Land and people - the 2000s
A potter and his railway
Over a million people have now ridden on the Driving Creek Railway, a unique narrow gauge mountain railway on the Coromandel Peninsula. Opened to the public in 1990, it was built by potter Barry Brickell to facilitate his forest restoration project, and then used to show the forest to visitors in a fun way. Driving Creek Railway and Potteries – the Unique World of Barry Brickell (2002/2008) was made by Hugh and ex NFU colleague David Sims to give visitors the history of the creation of the railway (much of it hand-built by Barry) and the environment in which it operates.
Milk from Westland
In forty years of film-making Hugh has gained considerable experience in making films on and for the dairy industry, starting with one imaginatively titled The Dairy Industry (1970), which is described in the Archives NZ catalogue thus:
On the green land which is New Zealand, 25,000 farmers run the country's dairy herds. The industry they supply is both diverse and sophisticated - and probably the most advanced in the world.
After most of New Zealand's dairy companies merged to form Fonterra in 2001 the two small independent dairy co-operatives left had to do their own marketing. Hugh's last dairy industry film was made for Westland Milk Products. A Land Apart (2003/2010) was used to good effect to get WMP market share in foreign markets, and also won a Finalist Award in the New York Festivals (International Film & Video) in 2004.
[image – from the Green Circle?]
Hugh's insider familiarity with the collection of films made by the National Film Unit and its predecessors (now housed at Archives New Zealand, and representing 70+ years of New Zealand life on film) means that he is uniquely qualified to make documentaries and museum installations that incorporate historic footage.
Rimutaka 1949 (2005), a Memory Line production, covers a day in the life of the Rimutaka Incline six years before it closed. It screens on demand at the Fell Engine Museum in Featherston. At Shantytown Heritage Park near Greymouth the sawmill at the end of the bush steam train ride is brought alive with images and sounds of sawyers and their machines at work in a film made by Memory Line in 2008.
Hugh's film on the history of dairying in the Piako district, The Green Circle (2012), which was made for the Morrinsville Historical Society and screens regularly in the Morrinsville Heritage Centre, incorporates film of hay-stacking in the district using horse-powered lifts and some amazing footage of a fleet of electric-powered trucks ferrying milk cans to the NZ Co-operative Dairy factory in the northern Waikato in the 1920s. This contrasts with contemporary scenes from farms and dairy factories in the district, and the memories and future projections of three generations of dairy farmers.
Coal from Denniston (2013) and Underground (2013), made for the Coaltown Museum in Westport, are composed from historic footage shot between the 1940s and 1970s, plus excerpts from the Memory Line production On Denniston (1993). Underground screens at the end of a reconstructed mine tunnel in the museum, and the images are all historic, while the sound track carries the voices of miners talking of the mining processes used from the 1920s through to the 1970s.
The Coaltown films were produced by writer, historian and eco-gardener Christine Dann, who became part of the Hugh Macdonald Film team in 2012.
In 2008 Hugh started work on a documentary on the making of This is New Zealand, to complement the DVD version of This is New Zealand which Archives NZ had commissioned. Filmed over two years, it features interviews with those who worked on This is New Zealand, including Murray Creed and Sam Grau (camera), Kit Rollings and Brian Shennan (sound) and Rob Ritchie (associate director). Geoffrey Scott (NFU manager and executive producer of This is New Zealand), in a 1994 interview, remembers how the film came to be made and there are also recollections of the contributions of Dave Jordan (co-writer and associate director) and Kell Fowler (camera).
With further commentary by other film-makers (Arthur Everard, Graeme Cowley, Michael Horton, Peter Jackson, Geoff Murphy, Gaylene Preston), film experts and critics (Russell Brown, Bill Gosden, Fiona Kidman, Bill Sheat, Warren Smyth) and film technicians (Tony Buckler, Bruce McKenzie, Warren O'Keeffe, Brian Scadden), plus some vox pops from film viewers, That Was New Zealand gives a comprehensive overview of the technical and artistic challenges that were faced and overcome in the making of This is New Zealand, and also provides insights into the social, cultural and political context in which the film was made.
That was New Zealand was released on DVD in early 2014, with This is New Zealand and This is Expo.
Family Farming in New Zealand
Farming with the family is a way of life that is loved and valued by those who work the land.
In 2014, Hugh Macdonald Productions was commissioned in 2014 to make a film about this by the The NZ steering committee for the UN International Year of Family Farming. Family farmers aged eight to eighty plus share their stories in this documentary, with excerpts taken from films made between the 1940s and the 2010s.
You can see more about this production and buy a copy here.