EXCLUSIVE: Elaine Constantine will direct the UK feature about the 1970s underground music movement that took the North by storm. Robbie Little will introduce the project at the market next week.
Production is set to begin in early June in Bury, Bolton and Blackburn on the tumultuous tale of the friendship between a pair of British boys who introduce their peers to the up-tempo music of lesser-known US soul artists.
Constantine and producer and media lawyer Debbie Gray cast Elliot James Langridge and Josh Whitehouse as the leads while British singer Lisa Stansfield will play Langridge’s mother.
Langridge has spent three years and Whitehouse 18 months undergoing intensive dialect training and working with instructors to learn the high-energy dance form in, which includes breakdancing flourishes and high kicks.
Constantine and her crew will shoot in authentic Victorian dance halls to recreate the Wigan Casino, which back in its heyday hosted famous Northern Soul all-nighters.
The UK’s Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) provided the bulk of funding with support from a private UK investor. Henry Normal of 24 Hour Party People fame serves as executive producer.
“It’s such a deep culture, Northern Soul, that we didn’t want to end up with offering an actor a part three weeks before the film and cramming all that into a very tight schedule,” Constantine said of the lengthy preparations with Langridge and Whitehouse.
“This is like the ideal situation for everyone because we’ve been trying to get this film off the ground for so long and it’s given me time to do all this work with the young actors and get them to understand what Northern Soul is all about, where it came from and why it resonated in the 70s. They’re fantastic actors and will blow your head off.
“Northern Soul was incredibly influential in the North in the mid-70s but it was thoroughly underground because none of the music was in the clubs because it was a decade old and it consisted of flops. You had these British white lads who saved up to get flights to America to bring back this music to England.”
Constantine continued: “No-one has ever written about Northern Soul in an academic way. We’ve worked out it was influenced by James Brown and maybe some martial arts movies because Enter The Dragon was massive when it took off.”
The allure of Northern Soul remains potent and has sparked a loyal following in Japan, Australia, Germany, Sweden, Italy, Spain and now parts of the US.
Little expects a favourable response from buyers. “I’m from the Northwest,” he said. “In the 70s, post the British music invasion, this explosion of Northern Soul in the Northwest was one of the big things. It was a way for kids to express themselves and get away from their daily lives. They still have the all-nighters and people come from all over Europe. I felt a kindred spirit with the project.”
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