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How "Northern Soul" Recreated An Era And Became The Best British Film Of 2014

Writer/director Elaine Constantine talks us through her stunning debut.

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Northern Soul is the debut film of renowned British photographer Elaine Constantine.

Elaine Constantine / Stubborn Heart Films

Elaine Constantine: "This image was taken whilst shooting the record store scene where John (Elliot James Langridge) and Matt meet Angela and Betty for the first time. We shot in a pre-existing record store which had to be completely redressed to remove any modern references. Every single poster, magazine and sign had to be checked for dates."

The film is the coming of age tale of John, a shy, awkward young man who is introduced to Northern Soul; black American soul music that was popular in the North in the '70s.

Elaine Constantine / Stubborn Heart Films

EC: "Matt (Josh Whitehouse) broods in the car park as he waits for John to finish dj’ing."

Set and filmed in working class towns in Lancashire, the film expertly recreates the era, with meticulous attention to detail and a real affection for the music and culture of Northern Soul.

Elaine Constantine / Stubborn Heart Films

EC: "A shot of Mr Banks (Steve Coogan) having an altercation with John during an exam. Once we’d wrapped for the day Steve Coogan gladly signed autographs for excited pupils who couldn’t believe that they had spent the day shooting a film."

The film was something of a surprise hit, originally scheduled to open in a handful of cinema, ended up playing on 160 screens around the UK.

Elaine Constantine / Stubborn Heart Films

EC: "In this scene, John dramatically jacks in school by storming out of an exam, sticking the V sign up to his form teacher, Mr Banks. This was shot at Norden High School in Rishton and all of the extras were real pupils. Steve Coogan actually owns the vintage Aston Martin you can just make out in the background."

After failing to get private investment or arts funding, Constantine and her husband, producer Marco Santucci, remortgaged their home to make the film.

Elaine Constantine / Stubborn Heart Films

Constantine held Northern Soul nights in a pub in Islington for several years in order to teach the actors and extras about the scene. She told The Guardian: "We needed to populate the club scene for the film, and we wanted a young core audience of northern soul to do that. Kids started coming to the dance sessions, and then their friends.”

The labour of love is evident throughout the film, in the authenticity of every shot.

Elaine Constantine / Stubborn Heart Films

EC: "This was shot up on the Lancashire moors on a rainy evening. All the lads are rammed into the car en-route to another all-nighter. Sean, who owns the car in the film, was the catalyst for the downward spiral as they get dragged deeper into the drug culture."

Constantine told AnOther: "When I first started talking about this film on social media, I had a lot of gatekeepers attacking me."

Elaine Constantine / Stubborn Heart Films

EC: "Angela (Antonia Thomas), Betty (Claire Garvey) and Marie (Emily Aston) leaving the chippy after bumping into John and Matt. This encounter took place outside the Polish Club (which was actually Rumworth Hall, Bolton) where the boys intend to put on their first soul night and reveal the mysterious cover-up.

Cover-ups were a way of hiding the identity of a rare records, so that other DJ’s would find it much harder to acquire a copy."

"I don’t think it’s about “This music’s ours, leave it alone”, I think it’s more “Don’t misrepresent us”."

Elaine Constantine / Stubborn Heart Films

Elaine says: "King Georges Hall in Blackburn, packed to the rafters. Every single person in this room was dressed, styled and made up by the production team. A massive undertaking but essential for creating the authentic look of the film."

With a soundtrack featuring Marvin Gaye, Edwin Starr, Shirley Ellis, and dozens more, the film sounds as incredible as it looks.

Elaine Constantine / Stubborn Heart Films

Elaine says: "Sean (Jack Gordon ) sits in his car waiting for John and Matt to finish their spot warming up for DJ Ray Henderson (played by James Lance) just before it all kicks off between them."

On her passion for the music, Constantine told The Quietus: "It’s got a melancholy sort of feel to it, mixed with euphoria, which is a very strange contradiction and it makes my emotions just lurch."

Elaine Constantine / Stubborn Heart Films

Elaine says: "A still taken during the filming of a dance floor scene used in the montage sequence depicting Matt’s descent into the darker depths of Northern Soul culture. This was again shot at King Georges Hall in Blackburn."

"Every time I hear certain records and it doesn’t matter how many times I hear it, the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end."

Elaine Constantine / Stubborn Heart Films

Elaine says: "Prior to filming at King Georges Hall in Blackburn this interior ballroom was dressed to replicate Wigan Casino. Once lit and filled to the rafters with over a thousand people in costume it felt so authentic to the hundreds of original soulies acting as extras that some of them were actually brought to tears by the experience."

"And that’s why it won’t die because it has that ability and effect to make that happen to me after 35 years or more of listening to it."

Elaine Constantine / Stubborn Heart Films

L-R: Ben Hindley, Ethan Howarth, Jack Gordon, Lewis Morris & Frank Carson.

Elaine says: "This shot was taken opposite the location house which was converted into a carbon copy of a typical 1970’s Lancashire home to act as Matt and Paul’s house in Burnsworth."

The film also stars Ricky Tomlinson, James Lance, Lisa Stansfield, and Christian McKay, and is out now on DVD.

Elaine Constantine / Stubborn Heart Films

Elaine says: "This image was taken on the street that represented John’s walk home from work. The whole area was dressed with old milk bottles, 70’s newspapers, cigarette packets and chocolate wrappers. Vintage cars from the era and old post boxes were moved in."