January 23, 2018
By Scott D. Pierce
“I’m Poppy” • The first episode of a planned web series is premiering at the film festival and starts streaming Thursday on YouTube Red.
Poppy Chan was surprised when she learned that her short film had been accepted at the Sundance Film Festival.
“First I thought, ‘Wow. Are you sure it’s me? Are you sure that the real Poppy just got her film at Sundance?‘” she said in an interview with The Tribune. “And then they said yes, so I was just in shock.”
Her expressed surprise is about the only thing Poppy has in common with a lot of other stars at Sundance. Because Poppy isn’t your typical performer. She’s a person. She’s a character. A pop star. And a performance artist. Sometimes she seems like an android. And she’s definitely an internet sensation.
“I like to consider myself a Poppy of many gifts,” she said.
And she has her share of obsessed fans.
“Sometimes I get followed, but I usually run faster than them,” Poppy deadpanned. “Oh, they’re very nice. They usually ask for a selfie, which is my favorite photo to take.”
(Talking to Poppy is an experience. She’s always in character and speaks in a high, sweet voice that is at once flat and weirdly melodic. Oh, and somewhat robotic.)
Poppy’s videos have gotten more than 250 million views. Her most popular video, “I’m Poppy,” has almost 14 million viewers. It’s 10 minutes of Poppy saying “I’m Poppy” — occasionally “I am Poppy” — over and over again.
Her success came as “a big surprise,” Poppy said. “If people didn’t watch my videos, I would still make my videos. But it’s more fun that people watch them.”
Poppy and her enigmatic creative partner, Titanic Sinclair, have posted more than 300 videos since the first (“Poppy Eats Cotton Candy”) in November 2014.
Poppy Chan was born Moriah Pereira; Titanic Sinclair (who wrote and directed “I’m Poppy”) was born Corey Mixter; neither talks about their former selves. Most of their pieces run about a minute, but some are longer — including the music videos.
Fans and critics can — and do — debate Poppy and Sinclair’s satire and comedy, but the upbeat pop music is real. Poppy’s first album, “Poppy.computer,” was released in October; a second album will be released later this year. And she’s been touring. She’s scheduled to perform at The Complex in Salt Lake City on Feb. 16.
That will be her second Utah concert; she performed at Sundance on Sunday.
“It was wonderful,” she said. “I got to play at the YouTube House, and I love YouTube.com.”
You’d love it, too, if you’d gotten more than a quarter of a billion viewers on your YouTube channel.
The 24-minute “I’m Poppy” is at Sundance as part of Indie Episodic Program 5.
Sinclair, in — you guessed it! — a YouTube video, said the film is “based on real-life dreams of a young girl, with hopes and dreams of making it in Hollywood. But Hollywood is not all that it seems on television and in the movies. The real Hollywood can be a dark and mysterious place.”
Poppy plays herself, and things take off when she signs a contract with a TV network executive (Samm Levine, “Freaks and Geeks”). But her success upsets her nemesis Charlotte — an actual mannequin — who plots against Poppy, which echoes a number of Poppy’s earlier videos. And Poppy’s life story.
“To me, I’m not acting,” she said. “I just think the other actors in the film were acting. I’m Poppy.”
The short film, planned as a first episode in a series, debuts Thursday on YouTube Red, the streaming site’s subscription (pay) service.
“It’s uncharted territory,” Poppy said. “And if you sign up for YouTube Red, you can get 30 days free. Honestly, it’s the best-case scenario.”
“I’m Poppy” plays on some of the internet rumors about her and Sinclair — that he’s a cult leader; that she’s a Satan worshiper. Poppy signs a deal with the devil, which prompts a religious cult to kidnap her.
The cast also includes Dan Hildebrand (“Game of Thrones”) and Brad Carter (“True Detective”).
“They’re all very, very talented,” Poppy said. “They’re all very nice to me.”
And they’re “experienced” actors … as opposed to Charlotte, who Poppy said was difficult on the set.
How was the mannequin difficult?
“Well, her arms kept falling off, so we had to keep putting them back on,” Poppy said.
But Poppy keeps an optimistic outlook, even when she’s experiencing her first big snowstorm ever while in town for Sundance. Her first impression of Park City?
“I think that there’s a lot of snow and it’s really cold,” she said. But she’s planning to return to Sundance.
“This is my first time — but not the last,” she said.