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SAFC appoints new Head of Production and Development Leanne Saunders

31 May 2024
Pictured: Leanne Saunders, photo: Rachel Corley

The SAFC is pleased to announce the appointment of Leanne Saunders as Head of Production and Development.

One of New Zealand’s most experienced and respected producers and production executives, Leanne comes to the SAFC from the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) where she has served for the past eight years as Head of Development and Production. Prior to the NZFC, Leanne enjoyed a highly successful career as a film producer including launching Piki Films with Taika Waititi and Carthew Neal, focused on developing and producing films with commercial appeal from diverse and Indigenous voices for local and international audiences.

With Piki Films, Leanne produced New Zealand’s top grossing film Hunt for the Wilderpeople and co-launched Piki Sprint, in recognition of indigenous models led by Indigenous creators. Leanne also founded Severe Features where for 15 years she produced and line produced five features, TV series Super City and TVCs, co-designed and executive produced an internationally successful low budget film scheme, and executive produced and co-designed a premium short film program which launched NZ talent internationally.

She comes to SAFC from nearly eight years as the Head Of Development and Production at the New Zealand Film Commission. During her tenure at NZFC over 100 high impact and culturally significant productions were funded from a diverse range of film-makers and talent, including Australian – New Zealand co-productions After The Party, The Convert, We Are Still Here, the forthcoming Went Up The Hill and multi-awarded Oscar and BAFTA winning Netflix film from Jane Campion, The Power Of The Dog.

While at the NZFC she has overseen a number of development and production initiatives to address under-representation, including the 125 Fund for female directors which supported Poppy, The Justice Of Bunny King and The Moon Is Upside Down, winner of Best First Feature at Tallin Black Nights.

She was also responsible for the NZ Government’s $50 million Premium Productions for Global Audiences Fund, which funded factual and dramatic episodic formats for streaming and broadcast as well as feature films.

Leanne also has a strong interest in game development and screen convergence, having regularly attended the NZ Game Developers’ conference and led the inclusion of interactive development in business and slate funding programs at the NZFC.

SAFC CEO Kate Croser said Leanne’s appointment was a coup for the organisation.

“We are delighted to welcome Leanne Saunders to the SAFC as our new Head of Production and Development. Leanne brings great depth and breadth of knowledge and experience and impressive networks across film, television, finance, script and development, as well as a passion for engaging in future industry and audience trends. We are confident she will bring great value to both the agency and the wider South Australian screen sector, and we are excited about her eagerness to support and empower the full range of content and creators that we embrace at the SAFC. We look forward to welcoming her to the team, and to South Australia.”

Leanne Saunders said: “I am excited to join the SAFC team, and share their vision for SA talent and businesses. I particularly acknowledge the agency commitment to First Nations First, and the work done to this point. The screen history, creative talent and environment of South Australia is diverse and unique and I feel privileged to be in the next chapter in the story of the agency going forward. It is testament to the talent and acumen of South Australian creators that they continue to make impact across genre and platform both domestically and on the global stage. I look forward to engaging with the sector to identify ways we can continue to support and enhance their achievements.”

Leanne commences her role on Monday 24 June, 2024.

Recruitment facilitated by Patricia Powell-Hughes of EP Australia.

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