Leanne Saunders new head of production & development at NZFC

The New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) has hired Leanne Saunders as its new head of production and development.

Saunders arrives with 15 years’ experience in film and television production and will start in late May, replacing Lisa Chatfield who recently left the NZFC for a role at local production outfit Pukeko Pictures.  

Saunders’ feature film credits include The Weight Of Elephants, Born To Dance, The Devil’s Rock, Christmas and Desert. Most recently she co-produced Hunt For The Wilderpeople with Piki Films co-founders Carthew Neal and Taika Waititi.

NZFC chief executive Dave Gibson said: “Leanne is one of New Zealand’s most experienced film producers and I am delighted she has accepted this key role at the NZFC.

“Her regular attendance at international festivals and markets, combined with her extensive development and production experience, makes her an ideal addition to the NZFC team.”

Stan Walker, Rhys Darby & Oscar Kightley join Wilderpeople

Stan Walker and Rhys Darby have joined Sam Neill in the cast of Taika Waititi's movie adaptation of a book by Barry Crump.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople, which is based on Crump's Wild Pork and Watercress, stars Neill as the cantankerous foster uncle Hec who goes bush in the Ureweras with his city kid nephew Ricky after Social Welfare threatens to put the boy into a home.

Read more here.

Variety: Sam Neill joins Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Sam Neill and young “Paper Planes” star Julian Dennison have joined the cast of “Hunt For the Wilderpeople,” which is directed by hot New Zealand director Taika Waititi, who scored an international hit with “What We Do in the Shadows.”

The comic adventure movie starts shooting next week in New Zealand. Madman Entertainment has acquired all rights to the film for Australia and New Zealand, and will release in NZ in partnership with the producers. Protagonist Pictures has taken on international sales rights.

Dennison plays a defiant young city kid who finds himself on the run with his cantankerous foster uncle (Neill) in the wild New Zealand bush. A national manhunt ensues and the two are forced to put aside their differences and work together to survive.

Read more here.

Jessica Hansell and Rose Matafeo join Piki

We are excited to announce that Jessica Hansell and Rose Matafeo will be joining the Piki development sprint. The addition of these exciting new writers will help us achieve the goals of the scheme; to develop talent, produce great scripts and make films that reach international audiences.

Rose Matafeo is a comedian and writer. She started stand up at the age of 15 and has staged four solo shows at the NZ International Comedy Festival. She won Best Newcomer at the festival in 2010, going on to win the prestigious Billy T Award in 2013 - the first Pacific Islander to do so. Her first foray into television was on the youth channel TVNZU from 2011. She currently writes and performs on the late night comedy show Jono & Ben at 10 and occasionally appears on 7 Days. 

Jessica Hansell is a writer, musician and artist. Under the name Coco Solid she has toured internationally, charted on student radio and collaborated with artists and labels from all over the world. With a long history in comics and zines, last year Hansell wrote the cult cartoon HOOK UPS, a series about musical Māori twins in the suburbs. Hansell completed her MA in creative writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters in 2012.

The first Piki sessions will be held in the first week of September.