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Gaylene Preston is a New Zealand film maker whose work has ranged across fiction and non-fiction, drawing on the stories of working class women and men. More recently, her feature film Home By Christmas challenges narrative conventions and the boundary between non-fictional oral history and narrative filmic fiction.
Since her first film All The Way Up There, she has constantly returned to documentary; a highlight being the popular cinema documentary, rooted in ordinary people's stories', War Stories: Our Mothers Never Told Us. 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 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 about the overriding human need to love and be loved, starring Sam Neill and Rachael Blake.
Her working style appears to be open and collaborative: in accepting the award for Best Actress at Vladivostok Film Festival in 2004, Rachael Blake acknowledged the authenticity within the work and thanked Gaylene Preston for “…creating on set an invaluable, limitless arena of flexibility, trust and ease.”
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). Preston 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.
She 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 Napier earthquake, New Zealand's most devastating earthquake in modern times.
- 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
- The surprising tale of the underestimated trolly dolly.
- Selected: NZ International Film Festival 2002, Sydney, Melbourne, Vancouver
- Titless Wonders (2001) - Producer/Director
- Emotional journeys after a breast cancer diagnosis.
- 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 fly-on-the-wall behind the scenes look at the remarkably bumpy road to Te Papa.
- Selected NZ Film Festival 1999
- Punitive Damage (1999) - Producer
- The true story of a death in Timor and the power of 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
- 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 among others
- Ruby & Rata (1990) - Director/Co-Producer
- 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)