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Kāpiti film needs actress with a difference

Nationwide casting has begun for the title role in Poppy, a new feature film to be shot in Kāpiti next year.

The lead role is a young woman with Down syndrome, determined to live like other women her age (21). She is put in the “disability box” by the person she trusts most, and is forced to take control of her destiny.

The film has been worked on for a decade by writer/director Linda Niccol (Second-Hand Wedding, The Handkerchief), and will be shot in Kāpiti in 2019 (apart from a “burnout” scene in the Wairarapa).

Writer/director Linda Niccol, working on her short film The Handkerchief

“The role will be demanding in that we need our Poppy to drive the film. She’ll need to have the ability to learn lines and she’ll also need to be fit, feisty and fun,” says Niccol.

The film is one of three supported by the New Zealand Film Commission’s 125 Fund commemorating 125 years of women voting in New Zealand and offering investment for projects where the director and at least one other key creative is a woman.

Poppy will be produced by Susan Parker (Loving in Limbo) with executive producer Alex Cole-Baker (The Most Fun You Can Have Dying).

Niccol said the script was inspired by an early draft of a short film by Jeff Simmonds, which she rewrote it into a short story had published in her collection, The Temperature of Water, and was further inspired by a young woman, Poppy Anderson, who she met in Kāpiti.

Acting coach Miranda Harcourt, who will coach the actor who plays Poppy, says that Linda Niccol’s script is “a paen to joy”.

“As she did in the enormously successful feature Second-Hand Wedding, Linda brings her eye for detail and specificity to this story about a Down syndrome girl making a claim for the life she deserves.

“Now is the time to be celebrating actors of disability and stories about difference,” says Harcourt.

Those interested in auditioning for Poppy should email casting director Linda McFetridge.

Second-Hand Wedding

Another recipient of the NZFC 125 Fund is Hawk Mountain, from Wellington writer/director Loren Taylor (Eagle vs Shark), and Georgina Conder and Ainsley Gardiner, producers of feature film The Breaker Upperers and documentary She Shears.

It is a story of three women ­ a lonely empty-nester, a duped Greek mail-order bride, and a numbed anaesthetist ­ on an increasingly unromantic weekend as they navigate their way through an alpine landscape and the contours of the human heart.