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Gaylene Preston

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Title: Gaylene Preston  
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Subject: Cinema of New Zealand, People associated with the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, New Zealand film producers, John Gilbert (film editor), Sam Neill
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Gaylene Preston

Gaylene Preston
Born (1947-06-01) 1 June 1947
Greymouth, New Zealand
Nationality New Zealand
Citizenship British
Occupation Film maker
Spouse(s) Andy Dennis (m. 1968–73)
Partner(s) Jonathan Crayford (1982–91)
Children Chelsie Preston Crayford

Gaylene Preston, ONZM (born 1 June 1947) is a New Zealand film maker with a particular interest in documentary films.


Her first film was All The Way Up There. As a producer she has contributed to the award-winning feature documentaries Punitive Damage (1999) and Coffee, Tea or Me? (2001) and Lands of our Fathers (executive producer). Her feature film Home By Christmas was a dramatized oral history based on her father's memories of his wartime experiences, contrasted with her mother's perspective.[1]

Her other feature films include Mr Wrong, Ruby and Rata, and the mini series Bread & Roses (with producer Robin Laing). She was writer, director and producer of Perfect Strangers, a black comedy starring Sam Neill and Rachael Blake.

Preston chaired the Academy of Film and Television Arts (1997–99) and was a member of the board of the NZ Film Commission (1979–85) as well as chair of the Film Innovation Fund (1981–85). She has been a member of the Board of New Zealand on Air (The NZ Broadcasting Commission), and was awarded the Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to filmmaking. In 2001 she was the first filmmaker to be made a Laureate by the New Zealand Arts Foundation recognising her contribution to New Zealand film and television.

In May 2011 she publicly protested plans for Wellington Airport to erect a Wellywood sign on the hill beside the Miramar Cutting, the highest-profile industry opponent of this initiative.[2]

She lives and works in Wellington, New Zealand, and is the mother of actress Chelsie Preston Crayford.


  • Home By Christmas (2010) – Writer / Director / Producer
A narrative documentary with drama based on her father's recollections of his service during World War II, contrasting with her mothers's perspective (which were first used in War Stories: Our Mothers Never Told Us (1995), see below.)
  • Earthquake (2006) – Producer / Director
A documentary presenting eyewitness accounts of the Napier earthquake
  • Lands Of Our Fathers – my African legacy (2004) – Executive Producer
Opening an old leather suitcase compels a New Zealand filmmaker to revisit her Rhodesian childhood, and reconcile herself with the effects of the colonial past
  • Perfect Strangers (2003) – Writer / Director / Producer
Female Eye festival 2005 Toronto Best Film; Fantasporto Film Festival 2004 Portugal Best Actress Rachael Blake; Vladivostok Film Festival 2004 Best Actress Rachael Blake
Selected: Melbourne, London Montreal, Film Des Femmes Paris, Fantasporto ( in competition ), Stockholm, Seattle, Chicago, Fantasy Film Festivals Brussels ( in competition ), Germany, Hof, Shangahai, Vladivostok (in Competition), Cincinnati, Vancouver among others
  • Coffee, Tea or Me? (2002) – Producer
A story of an underestimated flight attendant.
Selected: NZ International Film Festival 2002, Sydney, Melbourne, Vancouver
  • Titless Wonders (2001) – Producer/Director
Documentary about life after breast cancer diagnoses.
NZ Media Peace Awards 2001 Winner Premier Award; Selected: NZ International Film Festival 2001; Keynote presentation World Breast Cancer Symposium 2002
  • Wahine Requiem (2001)
Semi-permanent cinema installation for the Museum of Wellington City and Sea.
  • Getting To Our Place (1999) – Producer/Co-Director
A documentary on the founding of Te Papa.
Selected NZ Film Festival 1999
  • Punitive Damage (1999) – Producer
A true story of a death in Timor and a mother’s grief.
Munich Film Festival Awards Silver Medianet; Sydney Film Festival Awards Best Documentary 2nd place; Selected Critics Week Locarno International Documentary Festival
  • Survivor Stories (1998) – Producer/Director
The Hawkes Bay Earthquake of 1931 remembered. Semi-permanent cinema installation.
  • No Other Lips (1996) – Director/Co-Producer
A documentary portrait of Māori poet, Hone Tuwhare.
Selected NZ International Film Festival 1996
  • WAR STORIES Our Mothers Never Told Us (1995) – Producer/Director
Seven New Zealand women share stories of love and loss during the Second World War.
Best Film – NZ Film & TV Awards 1995; Most Popular Film – Sydney Film Festival 1995; Best Documentary – Sydney Film Festival 1995
Selected: Venice Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival 1996, AFI Assoc. Charity Screening, Los Angeles 1996, Toronto, Montreal, Seattle, Chicago, Los Angeles, London, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Gothenburg, Munich
  • Bread And Roses (1993) – Director/Co-writer/Associate Producer
A four-part mini-series for television based on the autobiography of Sonja Davies.
New Zealand Film & Television Awards 1994: Film: Best Performance in a Dramatic Role – Female, TV: Best Performance in a Dramatic Role – Female, TV: Best Supporting Performance – Male, TV: Best Design; Melbourne Film Festival – 3rd Popular Choice
Selected: New Zealand, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Seattle, London, Toronto, San Francisco
New Zealand Film & Television Awards: Best Editing, Best Film Score, Best Contribution to a Soundtrack, Best Male Performance; Winner – 3rd Place-Popular Choice, Best Feature Sydney & Melbourne Film Festivals; Gold Medal Award Giffoni Children's Film Festival, Italy; Top 10 selection most popular, Toronto Film Festival
Selected: New Zealand, Sydney, Melbourne, Toronto, London, Milan, Seattle, Los Angeles, Hawaii and Palm Springs International Film Festivals
  • Kai Purakau The Story Teller (1987) – Producer/Director
A documentary for Thames Television (UK) on Booker Prize winning author Keri Hulme.
Selected: New Zealand International Film Festival
  • Mr Wrong, (The Dark Of The Night – USA) (1985) – Director/Producer/Co-writer
Based on a short story by Elizabeth Jane Howard.
New Zealand Film and & Television Awards Best Female Performance; 2eme Prix du Public Festival de Films de Femmes de Creteil 1986
Selected NZ, Seattle, Chicago, Melbourne and Munich Film Festivals
  • Patu (1983) – Co-ordinator
Merata Mita’s feature-length documentary about the protest against the Springbok tour of New Zealand (1981).
  • Making Utu (1982) – Producer Director
A documentary about the making of Geoff Murphy’s feature-film UTU, looking at the issues involved in exploring New Zealand’s racial past.
  • Hold Up (1981)- Director/Co-Producer
A deaf dress designer, a blind radio announcer and a film critic with cerebral palsy witness the robbery of a cinema.
Australian Teachers of Media (1983). Best Overseas Film for under 12year-olds; Best Overseas Film. Rehabilitation Film Festival (New York 1983); First Prize – Dramatisation category – Rehabilitation International World Congress (Lisbon 1984)
  • Learning Fast (1980) – Producer/Director
A documentary about seven small-town seventeen-year-olds leaving school and finding their place in the world.
  • All The Way Up There (1978) – Director/Producer
Bruce Burgess, a 24-year-old, spastic since birth and Graeme Dingle, a well-known mountaineer, climb Mt Ruapehu together.
Special Jury Prize – Banff Festival of Mountain Films (1980); Special Jury Prize – Festival International du Film Alpine, Les Diaberets (1980)


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External links

  • Official website
  • biography on NZ On Screen
  • screenography on NZ On Screen
  • Gaylene Preston Archive & Reference Project, Women’s Gallery Inc., 2012
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