Written By Thea Burrows, Producer of Wait For Me.
When Wait For Me director Keith handed me the script back in January 2020 and said he envisaged it being shot in either Halifax or Huddersfield I jumped at the chance of filming my first feature film in my own back yard. Having been based in the Calder Valley for over ten years and passionate about shooting in my beloved Yorkshire, I’ve always thought it would make a great cinematic setting. Of course, it’s about the way it looks but also the emotions it stirs, the cultural history it evokes and the welcoming, film-friendly attitude.
According to The Guardian, the area has been renamed Haliwood, following filming with Tom Cruise, Shane Meadows and Samuel L Jackson along with shows like Gentleman Jack, Happy Valley and upcoming Marvel show Secret Invasion putting it on the map.
While reading the script, I was already starting to think about potential areas and eager to show the creative team that Halifax had (nearly) everything we needed to tell our story. We wanted to create this sense of isolation whilst also capturing the natural beauty of Yorkshire to contrast with the challenges our heroine faces. In lockdown we did an initial recce – each in our own cars in convoy – to introduce the valley to the director and co-producer. We wanted to establish a setting of desolate beauty – the hills as powerful backdrops but with high rise flats towering up out of green valleys.
Linking up with Location Manager, Paul Coverdale we were able to combine my local knowledge with Paul’s previous experience to come up with options to run by Keith.
The great thing about filming where you live is that you always have your location radar on. On a school run, I spotted a perfect caravan for Ged’s home and knocked on. We ended up shooting the exteriors at an alpaca farm I pass regularly on my morning jogs and moved the caravan to the Jute Shed at Dean Clough to do the interiors. We filmed primarily in and around Halifax utilising several locations for multiple sets, and our production office was at the fantastic Dean Clough Mills.
The world that our villain Max operates in is a dark and violent underworld. Women are brought over in transit vans or containers and sold into organisations like Max’s where their passports are taken away and essentially are imprisoned while Max profits from selling them for sex.
The fantastic Neil Bell who plays the terrifying Max expands on why Halifax is the perfect choice for Max’s operation; ‘Max is a dying breed. A white middle aged largely autonomous man with his own little empire. He could have only really existed for so long in a place such as Halifax. Perfectly placed as it is far enough from the influence of the big cities to have its own climate. Though these places too now have become ensnared in county lines type criminality from the city. And with the encroachment of urban and local criminality surrounding him on all sides. Max’s world here now is also rapidly shrinking. This makes contemporary Halifax a very appropriate setting for this particular story.’
Taking inspiration from Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises, we transformed a building for sale on Huddersfield Road into a squalid and basic den with touches of cheap frills for the punters and a suitably dodgy office for Max.
When you’re filming on a microbudget you need to be resourceful about your approach to location sourcing. Sam’s flat was part of a group of flats about to be knocked down so we were able to make a donation to a housing charity in return for being able to film. We also doubled up locations where possible, shooting the brothel and interiors of sister Karen’s flat in the same building. The launch of the very helpful Film Calderdale made permits and access run smoothly.
One thing Halifax doesn’t have is a beach and it was integral to the story that the story is given room to breathe in the middle act where our lead character, Alison, reconnects with her daughter she gave away years before. New Brighton and Southport were both contenders for the trip to the coast but Cleethorpes won out with its old school seaside charm, pier and funfair on the beach. It was the perfect contrast to the Yorkshire stone and grit.
The other great thing about shooting in Yorkshire is that you can access support from Screen Yorkshire. The mutually beneficial Beyond Brontes scheme meant we were able to give 8 local trainees from underrepresented backgrounds their first experiences on a professional set. What a team! We look forward to sharing the film with you at the Yorkshire Premiere, coming to a cinema in the Calder Valley very soon…