New Zealand born, Australian-based Jan Preston has composing credits for a number of feature films (Home By Christmas, Illustrious Energy) and hundreds of documentaries. She has worked for award-winning filmmakers from Leon Narbey and Australian Tom Zubrycki to her sister, Gaylene Preston. She was also a member of Kiwi rockers Coup D'etat, whose song 'Doctor I Like Your Medicine' was a top ten hit. Preston regularly tours as the self-styled Queen of Boogie Piano.
I find the process of adding music to the sound effects and dialogue of a film endlessly fascinating and totally obsessive. The musical layers possible from the underscore can change the emotional impact and the meaning of the film to the viewer. Jan Preston
Gaylene Preston's documentary follows a year in the life of trail-blazing politician Helen Clark. During filming the ex New Zealand PM was head of the United Nations Development Programme, and bidding to become the UN’s first female Secretary-General. Preston was keen to capture the empowering character of the woman ranked by Forbes magazine among the 25 most powerful in the world. "Helen is a formidable woman and leader, and I’m honoured she’s given my team access to tell this story." The documentary is set to screen at the 2017 NZ International Film Festival.
In Gaylene Preston's War Stories, her mother Tui revealed that she had fallen for another man while her husband was off at war. In Home by Christmas, inspired by an audio interview with her father Ed, Preston looks again at her parents' life during wartime. In this behind-the-scenes doco, veteran actor Tony Barry talks about the acting techniques which allowed him to "be, rather than play, Ed"; Preston reveals that Barry's distinctive voice is almost a carbon copy of her father's; and Chelsie Preston Crayford talks about portraying her own grandmother.
Home by Christmas sees Gaylene Preston returning to the hidden stories of ordinary New Zealanders. Inspired by attempts to get her father Ed to reveal his WWII experiences, this finely-balanced docu-drama moves between three strands: Preston’s father (Goodbye Pork Pie's Tony Barry, in a Qantas award-winning performance) retelling his story; recreations of Ed’s wartime OE; and life for the woman he left behind in Greymouth. The dream cast sees Preston’s own daughter Chelsie Preston Crayford playing Preston's mother Tui, alongside Martin Henderson.
Four-part series Standing in the Sunshine charted the journey of Kiwi women over a century from September 1893, when New Zealand became the first country to grant women the right to vote in parliamentary elections. This third episode, directed by Melanie Rodriga, looks at women over a century of work — plus education, equal pay, family, art, and Māori life. Interviews are mixed with archive material – including a mid-80s 'girls can do anything' promotion – and reenactments of quotes by Kiwi feminist pioneers. Writer Sandra Coney also authored a tie-in book for the series.
Singer Jackie Clarke attends the NZ Smokefree Composing Women’s Festival to find out what goes on there, and find the guidance and inspiration to write a song for the first time. Made for TV ONE’s Work of Art slot, the documentary mixes interviews with performance footage covering a wide range of musical styles, from classical to rock. Among the singer/songwriters appearing are Moana Maniapoto, Shona Laing, Hinewehi Mohi, Mahinarangi Tocker and Jan Hellriegel, plus sometime film composers Janet Roddick and Jan Preston.
One of a select few Kiwi dramas about filmmaking, The Footstep Man centres on a man whose job is creating footsteps and sound effects for movies. Lonely, toiling under a demanding director, Sam (Brit Steven Grimes) gets trapped between real life and reel life. Cinematographer Leon Narbey’s second movie is a portrait of the strange pressure cooker of creating films, a luminous film within a film — with Jennifer Ward-Lealand as muse to painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec — and a reminder that for all the technology involved, moviemaking is about the human touch.
Illustrious Energy sees Chan and his older mate Kim prospecting for gold in 1890s Otago. Marooned until they can pay off their debts and return to China; they’ve been fruitlessly working their claim for 12 and 27 years respectively. Chan faces racism, isolation, extreme weather, threatening surveyors, opium dens and a circus romance. The renowned feature-directing debut of cinematographer Leon Narbey provides a poetic evocation of the Chinese settler experience; especially vivid are Central’s natural details — desolate schist and tussock lands, rasping crickets.
Rosemary (Annie Whittle) is a photographer, mother and middle-distance runner. A project photographing the rare yellow-eyed penguin sends her to a remote Otago cottage. Despite menacing happenings, she refuses to be intimidated. Then events escalate, sending her running for help in the race of her life. Bird-watching, stranger danger and feminist film theory line up for a time trial in Melanie Read's first movie, for which 20 of the 29-strong production crew were women. Marathon champ Allison Roe — who trained Whittle off-screen — makes a brief cameo.
Author Maurice Shadbolt went before the cameras to play father to the main character, in this adaptation of his acclaimed coming of age novel. Teen Nick (Paul O’Shea) is estranged from his family, and blaming himself for his Māori mate's climbing death. He runs away to his straight talking grandfather (Derek Hardwick) — who takes him bush — and loses his virginity to Sally (a first film role for Rebecca Gibney). Produced by Pacific Films legend John O’Shea, the NZ-German co-production was directed by Rolf Hädrich (Stop Train 349). The film debuted in NZ on television.
A Leon Narbey-directed documentary about English conservationist Richard St Barbe Baker. 'St Barbe' (here aged 92) is interviewed at a South Island station where he presciently warns of desertification and laments the earth being "skinned alive". The visionary tree-planting advocate founded the organisation Men of the Trees (now the International Tree Foundation) to promote reforestation and protect trees, from 5000-year-old bristlecone pines to giant kauri. The film includes the inspiring St Barbe's tree-hugging exercise regime: two minutes morning and night.
This fictionalised account of pioneering 19th century photographers the Burton brothers is set partly in Dunedin during the closing stages of the New Zealand Wars. William and Alfred take contrasting approaches to representing their subjects — and are treated accordingly by the authorities, who are attempting to attract new settlers while brutally suppressing Māori. Produced by veteran John O'Shea (who co-wrote with playwright Robert Lord), the tale of art, commerce and colonisation was largely well received as a thoughtful essay at revisionist history.
Coup D'Etat were a short-lived band featuring Harry Lyon (during a Hello Sailor sabbatical) and Jan Preston (from travelling theatre act Red Mole). The band's second single is an ode to "the dangers of having too much fun". The bright, breezy number was written by Lyon, with the familiar Ponsonby reggae beat favoured by Hello Sailor. Peaking at nine on the charts, it won Best Single at the 1981 NZ Music Awards. The pedestrians in Leon Narbey’s video are near Auckland's Civic Theatre on Queen Street. In the same period, Narbey shot the short film of the same name.
In 1979, Red Mole was arguably New Zealand's best-known alternative theatre troupe. During two seasons in New York they wowed audiences with their Dada-influenced shows. The Villager wrote: "All possible elements of theatre and spectacle are employed by the skilful members of the group." In this 49 minute film, Red Mole take a surreal journey through actual and imaginary New Zealand. Sam Neill had done time as a travelling actor in schools before directing this for the National Film Unit. He collaborated again with editor Judy Rymer on NZ screen history Cinema of Unease.
Before he achieved worldwide fame as an actor, Sam Neill directed documentary films for the National Film Unit. This film examines the philosophy, early achievements and frustrations of one of New Zealand's most innovative architects, Ian Athfield. Athfield won an international competition in 1975 to design housing for 140,000 squatters in Manila, in the Philippines, yet struggled to gain recognition back home. This film culminates in Athfield's trip to the Philippines to pursue the project. Shooter John Toon later memorably shot feature film Rain.