The making of No Ordinary Sheila

who, where, what – and the credits


The key people


Hugh Macdonald  is the director of No Ordinary Sheila.


Hugh has been directing (and editing and producing) films since 1963, and winning awards for them since 1967. (Read more on Hugh's films). Hugh moved to Wellington in 1962 to join the National Film Unit and has lived there ever since.


Christine Dann is the producer of No Ordinary Sheila. She also researched the film and wrote its script. Christine is a relative newcomer to film producing and writing but has lots of previous experience in researching and writing books. (Read more on Christine.)


Christine lives at Koukourarata/Port Levy on Banks Peninsula, where she has a large garden.



Sheila Natusch  (14 February 1926–10 August 2017) is the star of the film. She is a relative of Hugh Macdonald (first cousin once removed) – they are both descended from Gretchen and Arthur Traill, who were Sheila's paternal grandparents and Hugh's paternal great-grandparents.


Sheila was brought up on Stewart Island; and Hugh had many happy family holidays there in his youth.


Sheila moved to Wellington in 1949, met her husband Gilbert Natusch there in 1950, and in 1951 settled with him in Owhiro Bay, where she lived until 2017.


Kim Hill is an RNZ broadcaster who needs no further introduction.


Susan Hamel (right) is a Dunedin-based writer who in 2012 was commissioned by the Otago University Alumni Association to write a short biography of Sheila as part of her Masters in Science Communication studies – and soon became a friend of Sheila's.


Dinah Priestley is a Wellington-based artist, writer and oral historian, whose interests overlap with Sheila's – including going to opera movies together.


Shaun Barnett is a Wellington-based photographer, author and editor who specialises in photographing and writing about wild places and their inhabitants.


Ken Scadden (1952-2016) was an archivist, museum curator and maritime historian who shared Sheila's interest in maritime history – he and Sheila enjoyed many happy hours together looking at historic ships and their artefacts and discussing them.


Andy Dennis (1944 -2016)  was a conservationist, photographer, writer and walking tour guide who shared Sheila's love for all things Icelandic.






The locations

The locations that feature

prominently in No Ordinary

Sheila are Stewart Island

(right), Dunedin, South

Westland, and the south

coast of Wellington .




The filming and editing


Work on No Ordinary Sheila started in April 2014 – under rather a lot of time pressure as Sheila had turned 88 in February that year, and had just had some bad news about her health.


The interview with Kim Hill was filmed in May 2014. For the next year research for the film and filming of the first conversations with Sheila, and the key locations, alternated with each other.


The Stewart Island shoot was in February 2015 and the last shoot in an important location (South Westland) was in November 2015. That was supposed to be the end of filming, but when the Ecuadorian navy sailing ship the Guayas paid a visit to Wellington in January 2016 it was a rare and lucky chance to film a tall ship at sea, with Sheila and Ken Scadden watching it from the shore.


Throughout 2014 and 2015 there were also a number of mini-shoots around the south coast of Wellington, to show Sheila in her 'native habitat', and the rocks, animals, plants, boats and impressive seas to be seen there.


A rough cut of around two-thirds of the film was completed in February 2016, just in time to show Sheila and friends on her 90th birthday on February 14. There was then a lull in the action while waiting for a suitable editor to become available, which happened in September 2016.


The fine cut of the film was completed in February 2017, and post-production funding was granted by the Film Commission at the end of April.


Sound mixing and other finishing work could then commence, and the film was finally completed on 18 June 2017.


The historic films


No Ordinary Sheila uses a range of archival footage to illustrate the places and ways of life that Sheila experienced from the 1930s to the 1960s. The film of Stewart Island wildlife shot by G.M. Turner is part of a private archive (The Grant Foster Photo & Film Archive); the other films used are part of the National Film Unit collection held by Archives New Zealand.


Some of these can be seen in full on-line on the NZ On Screen website, or on the Archives NZ youtube channel. They include Snows of Aorangi (1950) (New Zealand's first Oscar-nominated movie, filmed and directed by Brian Brake), from which some of the historic skiing and mountain hut film was taken; and  A Letter to the Teacher (1957),   (directed by one of New Zealand's first women film directors, Kathleen O'Brien), which tells the story of the Correspondence School.


Pictorial Parade # 107, October 1960 contains the news items Road Progress, about the building of the Haast Pass road, and Fur Seal Colony about Sheila swimming out to “say gidday” to the seals at Red Rocks.


The music


The sound track of No Ordinary Sheila starts with the piano piece 'The Horizon from Owhiro Bay' composed by Gareth Farr in 2007 and played by Henry Wong Doe. (See him playing the piece at a concert in the USA here. The music captures the moods of the bay where Sheila lived for 66 years.


The orchestral music that accompanies the montage of Stewart Island scenery near the beginning of the film is from Gareth's composition 'Time and Tide'. Read more about Gareth and his music here.


The theme song for the film was composed by Wellington musician Andrew London and performed by him, the other members of his trio (Kirsten London and Nils Olsen) and Wayne Mason. Read more about Andrew and his talented trio here and watch them recording the song.


The song at the end of the film is the traditional sea shanty 'Rolling Home' – with some tweaking of the words in the best folk song tradition to make it a New Zealand specific song (“... when we see the long white cloud ...”). The song was arranged by Wellington community musician Julian Raphael and performed by the men's choir Male Vocale which is led by Julian and his son Nino. (You can hear Julian talking to Kim Hill and playing favourites here.)


The illustrations and photography


The illustrations created especially for the Witch of Moonless Bay and Epic Ride sequences are by artist, illustrator and writer Bob Kerr.

Left, a painting from Bob Kerr's 2015 exhibition It Was the Fun of the World.

More information about Bob's paintings, illustrations and books here.




The night sky photography in the film is by
Mark Gee. More can be seen on his Art of Night website.














The credits


Produced by

Christine Dann


Directed by

Hugh Macdonald



Researched & Written by

Christine Dann



Sheila (Traill) Natusch

Kim Hill

Susan Hamel

Dinah Priestley

Shaun Barnett

Ken Scadden

Andy Dennis

Euan Macdonald

Mark Gee

Maraea Kiel

Gary Kiel




Richard Mekalick

Hugh Macdonald

Graeme Moffatt

Dave McCarlie

Ivars Berzins

Tim Butters

Dave Asher

Ben Gustavson

Mary Khanna

Steve Pearce

Vanessa Carruthers

Kate Le Comte


Edited by

Abi King-Jones


Assembly Editing by

Graeme Moffatt

Kate Le Comte


Sound Design & Mix

Phil Burton

Underground Sound



Phil Darkins


Quotes from Sheila's writings read by

Heather O'Carroll



Janet Frame's letters to Sheila read by

Juliette MacIver


Colour-grading and on-line editing

Abi King-Jones


Special effects and finishing

John Conly



Bob Kerr


Graphic Design

Mission Hall Creative




No Ordinary Sheila song

Andrew London Trio (with Wayne Mason)

Music: Andrew London

Words: Andrew London & Hugh Macdonald

Recorded at Matrix Digital Studios


Gareth Farr

The Horizon from Owhiro Bay

Time and Tide

Love Songs


Kevin MacLeod

Tiny Little Urns

Monkeys Spinning Monkeys

Frost Waltz


Andrea Robinson

Daffs 2


Rolling Home Sea Shanty

Julian Raphael & Male Vocale Choir

Arranged by Julian Raphael


The Producers acknowledge the following organisations

for facilities, historic materials, movie footage, and other assistance


Radio New Zealand

Rakiura Museum, Stewart Island

Southland Girls High School

Southland Museum and Art Gallery

Hocken Library, University of Otago

Alexander Turnbull Library

National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

John Bell & Time Cinema

The Grant Foster Photo & Film Archive

Peter Alsop

Island Bay Marine Education Centre

Carter Observatory, Wellington

Simon Smuts-Kennedy/Hills Hats


Mark Gee

"The Art of Night" - night sky time-lapse photography


National Film Unit Films preserved and made available by

Archives New Zealand


Grateful thanks to the following organisations

and individuals for financial support


The R & S Trust

Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand

Glen Metcalf

Southland Girls High School Old Girls Association

Dorothy I. (Grantham) Alloo

33 Club Trust Board Inc.

Sheila Natusch

Andrew & Jenny Natusch

Anne Hall

Clare-Louise McCurdy

R & M Khanna

Francis de Hamel

Pat Fry

Martin Oelderink




Warwick Anderson

Carolyn Conrad

George Deimel

Noeline Gannaway

Janet Hector

Gabrielle Inder

John McCrystal

Clare O'Donnell

Jean-Marie O'Donnell

Reihana Robinson

Edness Sang

Megan Sety

Robyn Salisbury

Levonne Smith

Martin Traill



Thanks for professional support and other assistance to


Oscar Alpers

Victor Anderlini

Alister Barry

John Bell

Costa Botes

Barbara Clark

Ali Clarke

Helena Fierlinger

Sinead Fitzgerald

Katherine Kennedy

Stuart Macdonald

Peter Metcalf

Vicky Pope

Simon Reece/The Dub Shop

South Coast Productions

Stormalong Stanley

Peter Tait

Alice Törne

David Tossman

Helen Williamson

Peter Williamson

Hugh Wilson

Errol Wright

Sebastian Ziegler





Sheila Natusch

Andy Dennis

Ken Scadden

Euan Macdonald

Peter Williamson


Completed with the assistance of a Feature Film Finishing Grant from the

New Zealand Film Commission