Saunders is blunt but forthcoming when queried about low budget. “It’s a meaningless term. It’s relative to the context. On Thor Taika can refer to Wilderpeople as microbudget. It is, when you understand the comparative titles we are competing with in cinemas. Low budget in a NZ context would be under $500,000 I guess.”

Similarly up-front about how safety and minimum rates can be maintained within low budget projects Leanne cites a model of paying no less than guild or union-recommended minimum wage and sweat equity recoupment structures to reflect that. “Safety should be within this always. The key thing is that the idea and final script needs to fit within resources afforded.

“I think we are in a really exciting era of cultural growth, fuelled by digital media and uptake of technologies. We have seen exponential change in the industry, great sharing of ideas and evolution of new business models. Kiwis are great doers and innovation is in our DNA.”

The Devil Dared Me To

The Devil Dared Me To

It is true that Leanne has already put her money where her mouth is and is no stranger to innovation, having given digital features an early push with Headstrong.

Her objectives for her time with the NZFC are to see audiences grow for local cinema, and continue to see diversity on the screen and stories that are reflective of our communities. “We need stories that help us define who we are and that we can laugh or cry together.”

She is looking forward to being part of the journey across many more films. When considering her reasons for loving freelance work – ‘Autonomy. Never being bored’- you get the feeling that boredom is not going to be an issue in her new role.

Leanne never did study screen production or film, and reflects, “I don’t know exactly when I moved my sights to the screen but it was not within my reality growing up.” Remembering her parents refusing to pay for courses in film, she admits, “To be honest I didn’t really fight that hard. I wanted to work out first if it was possible to survive in the industry.” It seems key to a central point in the complex picture that emerges of this producer when she relates that she grew up around successful business people, her parents, learning early that business could be creative and collaborative, and came with risk and reward.

Leanne’s start was not with a clear path to producer ahead of her. It has been, in her own words, ‘pretty much one track’ and crucially her breaks have been from working with great producers. She states admiringly that she has learned so much from them all. Her own beginning must have included a healthy dose of her own gumption, however. Her description of leaving Aotearoa with a one-way ticket to the UK “and a newspaper cutting about a company called Working Title (run by Kiwi producer Tim Bevan) and associated sales company Manifesto Film Sales (run by Kiwi Wendy Palmer)” doesn’t suggest a shrinking violet. You might wager that out there are budding producers, harbouring a bit of admiration for Leanne in turn, having been steered toward producing after watching her in action.

Leanne’s first job, however was on a film set was on a short shot on a low-income housing estate in the UK. Wet behind the ears, she agreed to be both runner and caterer. Undeterred as various realities dawned, she bought frozen uncooked pies and paid the flat next door to the set to use their place to cook them.

“They didn’t have an oven tray. The insides fell out. I served up corrugated crusts and a spoonful of mince from the bottom of the oven.” So are metaphorical backbones forged, you might say.

Daniel Joseph Borgman's The Weight Of Elephants

Daniel Joseph Borgman’s The Weight Of Elephants