Excerpt from Gaylene's Take: Her Life In New Zealand Film

Posted Tuesday 01 Nov 2022

Excerpt from Gaylene's Take: Her Life In New Zealand Film

Dame Gaylene Preston is one of Aotearoa’s most distinctive storytellers. Gaylene's Take: Her Life In New Zealand Film is Dame Gaylene's own story, where she brings the same compassion, humour, irreverence and heart for which her films are known, to the page.

We're delighted to offer WIFT members the chance to win a copy of Dame Gaylene's book, a highly entertaining read; articulate, compelling and moving. 

Released on 10 November, it's also available for pre-order from teherengawakapress.co.nz
Paperback, $40. 

Here's an excerpt from Gaylene's Take to give you a delightful taster of what's in store when you read it! 

It was at a party that I found myself stuttering it out - my deeply buried desire to make a movie. 

This night I'm squeezed into the hallway of a house overlooking Oriental Bay, drinking beer out of a Marmite jar, and Barry Barclay is quizzing me.

When I first joined Pacific [Films], he was away in Sri Lanka trying to make a film that never eventuated. The United Nations money had fallen over. Now Bazza is back and he's organising his next sortie from his office out the back of the white house. He and John [O'Shea] have a great mutual respect and co-conspirator relationship. They will go on to make Bazza's trailblazers - Ngāti and Te Rua then, sadly, after years of successful collaboration, they'll fall out big time. But that hasn't happened yet. For the moment Bazza has his intense dark eyes fixed on me. 

"So what are you going to do?"

That question again.

"Well, John says if I do art direction, the rest of the time I can join the other departments to see where I fit."

"And where do you think that is?"

"Well... Rory said I can join the camera department for a day or two."

I don't tell him that I've joined the camera department for one day already. What a disaster. Rory sent me off to the van to lug gear too heavy for me to carry, and my clapperboard skills were about as good as my waitress brain was, when I had trouble remembering orders at the greasy spoon in Cambridge. Try as I might, I couldn't remember if I'd changed the take number or not. When the footage came back from the lab, the editors laughed because so many takes had two numbers.

Bazza persists. "What do you want to do?"

Time to fess up. I know the answer, so why be so coy?

"Well...I think I could direct?"

The world doesn't stop. He doesn't fall over laughing, clutching his stomach and pointing his finger. Wants to be a director! Ha ha! But his response surprises me.

"How old are you?"


"You'd better get cracking then. You're old enough."

An immediate challenge. I've outed myself at a party. Now I will have to do it, I think as I take a nervous gulp from the Marmite jar.

To be in to win a copy of Gaylene's Take: Her Life In New Zealand Film, email the answer to the question below to office@wiftnz.org.nz:

Name three feature films directed by Dame Gaylene Preston.

Winners only will be notified, by email.

IMAGE: Rebecca McMillan Photography