Mr Wrong * Ruby and Rata * Bread & Roses * War Stories * Perfect Strangers * Lovely Rita * Home by Christmas * My Year With Helen



"I believe that the basic responsibility of New Zealand filmmakers is to make films principally for the New Zealand audience. If we don't, no-one else will."



Gaylene Preston is a national treasure, with an exceptional career over more than three decades. An innovative writer, director, and producer, Gaylene has insisted that it is possible to live in New Zealand and contribute New Zealand stories to global cinema, and her award-winning work has screened extensively at international festivals including Venice, Sundance, Toronto, London, Fantasporto, Chicago, San Francisco, Munich, Sydney, Melbourne and New Zealand.

Gaylene has served on most industry boards including the New Zealand Film Commission and New Zealand On Air, and has chaired Creative New Zealand's Film Innovation Fund and the New Zealand Film and Television Awards Society. At the same time, as evidenced in the credits of many films, including Annie Goldson's Punitive Damage, Brita McVeigh's Cofee, Tea or Me? Michelle Savill's Ellen is Leaving and Paora Joseph's Tatarakihi - The Children of Parihaka, her generosity of spirit and her powerful mentorship and advocacy skills have been central to the development of New Zealand's contemporary filmmaking community.

In 2001 Gaylene was the first filmmaker to receive an Arts Foundation Laureate Award and in 2010 received the inaugural lifetime achievement award for outstanding contribution to documentary from Documentary Edge, a Screenwriters Mentorship Award and a WIFT NZ Award for outstanding contribution to the New Zealand Screen Industry.  Gaylene is an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit for services to the film industry.

Preston's most recent feature film Home by Christmas won audience accolades at Sydney and London Film Festivals, and won High Commendation at the recent Asia Pacific Awards for the actor Tony Barry who also won Best Actor at the Qantas New Zealand Film Awards.Home by Christmas is in the top 15 highest grossing New Zealand films ever at the local Box Office.  Home by Christmas was a finalist for Best Drama in the World History Makers Awards 2011 in New York.

Gaylene has been working on six hours of television drama set during the earthquakes and aftermath of 2010/11 in Christchurch New Zealand.  Featuring British actor, Bernard Hill and a stellar local ensemble,  Hope and Wire features music from The Eastern and is due for delivery in the second quarter of 2014.

For many years, Gaylene had been interested in making a Helen Clark Documentary, and the possibility that Helen could become UN Secretary-General made 2016 the perfect time. Preston has known Clark since they met when New Zealand was leading the world in the 1980s by becoming nuclear free.  “I have witnessed Helen break down barriers as she’s gone from MP to Cabinet Minister, to New Zealand’s first elected female Prime Minister, and then  the first woman to lead the UN Development Group. Helen is a formidable woman and leader, and I am privileged she gave my team access to tell this story.”  My Year With Helen is the documentary that came out Gaylene Preston’s cameras following as she Helen Clark campaign for Secretary-General while also carrying out her work as Administrator of UNDP, filming Clark in Botswana, Britain, Spain and Ukraine as well as the UN’s New York headquarters. Released in 2017, My Year With Helen gives a closely observed view of Helen’s bid for the top job, as the UN turns itself inside out in an effort to deliver unprecedented transparency in an historic year.

The New Zealand Film Archive holds viewing copies of many of Gaylene's films as well as a collection of material that has been written about her. Anyone wanting access to this material should contact Archive staff.

For more information visit Gaylene's website


Gaylene Preston, Executive Producer, 'Tatarakihi: The Children of Parihaka'. group of Parihaka children follow in the footsteps of their male ancestors who were transported south after the Taranaki land confiscations of the 1860s.
In this short clip, Gaylene tells Kate Mead why she makes films.


You can listen here to a discussion about dealing creatively with tough stuff between Lloyd Jones and Gaylene Preston, Rebecca Macfie, with Finlay Macdonald in the chair, recorded at the 2014 Christchurch Word Writers’ Festival.
Filmmaker and Laureate Gayleen Preston on 'Afternoons' with Jim Mora on Radio New Zealand National on Monday 23 January 2012


Melanie goes home from the pub with a handsome stranger, sailing to his deserted island. When seduction becomes deception, Melanie realizes she has been kidnapped. Torn between fear and desire, she must escape – but her admirer has other plans.
The Arts Foundation produced the' film's premiere event and was the recipient charity for funds raised ($13,000). Gaylene received a Laureate Award in 2001. The Award helped in the making of ''Perfect Strangers'
born Greymouth, New Zealand
Interest in film began while working in art and drama therapy at Fulbourn Hospital, UK
Made 3 short experimental films
Whose School (Documentary)
All the Way Up (Documentary)
Mindout (Documentary)
Mr Wrong (Thriller)
Ruby & Rata
Bread & Roses
War Stories our Mothers Never Told Us
No Other Lips (Hone Tuwhare documentary)
Received Arts Foundation Laureate Award;Titless Wonders wins NZ Media Peace Awards
Appointed Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit
Perfect Strangers released
Lovely Rita - a Painters Life (Documentary on Rita Angus)
Home by Christmas Received award for Outstanding Contribution to the NZ Screen Industry, presented by WIFT NZ;Received inaugural "Best Contribution to the NZ Industry - The Outstanding Achievement Award" - Documentary Edge Awards ; Made an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit for services to the film industry.