Valene Kane

From Youtube to the big screen, the Newry actress talks about her unusual feature, the winner of Critics Choice award screening at Dublin's International Film Festival

Click on the video above to watch the trailer for The Fading Light.

Just over a year ago, Newry girl Valene Kane was experimenting with improvised short films and uploading them to Youtube.

Fast forward a few months and the 24-year-old has shot a thriller in Rome and performed on stage in Martin McDonagh's The Lonesome West, as well as playing the lead role in The Fading Light, winner of the Critics Choice for Best Irish Film screened at Dublin's International Film Festival and directed by Ivan Kavanagh.

Valene Kane, photo by Phil SharpKane got a call from the Irish director after he spotted her raw performance skills in an entirely improvised short film called July, after it had been posted on the video website, YouTube.

‘We didn't really know what we were creating,' admits Kane of July. 'That was quite crazy. It was three days of being filmed in a flat with two other actors and completely seeing what happened. I mean, there wasn't much direction, so we kind of fed off eachother.'

Kane, who now lives in London, flew back to Ireland to have a sit down and coffee with Kavanagh. 'All we did was chat and at the end he said "Well, we'll see you on set." I couldn't really believe it at first, I don't think I took it seriously until I was called by the producer.'

Kane's enthusiasm for the experimental means that she is no stranger to trying new things and enduring awkward moments for on-screen results. But the premiere of her debut feature at the Dublin International Film Festival may just be her most nerve-wracking experience yet, as she has no idea what the final edit of The Fading Light is like.

'It's hard to remember exactly what happened. Even then it was a blur because each take really took it out of you. But I trust Ivan completely. I’m full of nerves and excitement at the same time.

'I don't know what the finished product is going to be like because we shot so many hours of footage. Each take took on a different sense, a different atmosphere, so I don't know the exact final story.'

In the The Fading Light, Kane's character, Yvonne, returns home to Dublin with her sister to watch over her dying mother, a widow caring for their disabled brother, Peter. As the days pass, both sisters struggle with their own fears and doubts, their mother's imminent death forcing them to address their complex relationship, as the siblings decide who will care for Peter when their mother dies.

That first feature film must be a daunting experience for any young actor, but when drama school graduate Kane was cast in Kavangh's feature, she also discovered there would be no script and that she would be creating every word of her character herself.

'It was a really intense month of filming, especially because Patrick [O'Donnell] in the role of my brother, stayed in character the whole month - which was quite surreal, but also amazing for me because both the other actors had worked with Ivan before, whereas I was the new girl. So it was quite a daunting prospect. Staying in character made it easier for me to let go and follow all of Ivan's directions.'

During the month of filming on The Fading Light, Kane found herself unable to let go of the story, even after the cameras stopped rolling, held in a state of perpetual insomnia. 'I think the main issue [in the film] I found hard to let go of was the death of my mother, and the mortality of my parents in general, and bringing that to the fore was quite emotional for me.

'Obviously because I left Newry when I was 18, I rarely see my parents and thinking about the death of one of them was really hard to deal with. I think that's what was really holding me that month. Some scenes that we shot were horrific and stayed with me for days.'

With filming completed on a horror flick soon to hit festivals, At The End Of The Day, what's next for the Newry girl? Never one to shy away from a tough role, Kane's next challenge involves playing a nun in the thriller A-Z, being shot on super-8 film and set in Paris and London.

'I'm really excited about it because I love super-8, but I've only ever used it by myself and with my friends. It's going to be really exciting to do a project with it. It's also going to be incredibly interesting and fun to play a nun!'

The Fading Light will be screened on exclusive release at the IFI Dublin from the 12th-18th March. Book tickets here.

Eddie Mullan