Young Guns 17: Savanah Leaf

By Brett McKenzie on Nov 04, 2019

Shining a light on the amazing class of Young Guns 17

What happens when you take a jury of 60+ respected creatives, more than 500 entries from all over the globe, and mix them all together for two months of serious consideration, debate and decision-making? Eventually you get the winners of Young Guns 17! This year, The One Club for Creativity is honoring a creatively diverse class of 28 winners, including animators, designers, photographers, illustrators, film directors and editors, all of whom came out of this process as true champions of their craft.

Ahead of the Young Guns 17 Ceremony + Party taking place on November 20, we are featuring the various superstars who will be taking the stage that evening.

Savanah Leaf
Film Director


New York, NY


London, UK



First of all, congratulations on winning Young Guns, perhaps the first Olympic athlete to do so! Now how did you first discover Young Guns? 

I can't remember exactly when, but I love that Young Guns has so many different types of creators. It's amazing to see a fashion designer next to a graphic designer next to a filmmaker — all being recognized for their artistry. Young Guns is unique in that way.

You're winning Young Guns on your first attempt. What made you decide to give it a go this year?

This past year has been a big one for me. Before this year I was sort of dipping my hands into so many different things in order to get by. I was an in house creative, a creative director for musicians, a photographer, a filmmaker, all sorts. This year, however, I've taken a bigger leap of faith and committed entirely into filmmaking. As I've done that, I've worked on bigger projects, so it felt like the right time to enter Young Guns. 

Which of the projects that you entered is your personal favorite and why?

My favorite is probably "The Ayes Have It". It has a special place in my heart because it was made with people I love, and for a cause that is important to our community. It felt like we were all putting a lot of ourselves into the project. I felt like I could take a lot of risks, which was extremely empowering as a filmmaker. 

One of the highlights of entering Young Guns is the ability to submit personal projects alongside professional ones. I understand you took advantage of this...

I'm passionate about all of them, but 'The Ayes Have It' was a unique, personal project. I made it because the EP of a charity project called Motionpoems approached me about linking with a poet to create a film around a social issue. I got excited about this one poet called Tiana Clark. I had been having lots of dreams that really connected to the visuals I saw when I was reading her poem, so we spoke a few times, and eventually we just agreed it was the right idea for the poem. So my co-producers and I all pitched in to make it.

What was it like to discover that you won YG17?

I felt extremely proud to be part of a community of talented individuals who's work I respect and admire. 

How would you describe your creative style?

That's a hard question. It's interesting because I don't really know how to answer that. I've had other people tell me they really liked how I focus on body movement, camera composition, and emotion-lead storytelling. I think that's probably a good way to describe it. When I'm in the editing room, oftentimes I don't know why I want to cut one thing next to the next thing; it just feels right, and other ways just don't feel as good to me.

I'd say my process is a lot of preparation and exploration of all the different ways I could do a project. Then I pick the way that feels best, and that enables me to feel open on set or in the edit because I've explored many options already — it gives me this inner freedom to follow my instincts.

What is your favorite tool when it comes to making what you do, something you’d feel naked without? 

Hmm, other than my computer? I would say my Canon camera. It's where it all started. 

What do you do when you hit a creative wall, when you are stuck for ideas and solutions?

I go to my keyboard to learn a new song, or to my watercolors to paint, or I walk around the block and breathe, or I pick up a book to read. I have realized a lot of my creative walls come from feeling uninspired or captive in my own thoughts. So sometimes just exploring other creative avenues for a few hours opens up a world of new ideas. 

Who are some of the biggest influences on your work and career? 

It would probably have to be Nat King Cole. I listen to him a lot when I'm creating, and it really helps me think. There's this grace and richness to his sound, a precision to his melodies, and this heartfelt message behind every song. It just is so inspiring to me how he created that sound.

Of all of the people who I know personally, I would say probably my mum is my biggest influence. She has done a lot for me and really worked hard to provide opportunities for me. So that's definitely influenced my work and career. 

Now that you’re in the Young Guns family, are there any past winners that you look up to and admire?

Kerby Jean-Raymond (YG14). He's incredible. I'd love to go to one of his shows. 

Name a creative dream that you have yet to fulfill.

I've been writing a feature script, and I really want to have it made. That's probably my greatest dream. Also, I'd love to do some commercials for the 2020 Olympics. I'd love to return and help tell the athletes' stories, now that I've retired. 

Any final thoughts for the Young Guns community?

Thank you!


“Savanah shows the importance of depicting the moment of presence while living in the moment of presence. She tells strong personal stories passed down through many generations with powerful visuals. She provokes our primitive passions by capturing each individual’s unique emotional flows in detail. We can experience their spirits and culture through the lens of Savanah’s unique vision. It is time to share Savanah’s story to the world. We are excited to have Olympian and filmmaker Savanah Leaf in our Young Guns community!”

Chihiro Konno
Designer/Art Director
Young Guns 13 Winner

“Savanah Leaf’s work is absolutely beautiful in every way. Her ability to hook you in and be part of the story is in itself an amazing attribute. Not only is her storytelling ability top-class, but her execution is fresh, raw and authentic. One thing that I was looking for while judging for was a consistency of greatness in the variety of work shown. Savanah is definitely worthy in what it takes to be a Young Guns winner.”

Vince Lim
Creative Director

The Young Guns 17 Ceremony & Party takes place on Thursday, November 20 in New York City. 




Fire + Fragility: Zuzanna Rogatty's YG21 Cube Design
Young Guns 21: Max Amato
Young Guns 21: Justin Au
Young Guns 21: Tess Ayano