Film-maker realises her ambition

17:00, Apr 29 2014
filmmaker
WELLINGTON FILM: Kapiti filmmaker Linda Niccol, left, on the set of The Handkerchief which debuted at the Newport Beach Film Festival on Saturday. Pictured here with director of photography Renaud Maire in Wellington's Botanic Gardens.

A seven-year labour of love has debuted to a full house at the Newport Beach Film Festival in the United States.

Local film-maker and author Linda Niccol – sister of famed Kiwi director Andrew Niccol – celebrated the world premiere of her short film The Handkerchief at the Californian festival's Our Short Senses showcase on Saturday.

Filmed in Wellington's Botanic Gardens, the romantic story follows a blind man attempting to charm a woman he meets in the park.

Niccol's script won over judges, including actor Kenneth Branagh, at the Kaos Film's British Short Screenplay Competition in 2006.

An earlier attempt to make the movie saw the script rewritten by the director, so Niccol decided to direct it herself. However, she was unable to make any progress after the New Zealand Film Commission declined multiple funding applications.

Determined to see the project come to light, Niccol instead raised $30,000 through crowd-funding, donations from friends, family and neighbours, as well as company sponsorships, including fragrance house Ecoya.

The Kapiti local – who co-wrote 2008 box-office hit Second-Hand Wedding – says it was "absolutely thrilling" to see the finished film debut at Newport Beach.

"It's really close and personal to me and it was one of those things I couldn't move on from unless I made it. I got quite obsessed with the whole thing and the more I got rejected by various funding bodies in New Zealand, the more I was determined to see it made."

The script was adapted from a piece in Niccol's 2008 short-story collection The Temperature of Water.

While a close friend's son suffers macular degeneration (gradual loss of eyesight) like the film's lead character Alistair, Niccol says the story was inspired by a married man who decided he did not like the look of his wife after regaining his eyesight.

"It's an inverse of that. But the overall message is about not giving up when you're looking for love and surmounting any disability or anything else that gets in the way.

"It's a sweet, romantic film and it doesn't intend to be anything other than that, but it has the edge of a person who is blind having to overcome their disability."

The Handkerchief, which stars Kiwi actors Luke Hawker and Claire Van Beek, has now been entered into several New Zealand film festivals and Niccol hopes to eventually see it grace the screen at The Embassy theatre.

While looking forward to catching up with brother Andrew – who wrote, produced and directed In Time, the 2011 sci-fi thriller starring Justin Timberlake – Niccol says he has yet to see her latest movie. "We do ask each other's opinions, but he's a busy guy. He's doing a film about drone pilots at the moment."

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