David Parkin on knockout screen success from Leeds and party pooping

David Parkin on knockout screen success from Leeds and party pooping

A COUPLE of years ago my old chairman from TheBusinessDesk.com, Chris Jones, introduced me to a talented filmmaker called Nick Ryle who was seeking funding for his next project.

On the back of producing the critically acclaimed film ‘Being AP’, a fly-on-the-wall documentary about legendary jump jockey Sir Tony McCoy, Nick and his colleagues from Moneyglass Films wanted to tell another story about a remarkable sportsman.

They had agreed unprecedented access to Leeds-born featherweight boxing contender Josh Warrington and wanted to produce a film following his progress to a potential world title fight in his home city.

Nick told me that ‘Fighting For A City’ would contrast the fortunes of Leeds United fan Warrington with the challenges faced by his football team in recent years and the gritty reality of the inner city estates often hidden by the shiny success of a fast growing northern city.

As a journalist I loved the story and the contrasts it presented and Nick outlined how the film would culminate with Josh winning the world title in front of 20,000 of his adoring supporters on the pitch at Elland Road.

It sounded great and I said I would speak to some contacts who might be interested in investing in the film.

While ‘Being AP’ has been broadcast on mainstream terrestrial TV, these days film makers are looking to get their features on platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime as well as lucrative placements as in-flight entertainment on aeroplanes.

The potential investors I spoke to agreed it was a great story but they pointed out that Warrington was unlikely to win a world title because “he can’t punch”.

Warrington had only scored a handful of knockouts in 20-odd fights and despite a long-running rivalry with Welsh world champ Lee Selby, few people I spoke to believed Josh could make his dream come true.

In May this year Josh proved the doubters wrong by winning the IBF featherweight title from Selby on a split decision after 12 rounds of boxing in front of 20,000 people at Elland Road, becoming the first ever world boxing champion from Leeds.

It was a fairy tale ending to one man’s quest to win the world title and it gave Nick the amazing finale he needed for ‘Fighting For A City’.

The world premiere of the film was held at Leeds Town Hall last night and, despite me not getting any investors on board, Nick kindly invited me along.

It is an enjoyable story with a warm and likeable central character – with his high cheekbones and smooth skin, family man Josh looks anything but a grizzled pro fighter.

The publicity material says: “The film is set against the background of one city; Leeds. Half aspirational professionals and students, half austerity ravaged estates, Leeds represents the division within the United Kingdom today. Our boxer bridges the two because this is a city in need of a hero. Can he match and fulfil their hopes and dreams to become world champion?”

I’m not sure the film captures the wider story about the city, it focuses almost exclusively on its central character and I can understand that.

The viewer doesn’t discover hidden depths to Warrington but the relationship he has with his father and trainer Sean, a paunchy tattooed character who communicates with an earthy vernacular, is explored well.

Nick has secured distribution rights with global entertainment group Universal Pictures, part of Comcast, which recently bought Sky, so the film is almost certainly ensured to be widely seen – and it deserves to be.

We are told that in the modern world fairy tales rarely come true. But for one single-minded young man from Leeds, they did.

:::

IT was wonderful to hear the news this week that Channel 4 has chosen Leeds to be the home of its new UK headquarters.

It is a major coup for the city given the very tough competition provided by other cities including Birmingham and Liverpool.

Leeds in particular and Yorkshire in general has an incredibly diverse array of talent across broadcasting, media, marketing and digital sectors.

What these firms, stretching from Northallerton to Sheffield and Whitby to Hebden Bridge, have not had is something to coalesce around, something that gives them focus.

In the same way that Media City at Salford has given the North West a story to tell and a beating heart to the sector, I believe that Channel 4’s move will do that for Leeds.

It proves that the city and the region can work together – both public and private sectors – to achieve a common goal and underlines why devolution, when it happens for the region as a whole, will provide even more opportunity.

Councillor Judith Blake, the leader of Leeds City Council, described the announcement as a “breakthrough moment for the city and region”.

And as Judith pointed out, let’s not forget Leeds’ rich history for the screen industries “the first moving image was shot on Leeds Bridge in 1888 by Louis le Prince and this year the city celebrates 50 years of television production with the anniversary of YTV and BBC Look North”.

Strangely I wasn’t as surprised by the news as some were.

I remember having a meeting with Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership chairman Roger Marsh last year and when he told me he was confident that Leeds would secure Channel 4’s HQ I didn’t hear empty or hopeful words, I saw a steely determination from a shrewd negotiator that he would help deliver this massive boost to the region.

I suppose I’m going to have to buy him lunch now.

:::

IT’S that time of year again.

Dressing up in horror costumes, decorating homes with pumpkins, lighting bonfires and setting off fireworks.

Yes, Christmas.

I don’t know whether it is because retailers are under more pressure this year, but if they could have launched Christmas in August, they would.

In recent years they have at least waited until those two autumnal sales highlights, Halloween and Bonfire Night, are over before going big on Christmas.

Perhaps the hot summer and warm autumn have hit them hard, but by golly they are doing their utmost to get us spending on the festivities earlier this year.

I saw festive bags of nuts for sale in Morrisons in early October.

Nuts!

And don’t mention Christmas parties.

Oh, I did.

I’ve had invitations to four corporate Christmas parties this year (I was going to say I’m not as popular as I used to be, but I think prominent is probably the reason) and three of them are in November.

Indeed, one is next week.

Platform, the office building next to Leeds Station, where I’m based, is having a festive do next Thursday.

Or ‘Christmas Customer Social’.

They are promoting it alongside a photograph of a Christmas party in an episode of the popular Mad Men TV show.

Men in slick suits, white shirts and tightly knotted ties grip the waists of female colleagues in figure-hugging red dresses as they perform a conga around the office.

Now that’s my idea of a Christmas do. 

The trouble is, given the number of techy bods in our building – and lawyers and other corporate types who think being scruffy makes you look ‘creative’ – I fear that the party will look less like a martini-fuelled Madison Avenue shindig and more like a youth club disco.

Have a great weekend.

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