herald

Monday 5 December 2016

'This film saved my life', says director battling MND who finished script by typing it with his eyes

Simon with wife Ruth Fitzmaurice
Simon with wife Ruth Fitzmaurice

A FILM director with crippling Motor Neuron Disease (MND) has had his first feature film premiered at an international film festival.

Simon Fitzmaurice (40) from Greystones, Co Wicklow, is almost completely paralysed due to his illness.

However, this did not stop him from writing and directing the film My name Is Emily, which is on show at the Toronto International Film Festival.

It took him five years to complete the production since his diagnosis in 2008.

"I started typing it with my hands and finished typing it with my eyes," he said, referring to the iris-recognition screen through which he communicates.

The film features Evanna Lynch and tells the story of a teenage girl who escapes her foster home and goes on a road trip across Ireland with a friend to track down her father. It has been described as a teenage love story and the writer and director says telling it was his saving grace from his disease.

Recover

"MND was like a private earthquake for me and my family. It took us all years to recover. We expected my death at any moment.

"It's not like that any more. We recovered and, personally, a major part of that was my work.

"I never stopped working. It was a solace to me. I would be in these nightmare situations, really sick in hospital with doctors all around me and I would be thinking about shots and scenes.

"Work has saved me. I haven't been sick for two years and that is because I've been working full-time on My Name Is Emily and I love it.

"Now I'm working on my new script," he said.

The film will be released here in Spring and it has gained positive reviews in Toronto, one of the most influential international film festivals.

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