Image to imagination

Date: Wednesday 28 July 2021, 6pm to 7pm
Cost: Free. Booking essential.
Contact details:
Add to my calendar

Dame Gaylene Preston tells of a lifetime of integrating archival footage into her feature films in the 2021 Friends of the Turnbull Library Found Lecture.


Due to the uncertainties of the current COVID situation the Friends of the Turnbull Library have made the decision to postpone Monday’s Founder Lecture. We are working with Dame Gaylene Preston to reschedule her presentation. Information about the new date will be shared as soon as possible.

Filmmaker and storyteller Dame Gaylene Preston

Leading New Zealand filmmaker and storyteller Dame Gaylene Preston is a national treasure, having produced and directed some of the most enduring popular classics of New Zealand cinema. Her compassion and understanding of real life and of real people, through film for over four decades, has contributed to her peerless reputation as a distinct local voice.

She explains: “In 1986 I began collecting women’s life stories on cassette tape. Around the same time, I discovered the pristine preserved black and white Weekly Revues shot by the precursor of the National Film Unit. That investigation became a lifelong pleasure.”

In her lecture Dame Gaylene will demonstrate how she has integrated archival footage into her feature films and TV series including Home by Christmas, War stories our mothers never told us, Bread and Roses, Hope and Wire, and her suffrage installation at the Auckland Museum, Hot Words and Bold Retorts.

This is a Friends of the Turnbull Library event. The Friends of the Turnbull Library will provide refreshments after the lecture.

Friends of the Turnbull Library

About Alexander Turnbull

The Founder Lecture is held annually. The Library’s founder, Alexander Horsburgh Turnbull, was born on 14 September 1868. He developed a passion for collecting everything he could that was published in, or about, New Zealand and the Pacific, and to significant works of literature.

When he died on 28 June 1918 Turnbull made what was described in the New Zealand Times in July 1918 as “the most generous bequest to the people of New Zealand since the beginning of New Zealand Time”. The collection comprised over 55,000 books, along with thousands of original artworks, prints and maps.

These collections have been built through donation, bequest, legal deposit and targeted purchase, to contain millions of items in many different formats. The Turnbull Library opened to the public on 28 June 1920.

Learn more about Alexander Turnbull and his library

RSVP now for your seat

Seats are limited so book your seat now by emailing

About the speaker

Dame Gaylene Preston is an innovative writer, director, and producer. Her award-winning works have screened at most key international film festivals, including Venice, Sundance, Toronto and London; and extensively at the New Zealand International Film Festival and Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra among many more including Cannes Cinéma des Antipodes.

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. Gaylene has twice been the mentor director for the Canadian Women In The Director’s Chair programme. The first female director’s scholarship funded by the New Zealand Film Commission was named in her honour. After five years on the board, Preston Chaired the Governors of the NZ Arts Foundation.

In 2001 Gaylene was the first filmmaker to receive an Arts Foundation Laureate Award and in 2002 she was made an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit for services to the film industry. In 2010 she received the inaugural lifetime achievement award for outstanding contribution to documentary from Documentary Edge. She also received a Screenwriters Mentorship Award and a WIFT NZ Award for outstanding contribution to the New Zealand Screen Industry.

In 2016 she was awarded the SPADA Industry Champion Award and a NZ Women of Influence Award for Arts & Culture and in 2017 she was given the Premium Moa Award for services to cinema and the Lia Lifetime Achievement Award from the Stranger with My Face Tasmanian Film Festival for her contribution to global women’s genre storytelling.

Her most recent film, My year with Helen was awarded best documentary feature and Preston, Best Director (factual) at the NZ Film Awards 2019.

In 2018 she was invited to be a Visiting Scholar/Resident at Jesus College, Cambridge UK.

In 2019 Gaylene was honoured to become a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Check before you come

Due to COVID-19 some of our events can be cancelled or postponed at very short notice. Please check the website for updated information about individual events before you come.

For more general information about National Library services and exhibitions have look at our COVID-19 page.

Woman wearing a hat looking through a camera viewer.
Dame Gaylene Preston DNZM. Image from Gaylene Preston Productions