TIFF 2015 Women Directors: Meet Elaine Constantine – ‘Northern Soul’

nullElaine Constantine was born in Bury, England. She was first assistant to British fashion photographer Nick Knight before becoming a regular photographic contributor to Vogue, W and The Face. She has directed numerous music videos and commercials. "Northern Soul" is her feature directorial debut. (Press materials) 

"Northern Soul" will premiere at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival on September 18. 

W&H: Please give us your description of the film playing.

EC: "Northern Soul" is the coming-of-age story of a Lancashire teenager, John Clarke, whose life is transformed when he discovers soul music and the club scene that had grown up around it in the ’60s and early ’70s. After a chance meeting at a youth club, his eyes are opened to the possibilities of escaping his small-town existence by loud-mouthed Matt, and they begin to dream of going to America, discovering as-yet-unknown records and becoming the leading DJs on the Northern Soul scene. Their journey is not quite as straightforward as planned, and they face rivalry, violence and drug abuse. Friendships and loyalties are tested to their limits.

W&H: What drew you to this story?

EC: I’ve been into this music since I was a teenager. I had an epiphany that made me want to travel out of my hometown to listen to this music when I was 14 in a youth club. My horizons opened up and [that] made me want to do more interesting things with my life than stay in my hometown and work a terrible job, which is what happened to many of my peers.

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

EC: Writing the script, as I couldn’t find anyone to write it with me or for me, and I knew it was a story so close to my heart that I had to do it myself in the end. I just found that very difficult to do. Obviously raising the funds was possibly even harder than that, but that is another story.

W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?

EC: It would be nice for people to think, “Wow, isn’t life like that? Music and friendships are a lasting thing in life, and once you bond together over music, you have a bond for life."

W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?

EC: Perseverance and hard graft [work]. 

W&H: What’s the biggest misconception about you and your work?

EC: I’m not sure I’ve made enough stuff to suffer that predicament. All I know is that I have no interest in what people think about me or what I produce, [though] it helps if people enjoy or are inspired by it. If I think I have done a good job on something, that’s all I care about. I’m my own harshest critic.

W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.

EC: I got a small amount of investment from a group of people who were into the music and family and friends, which came to about eight percent of the total budget. We had one private investor who came in and brought in about 25 percent of the funds. My husband and I funded the rest by throwing all our earnings and savings at it, remortgaging, etc.

W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.

EC: "Zero Dark Thirty" by Kathryn Bigelow. It’s so uncompromising and so brilliantly executed. I just think that she is one of the bravest people in Hollywood, and it goes beyond a gender thing for me.