When Kapiti filmmaker Linda Niccol met Whanganui teenager Libby Hunsdale she knew she had found her Poppy.
Poppy is the title of Niccol's upcoming feature film and also the name of the main character.
"I auditioned over 20 young women from different places around New Zealand and they all had something special," Niccol said.
"However it was Libby who had just the right essence, the right kind of vivaciousness for the character."
The character of Poppy is a determined young woman with Down Syndrome who wants to become a motor mechanic.
The 18-year-old Whanganui Girls' College student said she identified with the character because she is also a determined person and her late grandfather encouraged an early interest in motor vehicles.
"My grandad was Ormie Andrews," Libby said.
"He loved cars and he was into theatre and acting as well so he encouraged me in that way too."
Niccol said she first wrote Poppy as a short story which was published in 2007 and recently decided to rework it as a film script.
"There are very few films that have an actor with Down Syndrome in the lead role," she said.
"It will be demanding for Libby because she's in almost every scene but I'm confident she has the drive and enthusiasm for it."
Libby will be required to drive vehicles in the film and she has been studying the Road Code in readiness to sit her theory test.
"Libby has joined AA and she will get three practical lessons with her membership," said Niccol.
"The driving scenes will be filmed on an empty road and she is confident that she'll be ready."
The young actor said she looks forward to getting behind the wheel for the first time after holidaying with her father on Great Barrier Island.
"Dad gave me a go at driving a golf cart around and I did quite well.
"He said I was good at steering and I enjoyed it."
There will also be scenes of Poppy working in a garage and she has been spending time at Midtown Motors Wanganui to get some hands-on experience during the holidays.
The preparation, as well as drama coaching, is supported by a grant from the IHC Foundation.
Libby said she has been inspired by watching young actors like Lea Michele and Cory Monteith of the Glee TV series, Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame and film and fashion icon Audrey Hepburn.
Acting coach Ella Hope-Higginson is helping Libby prepare for the role and she has also had coaching from renowned New Zealand actor and drama lecturer Miranda Harcourt.
Eminent New Zealand producer Robin Laing will also be working on the film.
Niccol is a published writer of a number of short stories, screenplays and was co-writer of New Zealand 2008 feature hit film Second-Hand Wedding and won a number of awards for her short 2006 film The Handkerchief.
The New Zealand Film Commission is supporting Poppy with funding from the 125 Fund created to celebrate the anniversary of women's suffrage.
New Zealand on Air has also offered funding alongside private supporters and sponsors and TVNZ will screen the film in New Zealand.