The stories of several women in the Boston music scene and their struggle to achieve equality and success while embracing their identities and finding a voice in the community.
Dave Habeeb is a Boston-area filmmaker who has been interested in filmmaking since the 8th grade. Dave graduated from Fitchburg State College with a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Video Production. His work was featured in "Visions" – an end-of-year showcase of exceptional work produced by students. After working freelance for several Boston-area production companies, Dave attended Emerson College in Boston and earned his Master of Arts in Mass Communication. As part of his Master’s thesis project, he produced "The Magic Kite" - a children's video which earned him an EVVY Award for Best Videography. The video was also nominated for Best Editing.
Since 1994, Dave has worked in the Information Technology Group at Harvard Business School. He held the position of Head of Multimedia Production from January 2000 through January 2007. He is currently Creative Director on the multimedia team within the Technology Products Group and works on as producer, director of photography and video editor of multimedia case studies used by faculty and students. Through his work, Dave has had the opportunity to travel extensively and film in such locations as Nigeria, India, France, England, Italy, Denmark, Peru, Canada, Singapore, China and several states and major cities within the US. He has participated in hundreds of on-camera interviews with business leaders, including Hamdi Ulukaya (Chobani), Wynton Marsalis (Jazz at Lincoln Center), Tyra Banks (America’s Top Model), Tony Hsieh (Zappos), and more and has produced multimedia case studies on companies such as lululemon, Burt’s Bees, The Taj Bombay, Oberoi Hotels, MINI Cooper, Kodak, IDEO, Macy’s, Havas, Victors & Spoils, Marquee, and Threadless. Dave and his team have won a Webby Award and several Telly Awards for their work in education and multimedia development.
What makes you fascinated with the cinematic language and what was the first film project you worked on?
I knew I wanted to make films the moment I saw STAR WARS in the summer of 1977 at age 12. My parents bought me a super-8 film camera as an 8th grade graduation gift, and I started making amateur movies in my backyard. I fell in love with filmmaking from that point forward. So, I have been making films ever since age 12, these were mostly shorts and experiments, but my first real film was a Twilight Zone-inspired project called “Last Day on Earth” which I wrote, directed, filmed, and edited in 1995. Movies are everything to me.
Please tell us how "Beautiful was the Fight '' came to life and let us know about the process from pre-production to completion.
"Beautiful Was the Fight," a feature-length music documentary showcasing several women from the Boston music scene and their struggle to achieve equality and success while embracing their identities and finding a voice in the community, has been my passion project for the past six years. Production began in September 2016 and the film was completed in February 2023. Through my love of music and cinema, I wanted to make a film that focused mainly on female musicians in the local scene. I wanted to highlight their music, the value of live performance, the importance of community, and the current state of venues in the Boston area.
The Boston music scene is growing. However, despite being home to several world-renowned music schools, having no shortage of talent or passion, and boasting a rich history of successful artists and bands, especially in the rock and punk scenes, it remains a very difficult place to develop and sustain a music career. Simply put, Boston is not considered a music destination in the same way that cities such as LA, New York, Nashville, or Austin are. The Boston music scenes faces several challenges that hinder greater commercial successful for its artists or the ability to sustain a vibrant live performance scene. There are not enough venues, especially smaller clubs to support the up-and-coming artists, or the industry infrastructure for it to compete with other music cities.
As a filmmaker, I wanted to explore what could be done to put Boston on the map as a music destination and keep artists here. Additionally, and not exclusive to Boston, there are challenges for women, the LGBT, and non-binary community in the form of gender in-equality, identity, and acceptance issues. However, many people in the scene remain determined and work hard to bring about positive change in the community through greater awareness and support.
The project started shortly after I attended a concert at The Sinclair in Harvard Square featuring Ruby Rose Fox and Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys on September 9, 2016. I was already a big fan of The Army of Broken Toys, but I hadn’t seen Ruby before and didn’t know her music. I became an instant fan. Ruby was the first artist I approached about making a documentary, but one that was much smaller in scope, originally. Had she not said yes and produced the Queen Treatment Only concert on October 22 that same year with Vickie and Peter Van Ness (of gimmeLive), which allowed me to film backstage and performance footage, I don’t think this film would’ve ever become a reality. It was at that event that I met so many additional artists and, on the drive home later that night, knew I wanted to expand the scope of the project. Ruby was very supportive about this idea when I told her the next morning.
My goal was to make a film that shines a light on the current Boston music scene and includes reflections, mostly from the perspectives of women, and members of the LGBT and non-binary community. A film that also celebrates the talent, success, drive, and passion we have right here in Boston, but also addresses the many challenges head-on. Most of all, I tried to make something that people would feel proud to be a part of.
What was the most challenging aspect of working on this feature genre?
I love documentary filmmaking, but the hardest part for me is the editing or, rather, being able to cut down many hours of raw footage into something watchable. For example, production on this project spanned six years and, in that time, I shot 160 hours of footage that eventually needed to be cut down to 95 minutes – my target goal for the final running time of this film. It’s not just a challenge of working through so much material. With all projects, I tend to feel a connection to my subjects and it’s extra hard for me to cut what they are saying or doing on camera. I eventually get there, especially with the help of people like Ruth Page, my co-editor on the project, and several others who offered feedback during the rough-cut stages. I’m sure it takes me much longer than the average filmmaker or editor to let material hit the editing room floor. It’s just something I really struggle with…until I finally get there and then I’m able to make those cuts.
What is your next film project and what are you currently working on?
My next project is rather personal and I’m not sure I would call it my next film. I have hours and hours and hours of home movies of my son and daughter, as well as thousands of photos, and I want to turn my attention, probably for the next six months, to editing all of that material together so it can be shared with them and my family and be archived properly. That’s important to me and something I really want to prioritize. I’ll also spend the next six months planning out my next film project. As much as I loved making this documentary, and it’s what I do for my full-time work at Harvard Business School, I would really like to make either a short narrative film or experimental film next and take a break from documentary filmmaking.
What is the most creative part of directing a project for you?
I struggle using the term “directing” when making a documentary, although I guess that’s what I did and it is, but the most creative part for me is simply trying to make people comfortable so that they will open up, trust me, and have deep conversations with me on camera. I’m a people person, and simply curious about everyone’s story, but also how they feel, so it’s the part of the process that I really enjoy. Getting close to people, connecting, and hopefully finding the on-camera conversation going to some interesting places – content-wise and emotionally. Always, emotionally.
Does the language of cinema stand out more than other arts to you? And why?
Yes. Without a doubt it’s my first love. However, I love all forms of art, especially music, but I suppose film is my favorite because it’s the only art form where you can combine all of the arts into one experience. I suppose one can achieve that in live theater, too, which I also love, but film will always stand out for me as my favorite. There’s also something I like about the permanency of anything “recorded.” I just like that film, sound recordings, painting, drawings, books, etc. are snapshots that don’t really change. They live on in their original form forever. Or, until someone comes along and does a “director’s cut” or “special edition.” LOL
Why do you make films?
It’s simply my favorite thing to do in life, second only to making connections with people and having experiences together. It’s my favorite form of storytelling. I love that it can stir emotions, which I know other forms can do, and excite the senses. I also insist on seeing all films in a cinema. I, of course, watch films at home, but there’s nothing better than a film on the big screen, the joy of heading out with friends and family, the anticipation waiting for the film to start, and the shared viewing experience. It’s the best, so I make films to hopefully give someone else that same experience through my work.