Preston Cato

Preston Cato earned a BS and a BLA in Landscape Architecture from Michigan State University while working for Lansing Parks and Rec designing elements of the Lansing Zoo, several youth centers, and public spaces. After college, Cato practiced landscape architecture in Boston first at Maurice & Gary and then Sasaki Associates, working on large scale corporate landscape projects including Baxter Corporate Headquarters, John Deere Corporate Headquarters and NYCHA spaces in NYC including Arvern Housing in Rockaway.

While working in New England, Cato pursued his interests in filmmaking. At The Orson Wells Film School in Cambridge, MA, he studied with Cinematographer Austin DeBesche and participated in workshops with Directors Paul Morrissey & Jan Kadar. At the Laszlo Kovacs Maine Photographic Workshop in Camden, Maine, Don won the “Most Electricity” Award.

Preston Moved to Eugene Oregon in 1973 to attend the U of O Master’s Program. He earned an MLA from the University of Oregon, where he also studied extensively in the Graduate Department of Motion Graphics. While in Oregon, he was instrumental in igniting the film community as the Director of the Eugene Filmmakers Cinematheque and the Landscape Film Series for 4 years while he distributed films from China.

When the Northwest became attractive to Hollywood films, Preston worked on Animal House, How To Beat The High Cost Of Living and Stand By Me all shot in and around the Eugene area.  In 1978, he was one of the first western filmmakers allowed into China to create an immersion documentary: China: Behind Silk Curtains which was screened on Beijing TV & at the Portland Art Museum

Among Cato’s many short films from the 70’s and 80’s, a few notable projects stand out – Pipeline Patrol, won a Silver Medal at the 26th Cannes Amateur Film Festival and was screened by the National Film Board of Canada, the Portland Art Museum, the Tokyo Film Festival, the Stratford Festival. The film also won an ANNIE from American Society of Animators-East (NY) and toured with the Ann Arbor Midnight Trip. His documentary Skinners’ Beaut, a bicentennial film for the City of Eugene, Oregon was selected by the World Futures Society as a tribute to Margaret Meade at the Chautauqua Institute, Chautauqua, New York. From the same period, he packaged and directed his first feature, Dixie Lanes, with Karen Black, Hoyt Axton, Moses Gunn, Tina Louise and Nina Foch, released by Miramax in 1988 to over 40 countries and was twice the CBS movie of the week

When Cato moved to NYC in the late 80’s he Co-Produced the Off-Broadway award winning FOR PLAY Improvised Theatre which won the first Backstage Bistro Award for Best Director and a MAC Award for Best NYC Comedy. The theatre company renovated the historical Producer’s Club and became a staple in the NYC cabaret and comedy club scene of the 80’s

In the 90’s Cato reignited his film work with a 2nd feature, Be My Oswald, which screened at an international and eclectic group of venues and festivals: Anthology Film Archives, National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, Lincoln Center, the Dylan Thomas Center in Wales and the Everglades Film Festival, South Africa. The film has been critically compared to Dr. Strangelove and to Shallow Grave and the NY Times characterized it as an opus to “Finding yourself through terrorism.”

In June 2011 he an Animation award at ReelHeART International Film Festival in Toronto for PRESTO a 3-minute hand painted 16mm film. In 2013 he was selected to participate in the Subway Film Series and made Dead Man Rides Subway based on the poem by the same name by Pulitzer Prize Nominated poet Cornelius Eady. The film has screened at museums, colleges and festivals and won the Grand Prize at the ROXY UNDERGROUND Film Festival.

2013 was an incredibly busy year as Cato Co-Directed, Produced & Edited My Kansas a Bio-Doc written & narrated by Richard Uhlig which won ‘Best Documentary Short’, ‘Best Director Documentary Short’ and ‘Best New York Filmmaker’ at the Chain Film Festival. He was DP/Editor/Co-Producer on the theatrical short My Day by Writer/Director Paul M. Kelly with Judith Roberts (Eraserhead, Orange is the New Black). Judith won ‘Best Actress’ at The Queens World Film Festival, ‘Best Actress in a Short’ at The Long Island International Film Expo and ‘Best Leading Actress’ at the 2013 Accolade Competition where the film also won the ‘Award of Excellence for a Short Film’.

Beyond his accomplishments in film, Cato has won awards for his photography, sculpture, landscape design and public performance. He has staged live performance art and film screenings from city beaches to the top of the Z Hotel in LIC.  While in Oregon he co-founded Garbagio’s, the country’s first consumer owned, source separating recycling & garbage company and was an award-winning Pacific Northwest Rugby athlete.

Currently Cato teaches the faculty at the Digital Film Company where he teaches Film History and Screenwriting while he continues to create film, sculpture, photographs and assemblages. He also serves as the Artists Director for the Queens World Film Festival which he co-founded in 2011.

Through the festival he curates an annual multi day, multi venue international event that has screened over 1,400 films from over 80 nations. He has worked with NYC Public School System school children for over 25 years bringing film and video experiences into classrooms across the city and has brought Indie cinema to the Queens community which is why he was selected by the Queens Courier as one of the 2012 KINGS OF QUEENS for his contribution to Queens.