Article content

Girl standing in front of a concrete wall with 'freak' spray painted on it

Sydney Film Festival interview: Simon Fitzmaurice

This year the Sydney Film Festival features Screenability, a series of six films made by people with lived experience of disability. Here’s our latest Screenability interview, with Simon Fitzmaurice, director of the film ‘My Name is Emily’.

What was your inspiration for My name is Emily?
My writing usually comes from a key phrase or thought. Very often it will become the beginning of a story. In this case it was: “Life happens quickly, like mountains in the background. And you wake up one day and you don’t know how you got there”. I’m obsessed with the act of waking up. As a sudden, new awareness of yourself. A sudden new perspective of your existence that moments before didn’t exist. It’s a fascinating human phenomenon. Fascinating enough to me to weave a story out of it.

What are the key themes that the film addresses?
This is a story of redemption. I believe in the power to take what life throws at you and to slowly come back, to take all you have and not be crushed to death by sadness and loss. People are crushed every day by sadness and loss. This is not an attempt to say otherwise. This is just a story where that doesn’t happen.

How long did it take to produce, from concept to final cut
The story of Emily had been living in me for five years before production on it ever began. I then spent many months preparing and storyboarding each shot so that everyone involved knew exactly what we would be doing on set when it came to the six week shoot.

In the years that you have working in the film industry what changes (if any) have you seen regarding access and inclusion for people with disability
There are many challenges facing people with disability in film production when it comes to set locations. This is something we overcame as much as possible by meticulous planning before the shoot began.

How have these affected you, as a person with disability?
When the people around me are supportive and positive at trying to overcome the obstacles it’s not a problem.

What is your take on the screenability initiative?
I think it’s incredible, a wonderful achievement.

What benefits do you think it provides to the Australian and international film industry?
It simply includes everyone, everyone is given the opportunity to show their talent, to get their work out there, without obstacle or prejudice, which is as it should be.

Is this the first time you have been featured at the Sydney Film festival?
Yes, it is a great honour and I’m delighted.

 Watch the trailer and book your ticket to the remaining screening on 16 June.