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July Talk: Love Lives Here Goes Behind The Scenes of an Unconventional Rock Show

Director Brittany Farhat captures the tension and magic of a drive-in pandemic performance in her debut feature film.

by Stephan Boissonneault 

It was an unbelievably dry July 2020 day as videographer/director Brittany Farhat, armed with a camera and a few microphones, pulled up to The Stardust Theatre in Sharon, ON. The drive-in theatre had been hosting old school movie experiences since 1955, and very soon it would become a beacon of light for a fractured music scene; one that was put on ice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In two months time, July Talk, one of the biggest indie rock bands from Toronto, would be playing two live shows at the Stardust Drive-In, and Farhat made it her mission to document it.

The Stardust was the backdrop for Farhat’s first feature length film, July Talk: Love Lives Here, an almost completely black-and-white documentary that follows July Talk as they prepare for their monumental undertaking, contemplating their future as a band in a confusing world, while dealing with a global health crisis. There’s also a treasure trove of archival footage that shows July Talk’s humble beginnings as they grow into a band that skyrockets into international stardom. It’s at times a very vulnerable film, following July Talk co-founders, Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay Goldstein, around their house as they talk about burnout and rehearsals, as well as their community-driven team.

“I wanted this film to be for the fans, but also accessible to anyone who doesn’t even necessarily know the band,” Farhat tells RANGE from her home in Grand Bend, ON. “I also figured out early on that I wanted a behind-the-scenes look at the planning of the shows from more of a technical side, really focusing on some members of July Talk’s team who are usually in the shadows.”

When she arrived on the first day of shooting—that very dry day in July—Farhat thought her film would be no more than 15 minutes. “I thought it was going to be a recap film of some kind,” she says. “But when I arrived at this dusty ground, I felt a lot of tension from the band being like ‘How the hell are we going to do this?’ and of course because of the pandemic, we couldn’t be near each other. This was the first time I was meeting the band, and we couldn’t shake hands or hug, so it was very weird. I knew I wanted to capture every moment of that wild ride.”

Still, it wasn’t until after the drive-in shows, when she started digging through all of her footage, that Farhat knew she had a film. Keep in mind—this was during the thick of the pandemic, so like many of us, Farhat was trapped in her house. Along with her partner, Matthew Fong, she dove into the editing process and had multiple intimate and intense follow-up calls with Dreimanis, Goldstein, and other band members Ian Docherty (lead guitarist), Josh Warburton (bassist), and Danny Miles (drummer). July Talk would also send voice recordings and selfie videos to Farhat for more context, as they couldn’t meet in person.

The whole process took around 18 months, but there was a point when Farhat decided she needed more of a story leading up to these drive-in concerts. July Talk happily obliged and handed her close to all of the footage they had from their 10 years of touring the world—filmed with beautiful 16mm shots by Mike McLaughlin and music video shoots from Calm Elliott-Armstrong. Farhat had hit the jackpot. “I remember the day when they handed me this huge cardboard box of like 50 hard drives,” she laughs. “It was like opening a secret vault, and I really wanted to honour that and really take my time choosing the right footage to contextualize the whole thing.”

As a music fan, this was an awesome endeavour for Farhat. She recalls blasting her speakers super loud to capture the energy of the July Talk live shows and the documentary tid-bit moments of the band in a van or hanging out before a show. 

There’s one shot from the film that Farhat calls Love Lives Here’s “magic moment.” Goldstein says hello to all of the July Talk fans, walks to the cars at the drive-in show, climbs on top of one and lays down on its roof, gazing at the night sky. A drone camera follows Goldstein and slowly moves up in the air until all the cars are in frame. Goldstein asks everyone to “turn on their four ways” and a wave of blinker lights take up the screen. “The drive-in show was directed by Adam Crosby, who is an amazing cinematographer and editor, and we as a documentary crew were capturing this ballet of a film crew also working together,” Farhat says. “So during the scene, I recorded their walkies to capture the audio of the film crew getting this drone shot to show how many people were working in tandem to make this art piece.”

Loves Lives Here isn’t a conventional band documentary; it’s a human interest story, one that never would’ve happened if it wasn’t for the world shutting down, and one that shows the lengths people will go to find a little light in the darkness.. 

July Talk: Love Lives Here screens July 7 at Westdale Theatre (Hamilton, ON) and July 8 at Revue Cinema (Toronto, ON).