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Fundraising begins for "extraordinary" director's first feature film

Simon Fitzmaurice has Motor Neuron Disease, and is fundraising for his first feature film, My Name is Emily.

(Kennedy Films/Vimeo)

SIMON FITZMAURICE IS a director, writer and dad of five. He also has Motor Neuron Disease, a diagnosis which came just after his second short film was screened at Sundance Film festival.

MND may have changed him physically, but what remains unchanged is his love of film, which has driven him to write the script for his first feature, My Name is Emily. The fact he finished the script by typing on an iris-recognition screen – in other words, using his eyes – is testament to the faith he has in his work.

He’s not alone in this faith, as he has amassed a team to work with him on producing and releasing My Name is Emily. Yesterday, they launched an IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign to raise money to help them complete the film with Fitzmaurice at the helm.

He began working on My Name is Emily, a film which is told from the perspective of a teenage girl who embarks on a journey to find her father, after his diagnosis.

imageSimon with his wife Ruth and their five children at home in Greystones, Co Wicklow.

The film is co-produced by Kathryn Kennedy of Kennedy Films and Leslie McKimm of Newgrange Pictures. Speaking to, Kennedy said that financing is underway – the Irish Film Board is already committed – and it is expected that shooting will begin in Ireland in early 2014.

Film-making is a very expensive and time-consuming process as it is, but adding Simon’s situation to this means that extra funds and scheduling will be required as well as additional facilities.

In order to raise all the funding needed, the team have set up the IndieGoGo campaign to help them raise €200,000 . They say this will help cover the extra costs required to have the director on set at all times.

Kennedy explained that “we have to challenge ourselves to think outside the usual production model” to help them “do something extraordinary”.

Fitzmaurice will be on set at all times, and will communicate with the cast and crew in a different way to on his previous shoots.

“We’re so used to communicating the way we do that when we’re faced with a new language we have to learn, at first it can seem a little bit daunting,” said Kennedy. “But you just have to challenge yourself to think about how you talk to someone in a different way.”

“It is a challenge but it’s also an amazing experience,” said Kennedy of working with Fitzmaurice. “He’s a fantastic person. I feel lucky.”

When she was first handed the script for My Name is Emily, Kennedy thought “it was amazing”.

It’s very much a celebration of life and love and your family. It’s a very positive read.

Of Fitzmaurice himself, she said: “When I sat down in front of him that first time and looked into his eyes, that’s the Simon – that’s the real Simon in there. You can see how strong he is and his determination.

“Every writer has a voice… but with Simon, someone like him in his condition isn’t always given a voice.”

“He is so inspiring. I think people these days really need a voice like that,” said Kennedy of Fitzmaurice.

When I got the script I wasn’t feeling great and I read it and it took me out of that headspace I was in.

The film hasn’t been fully cast yet, and they are in discussions with a few big names. “We’re hopeful that we might find an aspiring up-and-coming actor,” added Kennedy. “We’re keeping our minds open.”

Kennedy said they are “hopeful” that they will reach the €200k target, and had raised €4,000 just a few hours after the fundraising campaign was launched. The fundraising page is available here.

Read: Colm Murray raised ‘enormous awareness’ about devastating MND>

Read: FG TD vows to continue working after Motor Neurone diagnosis>

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