māori filmmaker, camerawoman, and scriptwriter. At the 2005 Wairoa Māori Film Festival she received the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to Māori filmmaking; the following year Hayward was made a Member of the NZ Order of Merit. She passed away on 3 July 2014.
Editor and director Dell King’s plans to be a filmmaker faced a challenge when she discovered that the Government’s National Film Unit had closed its doors to women directors. Instead King began her long screen career as a negative cutter, and later worked as editor or sound editor on a run of documentaries and features, including the classics Ngati and Vigil.