Glendyn Ivin sees hope and inspiration in ‘Penguin Bloom’

Glendyn Ivin (Photo credit: Sam Chiplin).

Glendyn Ivin was in Glasgow shooting the BBC/ABC psychological thriller The Cry last year when he got a call from his US agent.

UTA’s Bec Smith wanted to know if the director was still interested in a screen adaptation of Penguin Bloom, an Australian book by Bradley Trevor Greive which he had read several years earlier.

He sure was: He’d been very moved by the story of Samantha Bloom, a young Sydney woman who broke her back after a railing snapped and she fell head-first six metres onto a concrete floor while holidaying with her family in Thailand in 2013.

After being diagnosed as a paraplegic, she slipped into depression and hopelessness until her son Noah found a frail, injured magpie chick. By caring for the little bird, which the family named Penguin for her black and white plumage, she regained her strength and confidence.

So Ivin eagerly accepted the job of directing the movie which will star Naomi Watts as Sam, produced by Watts, Made Up Stories’ Bruna Papandrea and Emma Cooper.

He is working on the screenplay with Harry Cripps and Shaun Grant. Shooting is due to start in July with funding from Screen Australia after Naomi finishes the Game of Thrones prequel pilot, co-created by George R.R. Martin and Jane Goldman, for HBO.

After directing The Cry and the similarly dark, intense Safe Harbour, Ivin was keen to tackle a lighter subject. “This is a story about hope,” he tells IF. “Through Sam’s generosity, she healed herself. It is not a family film but it is a film you could take the whole family to see.”

Sam and her husband Cam have been closely involved in the development and will serve as executive producers. “It is a very intimate story. Sam and Cam have been very open and generous,” Ivin says.

Casting is underway for the roles of Cam and the couple’s three children. The DOP is Sam Chiplin, who shot The Cry and Safe Harbour. Roadshow is the Australian distributor and Endeavor Content will handle international sales.

Ewen Leslie, Glendyn Ivin and Jenna Coleman on the set of ‘The Cry.’ (Photo credit: Lachlan Moore)

Ivin was flooded with offers after The Cry, which starred Ewen Leslie and Jenna Coleman, rated strongly on BBC1 and the ABC and was sold to Sundance Now in the US.

Penguin Bloom is just his second feature; he made his debut with Last Ride in 2009. He had been offered numerous movies but turned them down due to the fragmentation of cinemagoing.

“The business has polarised between art house films, which are important culturally, and the blockbusters,” he says. “Subjects that would have been made as features are now much better suited to TV. I approached The Cry as if it were a four hour cinema feature. With Penguin Bloom I think there is a good chance it will reach a wide audience.”

He is developing In My Skin: A Memoir, a drama series based on Kate Holden’s book, with producer Amanda Higgs for Matchbox Pictures. He sees rich potential in Holden’s account of being a heroin addict and sex worker before she became an acclaimed writer and author.