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New Zealand drama film “Poppy” resumed production on Friday, becoming the first local film in the country to start up after a hiatus caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The film was in its final week of shooting when New Zealand’s ‘Level 4’ lockdown took effect on March 23. With the country now returned to a Level 2 state of virus alert, “Poppy” will now complete six days of filming and wrap up on Thursday.

“Poppy” is the debut feature for writer-director Linda Niccol. It tells the story of a young woman with Downs Syndrome who refuses to be defined by her disability and decides to take control of her life. Production is by Robin Laing and Alex Cole-Baker.

Production finance comes from the New Zealand Film Commission’s 125 Fund, a bespoke source launched in 2018 to celebrate New Zealand’s 125 years of universal suffrage. Other support for the production comes from TVNZ, NZ On Air, IHC Foundation and private philanthropic backers.

After the hiatus, almost all the original shooting crew have returned to complete the film. The NZFC said: “The final six days of shooting will take place in a single private location on the Kapiti Coast, North Island, and will include only three key cast and reduced crew numbers to allow for social distancing and minimized interaction between departments.”

New Zealand has established a two-part production protocol, that was drawn up with government departments and industry representatives. The producers spent much of their time in lockdown, liaising with health and safety officers on how to safely complete production. And they expect to revise their working practises as the protocols are updated.

New Zealand imposed one of the world’s toughest responses to COVID-19, but government was largely praised for its clear communication of the issues and the process. It suffered 1,504 confirmed cases and 22 deaths from the disease.

James Cameron and Jon Landau, director and producer respectively of “Avatar” returned to New Zealand on Sunday in order to restart production in studios. Before that, they will be spending 14 days in quarantine in a hotel in Wellington.