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Gaylene Preston talks about Home By Christmas

Tell us how the idea for this film came about 
I interviewed my father on sound tape in 1990 and always knew it was one of those stories that would make a great movie.

How long did it take you to persuade your father to reveal more about what went on?
About as long as it took me to finally make the movie!

Were you surprised by the story he told?
Yes I was.  Particularly the prison camp yarns.

It must have been an emotional and deeply personal story to make - did that make it easier or more difficult? 
It was not a hard film to make because the recipe is so flexible - Actor telling the story as if he was my Father, glorious young actors being them all when they were young and really unusual archival footage from all over the world.  Loved it.

Did you always have in mind this cast for this film? 
Pretty much.  It took so long to get to make, that the casting of young Ed and young Tui changed - partly to do with actor availability.  But Tony Barry was always the only one to play my father as an old dying man. There was an upside - Chelsie grew into a brilliant actress who could play her own Grandmother as a young woman.

The film has a very distinctive feel with the use of archive footage as well as modern day recreation - was that always your intention? 
We have to make our films cheaply.  The mix of formats in HOME BY CHRISTMAS allows a large story set in the past to be told economically.

What is it about New Zealand war films that you think engages the audience so well? 
Humanity.  But we don't have many NZ war feature films do we?  Not made for cinema. Name three?  (There's John Laing's Absent Without Leave, the Bradley bros ChunikBair, WAR STORIES Our Mothers never Told Us...?

And how do you feel they differ from what American films of the same genre offer?
They lack noble certainty and are not Westerns .

What do you think your father would have made of the film? 
I think he would have like hearing everyone laughing at his cunning story telling and he would have told every one what a cheeky girl I have always been. The film's had an amazing reception and been part of Cannes Cinephiles, Sydney, Melbourne, and London  Film Festivals - as a Kiwi film director how does that make you feel?  It's amazing how similar the audience reaction is.  French people said afterwards - "He is just like my grandfather ...!"  We must have had a good translator for the French sub-titles.  But the best thing is the real heartfelt response from the audience at home.

How do you feel our industry is doing these days? 
Same.  Hard - great if you can get a gig.

What's your next project? 
Cuppa luv?

Home By Christmas is out now on DVD - watch a clip of the film here - and watch the trailer for it here .