EXCLUSIVE: Notes on Blindness, a short docudrama screening at Sundance in January, is being developed into a feature film.
Into Darkness will examine the true-life journey into blindness by academic John Hull, recorded in his autobiographical account Touching the Rock: An Experience of Blindness. The directors were given exclusive access to the audio tapes Hull recorded in the early 1980s as he struggled to deal with his condition, and these will form the narration and structure for the film along with archive footage, verbatim reconstructions and dramatic interpretation.
The film will be produced by Alex Usborne for 104 Films, which has credits including We Are The Freaks, and Jojo Ellison for Archer’s Mark, which recently completed production on its debut feature War Book starring Sophie Okonedo and Anthony Sher.
Pete Middleton and James Spinney will direct the feature from their own script, and Gerry Floyd will serve as director of photography.
With the full script completed, producers plan to shoot in summer 2014 on a budget of £500,000 and financing is currently being explored through a number of avenues including crowdfunding on Kickstarter.
Speaking to ScreenDaily, directors and producers expressed their admiration for John Hull and the unique nature of his audio diary.
Producer Alex Usborne said: “We knew this film could work as a feature because John Hull’s diaries are an incredible piece of work, and the emotional power of them is undeniable. 104 films is about expanding the representation of disability, and this is an astonishing insight into the extreme condition of total blindness.”
Co-director James Spinney said: “We always wanted to try and show the scope and the variety of the diaries. The feature film in some ways has a bigger story to tell, in that John’s really does become a life-affirming account of rebirth and renewal.”
Middleton and Spinney first created a three-minute short called Rainfall about Hull after meeting him for a different project, and it went on to win Best Short Documentary Award at the 2013 Hot Docs festival. Two accompanying shorts, Memory and Panic, were made by the directors through the New York Times Op-Docs programme, and the three together comprise Notes on Blindness, which screens in Sundance’s Documentary short films programme. Production support also came from Creative England, Ideas Tap and The Touchstone Trust.