29 March 2023 The Irish Film & Television Network
‘It’s Not Yet Dark’ Set to Open in Irish Cinemas Friday, October 13th
12 Oct 2017 : Nathan Griffin
Following on from its US release, IFTN caught up with Frankie Fenton about his award-winning documentary on the life of Irish filmmaker Simon Fitzmaurice, which is going on release in cinemas across Ireland this Friday, October 13th.

Narrated by Colin Farrell, ‘It’s Not Yet Dark’ tells the ground-breaking story of Simon Fitzmaurice, who has lived with Motor Neuron Disease since 2008, as he embarks on directing his first feature film ‘My Name Is Emily’ through the use of his eyes and eye gaze technology. The film borrows its title from Simon’s autobiography, which was published in 2015, around halfway through the documentary project.   

‘It’s Not Yet Dark’ was produced by Kathryn Kennedy and Lesley McKimm for Kennedy Films and Newgrange Films with funding from the Irish Film Board and Wellcome Trust, and is distributed by Wildcard Distribution.

IFTN caught up with the Director of the documentary, Frankie Fenton, ahead of its release:

IFTN: How did your involvement in this project come about?

Frankie Fenton: “Originally, Kathryn Kennedy and Lesley McKimm were going to do a crowd funding appeal to garner some finishing funds for ‘My name is Emily’ and I had just had a successful crowd funding appeal for another film I am making about climate change so when Kathryn started to tell me about this guy called Simon who was in a wheelchair, it slowly dawned on me to ask  is he married to a girl called Ruth, she said yes, and I was blown away because I had grown up with Ruth and of course I knew who Simon was.

“So I had helped out a little bit with their crowd funding and over that period of time they asked me to make a promo of what I thought the documentary would be like and I think because of my personal relationship with Ruth and Simon, they felt comfortable with having me come on board. Thankfully they liked the promo that I made and the look of it and the direction that it might go in so the producers and Fitzmaurice’s kindly asked me to make the documentary.”

IFTN: I’m sure it must have been difficult at times due to the unique circumstances surrounding Simon’s condition. What obstacles if any did you face while making this film?

Frankie: “Simon was actually a very good subject, in the sense that he really allowed me space and allowed me to be around him whenever I really wanted to be. However, from time to time he wasn’t very shy to tell me to put down the camera when he was working. Which, is very understandable you know, here is a guy directing a film with his eyes and there’s me getting into eyesight with my camera trying to get a good groovy shot but it became a bit of a running joke that he would say in that usual monotone American computer voice ‘Not now, Frankie’.

“But, I felt a little better when I got to see some of the archive footage of Simon bothering people with his camera back in the day, time after time, it would just be people saying ‘Not now, Simon’. So I didn’t feel as bad after I saw that!”

IFTN: You were an Edit Assistant for 10+ years working in the UK, how did your change to directing come about and was this something you always wanted to do?

Frankie: “Yeah I was working in a post-production company called ‘the farm group’ in London for many, many years before I realised that I wanted to be a director. It’s why I got into the business in the first place.”

IFTN: Was this your first project as director or had you done any work previously?

Frankie: “Well no, I had actually already been making a film about climate change, which is a film I am making at the moment. I was originally in the process of making that film and producing it at the same time, then this film came along and there was a sense of urgency with it as Simon was about to start filming ‘My Name is Emily’ so I really had to just jump onboard and park everything so my other film got shelved for a little bit, while I worked on this one.”

IFTN: Do you feel that you have approached your current project with a lot more confidence now, having ‘It’s Not Yet Dark’ under your belt as a director?

Frankie: “Oh, a thousand per cent, absolutely. You know with this film I suddenly got to work with an all-star cast of professionals and especially the likes of Kathryn Kennedy, Lesley McKimm and Jackie Larkin, the producers. So I managed to learn a huge amount from this film, from beginning, right up to the very end. So it has had a massive influence on how I am going to go about making this next film.”

IFTN: Finally, how have people reacted to Simon’s story and the documentary as a whole?

Frankie: “I think the film, and more so the story of Simon, his words, and what he says really hits people on a very emotional plain, sometimes people feel that it is more than just a film. Some people react like they are guilty because they can see what Simon can do with just his eyes but I think that misses the point, I think the real point of the film is that it is a love story, not only a romantic one but a love story of family and friends and what that kind of support can do, and what you can do when you have that kind of support around you. Most people get that.”

‘It’s Not Yet Dark’ goes on Irish release nationwide - Friday, October 13th

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