NZFC farewells head of development and production Leanne Saunders

Leanne Saunders.

New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC ) head of development and production Leanne Saunders will depart the agency this week after nearly eight years to join the South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC) as head of production and development.

Saunders joined NZFC in 2016 following a career in producing, where her credits included The Weight of Elephants, Born to Dance, The Devil’s Rock, Christmas and Desert, and Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

More than 100 productions from various filmmakers and talent received funding during her tenure, including The Power Of The Dog, After The Party, The Convert, and We Are Still Here.

Saunders said she was excited to share the SAFC’s vision for talent and businesses in the state.

“I particularly acknowledge the agency commitment to First Nations First, and the work done to this point,” she said.

“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 a testament to the talent and acumen of South Australian creators that they continue to make an 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.”

SAFC CEO Kate Croser said Saunders brought “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,” she said.

In a statement, NZFC said they wish Saunders “all the very best with this next chapter in her career”.

“She is excited about opportunities ahead of her and for the wider industry and wishes Te Tumu Whakaata Taonga New Zealand Film Commission all the best for their new direction,” the agency said.

Saunders’ departure comes as NZFC prepares to operate under a new structure from July 1, with 28 positions disestablished in favour of 15 new roles. Of the disestablished positions, seven were vacant.

The agency is recruiting for a marketing and communications executive, a rights, licensing, and royalties executive, a film production lead, and a head of funding.

Earlier this month, NZFC Annie Murray said the next phase would be about “doing things differently”, so the agency used its resources to “target how we can best add value to an industry of significant importance to New Zealand and New Zealanders”.

“This means thinking differently about every aspect of what we do and making changes that range from granting funding directly to industry for talent and skills development to stopping giving creative feedback on scripts, reviewing our marketing function and how our funds are streamlined,” she said.

*This story has been updated to include Leanne Saunders appointment as South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC) as head of production and development.

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