Poppy: Kiwi movie about a girl with an extra chromosome in the works

Kapiti film-maker Linda Niccol has recently received development funding from the NZ FIlm Commission for her movie Poppy.

Kapiti film-maker Linda Niccol has recently received development funding from the NZ FIlm Commission for her movie Poppy.

A story about a girl with "a little bit extra" – the Down syndrome chromosome –  is being made into a film.

Writer-director Linda Niccol, of Raumati on the Kāpiti Coast, says the "time has come" for her story Poppy – after a decade in the works.

Recently gaining support from the New Zealand Film Commission for development, it tells the story of a girl wanting to overcome the odds stacked against her, taking control of her destiny and independence to secure a better future for herself.

Niccol believed it was an idea ahead of its time  – a girl with Down syndrome wanting to learn to drive and become a mechanic.

Kapiti writer-director Linda Niccol, left, with the Beverley Hills cast and crew for the staged reading of Niccol's ...
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Kapiti writer-director Linda Niccol, left, with the Beverley Hills cast and crew for the staged reading of Niccol's story Poppy - The Girl With A Little Bit Extra - at the Lady Filmmakers Festival last week.

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"It's always frustrating wondering if your film idea will ever be made, but I'm so glad that it has sat around for a while. Society has changed its attitude toward people with disabilities, so if it had been made years ago it may have been completely different  –  if at all."

While it was still early days, Niccol said Poppy would be filmed on the Kapiti Coast and, all going to plan, by late next year.

Andrew Niccol, right, with Gattaca star Ethan Hawke. The pair reteamed for the 2014 movie Good Kill.
FRED THORNHILL/REUTERS

Andrew Niccol, right, with Gattaca star Ethan Hawke. The pair reteamed for the 2014 movie Good Kill.

To get a film made in New Zealand, would mean Niccol would also have one over on her younger brother Andrew Niccol, a Hollywood-based screenwriter and director.

"Andrew's never made a film in New Zealand – he jumped ship early on. He's right into his science-fiction at the moment."

Recently acquired by Netflix, Andrew Niccol's latest film Anon is a science-fiction thriller starring Clive Owens and Amanda Seyfried. His earlier movies included Good Kill (2014) starring Ethan Hawke, The Host (2013), In Time (2011) starring Justin Timberlake, Lord of War (2005) starring Nicholas Cage, Simone (2002) starring Al Pacino and Gattaca (1997) with Ethan Hawke.

He also co-wrote the 2004 Steven Spielberg-movie The Terminal starring Tom Hanks and the screenplay for The Truman Show (1998) starring Jim Carrey.

Linda Niccol's own screen career began in 2006 when she won Kaos Films British Short Screenplay Award for The Handkerchief. She went on to co-write New Zealand feature hit Second-Hand Wedding. She then wrote and directed shorts Dangerous Ride and The Handkerchief. Both films screened at festivals in New Zealand and in the United States.

Starring Amanda Seyfried, Andrew Niccol's latest movie has recently been acquired by Netflix

Starring Amanda Seyfried, Andrew Niccol's latest movie has recently been acquired by Netflix

She is also a published author with two collections of short stories; The Geometry of Desire and The Temperature of Water.

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Most recently, Niccol had collaborated with Canadian writer Vincent Thibault on Lorraine, a film about a bereft grandmother who meets a parkour athlete that gives her a new lease on life.

Another short screenplay, The Book Lovers also reached LA's HollyShorts finals this year.

Linda Niccol filming The Handkerchief with director of photography Renaud Maire in Wellington's Botanic Gardens in 2013.
Paddy Riley

Linda Niccol filming The Handkerchief with director of photography Renaud Maire in Wellington's Botanic Gardens in 2013.

Niccol said much of her work featured strong female protagonists and she hoped Poppy would engage and provoke audiences into thinking a little bit differently about those with a little bit extra.

She looked forward to exploring the script further and rewriting as necessary, before nationwide casting and production continued.

"To have it supported to a level where it's able and ready to go into production is amazing. It's always lovely to receive recognition and understanding of what you're doing."

Niccol has just returned from the United States where  her screenplay was given a staged reading at the Lady Filmmakers Festival in Beverly Hills.  It was one of only two screenplays selected and played to a packed audience.

"I was really heartened that people enjoyed and become emotionally connected with it," she said.

 - Stuff.co.nz

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