Tall Poppy: A Skater's story

Filmed over 10 years, this documentary follows Poppy Starr Olsen as she grapples with the transition from child prodigy skateboarder to world-renowned athlete in a male dominated sport.

  • Justine Moyle
    Director
  • Jo Austin
    Producer
    Undone
  • Poppy Starr Olsen
    Key Cast
    "Self"
  • Dane Howell
    DOP
    Melon Grab
  • Rolando M. Olalia
    Editor
    Miguelito
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Feature
  • Genres:
    Female, LGBTWI, Sports, Coming of Age
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 30 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    June 21, 2021
  • Production Budget:
    198,700 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    Australia
  • Country of Filming:
    Australia
  • Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital
  • Aspect Ratio:
    16:9
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    Yes
  • Student Project:
    No
  • Cinema Release Australia Nationally
    Newcastle
    Australia
    June 27, 2021
    Australian Premiere
Distribution Information
  • Garage Entertainment
    Distributor
    Country: Australia
    Rights: All Rights
Director Biography - Justine Moyle

Justine is an emerging Director and the inaugural recipient of the Create NSW She Doc Fellowship Award which allowed her to spend six weeks working on the development of Tall Poppy with Lucy Walker (Crash Reel).

With over 15 years’ experience in content, Justine’s career has taken her from the production office of Saatchi & Saatchi Sydney to the newsroom of the BBC’s Radio 1 in London to Network Seven News, Fremantle Media, as well as working with a plethora of production companies worldwide.

In 2010 Justine was an associate producer on the critically acclaimed & festival winning film, Stolen produced by United Notions Film. It was the opportunity to work on this film that fuelled her deep seated desire to create content that inspires social change. Justine’s passion is telling engaging & inspiring people stories, from the extraordinary to the everyday. In recent years Justine’s work has had a focus on sports stories with brands such as Optus, Bridgestone, & the AOC. Her Headspace Headcoach Campaign has been one of the most successful campaigns to date for the organisation, which focused on well known male athletes talking about how they look after their mental health.

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Director Statement

I discovered Poppy Starr Olsen with her white blonde hair poking out from her shocking pink helmet when she was 13. Out on a shoot for something else, there she was, dropping into the Bondi Bowl, surrounded by other skateboarders - mostly middle-aged men who’d been skating for decades, I watched on as she landed a front-side-air. She had zero fear. I was and I am still inspired by the courage that she doesn’t even know she has. I have since captured the intricate details of Poppy’s life as she transitioned from girlhood to womanhood whilst navigating life as a professional skateboarder, witnessed what that entails, the sacrifices, the impact on her family, and the realisation that she is the antithesis of what a professional athlete is expected to be.

Throughout the film we explore the universal themes of coming of age, family dynamics, competition, identity and the politics of gender. Also, for the first time in history, skateboarding is an Olympic sport, so we are at a pivotal moment in skateboarding culture. Skateboarders are known for turning their backs on “mainstream”, they are not athletes and Poppy certainly doesn’t see herself as one. She considers herself to be an ordinary girl that’s ‘pretty good’ at skating and loves her circle of friends more than anything. Skateboarding encapsulates her whole life, her social circle and even her closest family. It’s a world we’ve known nothing about - until now. It’s been fascinating to witness the dynamics of this play out as she grapples with winning (beating her friends) and a complicated mother/ daughter relationship caused by the necessity of her mother to be her manager & confidante. Secondary character interviews will supplement Poppy’s voice enhancing the texture and layers of the story as we get POV soundbites from her mum, her coach and her friends.

Being on the insider's journey of a sport in flux has been nothing but eye opening. Having always been an individual pursuit, new rules and regulations are causing havoc in this free flowing world. Even where and when qualifying events take place in the world are only confirmed weeks before they are scheduled to go ahead. On a fundamental level the idea of having a coach and being called an athlete and having to “train for an event are completely foreign concepts to skateboarding. These issues mirror Poppy’s internal conflict. Is she a skateboarder or a competitive athlete or can she be both? Who she wants to be and what the world wants her to be is her internal struggle and what is explored in the film, and will resonate with many. Poppy’s story redefines what a competitive athlete must be, do, think, and strive for.

Initially I never intended for Poppy’s romantic life to become a part of the film however it became pivotal. If Poppy had been born ten years earlier her “coming out” would have been more of an issue, so as Poppy says “Una is simply the human she loves.”. Her “coming out” is a non event. To be given access to capture Poppy’s reunion with Una after 12 months apart was incredibly humbling. They freely express their love & vulnerability - it captures what it is to be 20 in 2020. Naturally, we also get to explore gender equity. Within 12 months of the Olympic announcement many of the existing skateboarding competitions miraculously found parity between the womens and the mens’ prize purse. This would never have happened without the Olympics announcement to include the sport. In the 3rd act Poppy starts to question skateboardings place in the Games however whether you agree or not, it has also validated women in the sport. It’s personally afforded Poppy opportunities that simply were not available to her even 3 years ago, just because she’s a girl.

Poppy’s story is the road less traveled & my hope is that it will inspire audiences to find their own courage to follow what it is that makes their heart beat.