Libby Hunsdale with co-star Ari Boyland on the set of Poppy on the Kāpiti Coast. Photograph: Ness Patea.
The cameras have stopped rolling, the lights have been turned off and young actor Libby Hunsdale is heading back to Whanganui Girls’ College.
But for Libby the story is far from over. She identifies strongly with her character in the new feature film Poppy, about a young woman with Down syndrome who refuses to let other people set limits on her life and sets out to be a motor mechanic.
Libby, 18, is making her move too – she’s planning a future on screen.
“The first thing I really want to do is to get an agent for new jobs,” she says. “I feel so much more confident in myself career wise – where I want to go in my future.”
Libby says she will finish this year and next at school. “And after that I am thinking of going to Victoria University to study film, to see the other parts of film – filming and directing. I want to do film and TV and I want to do some modelling.”
Her ambition was encouraged by the film crew, who gave Libby a parting gift of a director’s chair with her name emblazoned across the back. Poppy was the first New Zealand feature film to go back into production after lockdown. It had only one week of filming to go on the Kāpiti Coast, near Wellington, before cast and crew had to disperse.
Libby has studied drama and dance, but this was her first time in front of the camera, and it was made easier for her with acting coaching from Miranda Harcourt and Ella Hope-Higginson before filming started. Coaching on set was also provided by Stella Reid, Taylor Rogers and Jessi Williams. The IHC Foundation contributed $25,000 towards the coaching.
“As someone with Down syndrome, I can get very tired with acting and stuff. It helped me to do my breath work and be calm,” she says. “We had to do a lot of variations and a lot of takes and it was hard to get used to it. I loved it because it was a rollercoaster ride.”
She also loved working with male lead actor Ari Boyland. “I found that quite a big deal to meet him in person. He has been really nice. He helped me a lot with the acting.” She has mixed
feelings about the end of filming. “There is a part of me that is sad, but there is a part of me that is quite excited because I don’t know what the film is going to look like.”
Poppy, produced by Robin Laing and Alex Cole-Baker, is the debut feature for Raumati writer-director Linda Niccol and is based on her short story Poppy.
The film is financed by the New Zealand Film Commission’s 125 Fund set up in 2018 to celebrate 125 years of universal suffrage, and by TVNZ, NZ On Air, the IHC Foundation and private philanthropic funders. It is scheduled for release towards the end of the year.
This story was published in Community Moves. The magazine is posted free to all IHC members.
Read the full issue of Community Moves.