Clare O'Leary began her filmmaking career in Western Australia through the Film and Television Institute, and through working on many independent productions. Her first film, Raw Energy, was a poetic montage of her experiences in Europe at the time of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
She went on to direct a documentary for SBS-TV, Overlocked and Underpaid, about migrant women working in the clothing trade. She worked with Mexican political exile and folk singer, Rita Menendez, filming concerts in factories where women endured bad conditions and unions were banned.
She returned to New Zealand with her son in 1991. That year O'Leary took a film crew to Dunedin Writers Week and recorded interviews and readings with writers.
In 1994, she directed A Double Standard, a documentary about the sex industry in New Zealand produced with Top Shelf Productions. She received an Accolade award at the Wellington Film Festival that year for "maintaining the integrity of her documentary subjects."
While filming the documentary, she negotiated with the NZ Prostitutes Collective to make a safe sex video. Sold on Safe Sex [R18] has been used extensively as a safe sex educational tool for new workers entering the industry. O'Leary received an award from the NZ AIDS Foundation the same year for both projects.
In 1997 her documentary A Class Act: Mervyn Thompson, His Life & Work, about the controversial playwright, was selected for the Auckland and Wellington arms of the International Film Festival.
In 2000 O'Leary travelled to Paris with producer Di Oliver-Zahl to take part in Women Broadcasting for Change, an international UNESCO conference. The short film they made, New Media Women, New Zealand, profiled ten women working in new media technology in NZ. It screened on the BBC World Life series.
In 2004, Oliver-Zahl was killed in a tragic accident. O'Leary worked with Glenis Giles to complete QTV, a 13 part science series for children that Oliver-Zahl had been working on. She co-directed the series with Lala Rolls, and also directed spin-off DVD QCareers, based on interviews with scientists from throughout New Zealand.
In 2007, O'Leary and Giles formed company GoGo Media, and worked together on documentary Michael King, A Moment in Time. The film features King talking in 1991 about his life, work, and whether Pākehā should write about Māori. The 38-minute film was selected for the 2007 International Film Festival. O'Leary did the same in 2010 with Gordon Crook: A Life of Art, which chronicled the art and thoughts of English-born, Wellington-based artist Gordon Crook.
GoGo Media website (broken link). Accessed 16 December 2011
The Doco Bug website. Accessed 14 March 2013
'Historian renowned for bridging gap' - The Dominion Post (TV Week pullout), 31 March 2009, Page T3