150 years of rugby league in Halifax: Local filmmaker dreams of documentary being shown around the world
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James Mellor, 45, the creative director and producer at Rainbow Trout Films Ltd, at Albion Street Studios in the town centre, was commissioned to work on the exciting project by Halifax Panthers’ Supporters Trust after one of its members, Linda Kitson, had been granted funding by the Calderdale Community Foundation.
The independent film will explore the people, players and culture of Halifax RLFC, and will reflect on the club's origins in 1873, right up to the present day, including the famous Challenge Cup Final triumph in 1987, as well as delivering a focus on the rich history of the town itself.
“I love my job as a filmmaker,” said James, who has worked in the industry for nearly 30 years. “I do a lot of community-based videos for things in Calderdale and I am very much about the community.
“Linda got in touch as the Supporters Trust was really keen on doing a documentary film about the 150 years of rugby league in Halifax.
“Yes, it’s about the sport but, equally as important, it’s about Halifax itself as a town and how it’s moved on with the times. We’re wanting to use all the Halifax landmarks within the film and hoping to recreate things like the first game, hopefully up at Savile Park.
“We are doing the history, looking back at Thrum Hall and have interviewed Andrew Hardcastle, the club’s main historian. We’re going right back to the very beginning, to more recently, in 1987 when they won the cup at Wembley.”
A crowdfunding campaign has been launched on Indiegogo to help cover the costs of productions, with James hoping he can use the funds to turn it into a “bigger project,” which will be shown worldwide.
He said: “We have basic funds but I want to make it into a bigger project than just a short 20-minute documentary which people around Halifax see and that’s it.
“I want this to be seen around the world. I am wanting to make it into a proper feature documentary.
“We are working with Yorkshire Film Archive and have some stonking footage from Halifax from yesteryear, so the funds will go to help pay for stuff like that. We’re talking with an agent of a famous Yorkshire actor to potentially do the narration and talking with a film composer to do the soundtrack - all of these things depend on how much money we raise.
“There will be a film regardless, I just want to make it as big and as bold as we can.”
He added: “We’d love a big premiere, whether that’s at the Piece Hall or wherever! I definitely want a Yorkshire premier and a red carpet screening. My dream is that it becomes an award-winning documentary film that is shown around the world - that’s where I’d really like to see it go, and for people on the other side of the planet to get to know Halifax in the UK and what a great place it is.
“I am a voting member of BAFTA so I would love for it to be nominated for a BAFTA. That would be my personal dream but I have to be realistic about where we can take it.”
And James is even more determined to make it a BAFTA-nominated production having established a special connection with the rugby club as a ten-year-old.
“My late father, Anthony, was the Deputy Mayor of Calderdale at the time when they won the cup in 1987,” he explained. “I was in the mayoral office in the mayoral parlour at Halifax Town Hall and went out onto the balcony and I have this memory of all the players - they were all so big - coming out next to me and I was virtually being squashed on the balcony and I looked down and just saw a sea of blue and white.
“I am privileged to be involved.”
The film is expected to be finished, and screened, by the end of the year.
If you would like to contribute to the fundraising campaign, you can by clicking here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/halifax-rlfc-150-years-of-rugby-league#/