Gary Hannam was born in Whangarei in 1951 and educated at Whangarei Boys High.

While attending Victoria University in Wellington, Hannam flatted with producer Dave Gibson. Gibson would go on to set up his fledgling production company, Gibson Films. Hannam was working as a junior lecturer, in Business Administration at Victoria, when he assisted Gibson in putting together a funding package for the company.

Hannam was intrigued by the unique problems and opportunities offered by the film business, and delved further. He became involved with the interim Film Commission, helping them organise the first Export Market Development grants for various producers in 1979/80.

In 1980, Hannam was asked by the Commission to take a more direct role in helping fund Roger Donaldson's second film, Smash Palace.

This led Hannam to start the Film Investment Corporation of NZ in 1981, which became the instrument for financing a string of local features. These features included: Smash Palace, Strata, Wild Horses, Kingi's Story, Kingpin, Vigil, The Lost Tribe, and The Navigator.

These particular tax shelter arrangements, by which investors benefited from participation in funding films, were eventually halted by the National Government of Prime Minister Rob Muldoon. Many in the industry had professed disquiet at the volume and quality of films being produced but there's no question that considerable gains were made in the skills base and infrastructure of local film.

The sudden cessation of private local investment was immediately felt in the industry. One commentator said, "this isn't just torpedoing the ship, it's like machine gunning the survivors".

Hannam's focus became increasingly international. He would eventually move to Europe in 2002, where he co-founded Swiss-based EuroAsset Partners, GmbH, with Australian entertainment financier Justin Pearce.

His connections with New Zealand run deep, however, and he was proud to take a producing role on Roger Donaldson's film, The World's Fastest Indian. This became New Zealand's most successful film measured in box office and video sales.

To mark 21 years of business for The Film Investment Corporation group in 2002, Hannam founded the Film Investment Corporation Foundation. The charitable trust was set up to assist young New Zealanders to obtain international experience.

In 2004 Gary Hannam founded Tanlay AG to finance, produce and sell new projects, including The World's Fastest Indian.