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  • Writer's pictureAlessandro De Luca

"There are no accidents": The James McElligott story

How independent filmmaker James McElligott turned an injury into an opportunity.

McElligott in Los Angeles, 2012.

15 years ago, Pierrefonds resident James McElligott had no intention of becoming a recognized filmmaker. Fast forward to today, and James has been nominated for 20 independent film awards and has achieved worldwide recognition. His documentary film Ice hockey Orphans won him three best documentary awards, as well as four best trailer awards.

So how did this journey begin? James’ story is very different from most filmmakers. In fact, if it hadn’t been for an injury that James sustained 11 years ago, he would’ve never had this career in the first place.

McElligott was a part-time station attendant at Air Canada when he broke his wrist. He continued to go to work, doing various non-intensive tasks that wouldn’t require putting a serious strain on his wrist, letting it heal. With this limited workload, James thought that it would be a good idea to film the job and create a short movie as a way to keep busy while waiting for his wrist to go back to normal. “I spent six weeks filming with a little Kodak PowerShot 520 and six weeks editing it on my mac laptop.”

This sparked a revelation for James. “I loved filming it and I loved editing it, and the reception I got from my fellow co-workers who received the film was fantastic. This exterior positive feedback, as well as the interior positive feedback, really inspired me to continue.”

James’ most well-known piece is his 2019 documentary Ice hockey Orphans, which is the story of Denis De Chantal, a man who founded an adult hockey league for players who weren’t good enough for other leagues, or for people who started playing at an older age.

“Denis was one of these players. His father died when he was 12 years old, forcing him to drop out of school and start working right away. That’s why he couldn’t play hockey at the time. He started playing later on, and recruited his buddies who were all late as well, and they called themselves hockey orphans because no other leagues wanted them”.

This film is part of a bigger project that James is currently working on about aging in sports, with the question being “am I able to improve on my sport as I’m aging?". James started playing as a hockey goalie after a broken ankle hindered his skating abilities, and hopes to keep improving his skills, despite being a fairly new goalie.

With James’ films being shown all over the world in festivals such as the New York tri-state, Tokyo, and Sicily International film festivals, his career has exceeded expectations especially considering that it started by accident. “It’s funny how accidents happen. This one led me to countless hours of joy in creating films, and countless hours of viewing from people around the world. There are people from all over that watch my work. To me, that’s mind-blowing! In short, there are no accidents.”

To view some of James' work, check out

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