HomeInterviewsQ&A: Brittany Farhat, director of ‘July Talk: Love Lives Here’

Q&A: Brittany Farhat, director of ‘July Talk: Love Lives Here’

360°Sound caught up with Brittany Farhat, director of the new documentary July Talk: Love Lives Here. Over the last decade, Canadian indie rock quintet July Talk, fronted by vocalists Leah Fay and Peter Dreimanis, has amassed a loyal following through their energetic live shows. The gigs came to a halt during the COVID-19 pandemic. July Talk: Love Lives Here, which premiered during the 2023 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, chronicles the band’s plans for a drive-in movie theatre show in August 2020. In this interview, Farhat discusses what makes July Talk so special, the film’s black-and-white aesthetic, the challenges of editing her first feature-length film, and more.

Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

360°Sound: Did you start out making a documentary about July Talk, and it turned into a pandemic concert film? Or was that the plan from the start?

Brittany Farhat: It was definitely not the plan to make a full feature-length film about the concert. Initially, it just started out as this very organic interaction between me and the band. When they announced their drive-in shows when live music was totally shut down, I reached out to them and expressed my gratitude for these concerts. As a filmmaker and someone who loves to run around with their camera and document live music, I pitched the band on coming out and actually initially making more of a recap video of these concerts for social media, which is like a one-minute piece.

But when I met up with them for their first site visit at the Stardust Drive-In theater, where they were going to scope out the land and see how they were going to put on this show, I started to realize like the scale of the project and the challenges they were facing and how an entire community was coming together in order to make these shows possible. So, I decided to stick around for a while and attended a bunch of rehearsals, documenting the technical planning behind how this concert was gonna play for a field of cars.

This wasn’t going to be a regular rock show; the music was going to be played through the car radio system. They had a whole visual component where the show is going to be transmitted onto drive-in screens across the site. So, I started documenting all of that and through that process, I started to really get to know the band on a more personal level. And they started opening up to me, and I just saw the things that they were going through in real-time at the same time as planning this drive-in show, with their physical and mental health and throughout that process, I learned a lot. I started to connect with the band more and collect stories and ask them questions about the history of the band. I just really dove into their personal stories and the albums.

What do you think makes July Talk so endearing to their fans?

They’re definitely a very hard-touring band. They have this reputation in Canada and throughout North America for putting on these iconic, explosive, high-energy rock and roll shows, which will leave you wanting more. It’s such a thrill to watch them play live. They also have these values within the music community. They are advocates for safer spaces within the music community. They put up their LOVE LIVES HERE posters at their shows and they have gained a lot of respect from music fans because of this. I think it goes a really long way to put these posters up at venues around the world.  For me personally, it’s something that I really gravitated towards. I felt connected and seen when I read these posters. I feel a deep sense of respect because they chose to put up those signs at their concerts.

And they are also known for putting on such ambitious music videos, for example. They’re such beautiful works. Their music videos have such high production value, and they’re so iconic in my opinion. They shoot a lot on 16-millimeter film, and they have this beautiful black-and-white aesthetic that they have continued to exercise throughout their entire career as a band, which I think is so cool. They really know who they are, and they really know what they look like and what they sound like.

Talk about the decision to make the film black and white. Was that kind of keeping with their aesthetic?

A lot of the archive footage that I worked with in this film was shot on 16-millimeter film and was already black and white. I thought that it was important to honor their aesthetic that they’ve created over the years, but also for me, as a filmmaker, I’ve always been super interested in black and white film. My first music video was all black and white. I really gravitate towards that look and feel. It made sense, and it was a really cool collaboration visually. There are moments in the film that are punctuated with color. It really made me think, which scenes do we want to see in color? And why?

What were some of the things you learned about the filmmaking process for your first feature?

I definitely learned that great work takes time. Initially, I felt as if I had to finish it fast for some reason. I think because my experience working in the music industry. I would tour bands, make music videos, create social media content. All of those forms of video had to be really quickly executed, shot and edited and out the door super-fast. For me to have the space and time to create a film and to tell the best story that I possibly could was a blessing, and I thank the band for that.

They really gave me the resources and the time and the tools in order to dive in. I learned to be patient throughout the process and to just really sit with the footage. I had access to calling them up and learning more about a certain topic or theme in the film and diving in as deep as possible; I thought that was really amazing. And I learned that things take time. You have to allow yourself the space to tell the best story possible.

What were some of the challenges with editing?

There was so much footage. I had covered my house in Post-it notes that say, “You got this” and “Keep going” because I wanted to watch everything. And I knew that I wanted to use moments from their archives and to let it play, and to use the sound from raw clips from their shows over the years. And that meant that I had to watch everything.

But it was so rewarding when I would come across a clip that told a story about the band and their relationship. One, in particular, was of [singer] Leah [Fay] when they were recording their first album in the recording studio, and she talked about how she met [singer] Peter [Dreimanis]. That was deep into the archives and a clip that nobody’s ever seen before. I thought it was just so interesting. Those were the moments that I felt like it was very worth the challenge of sitting through hours and hours of footage.

But it was also just such a treat to watch their shows over the years and see how they’ve grown. And just like how every show was so different than the last one. So, it was actually really fun. And I made sure to blast my speakers, like when I was watching the shows over the years and just really experience it as a music fan. It also really taught me it’s important to work on things that you really love and that you really believe in because it is a huge chunk of your life making a film, so you better enjoy the content.

Get to know July Talk on their web site, julytalk.com

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