Every Summer, In July
An impressionistic Super 8 journey into the Tour de France.
My dad died in 2002, a couple of weeks after I started university. The cancer, which started in his thyroid some years before, had spread with a grim relentlessness, a slow-mo shock and awe.
Although I hadn’t known how sick he was at the time, that last summer we’d settled into an affable routine spending our afternoons watching the Tour de France on TV.
I wasn’t that interested in the Tour, but I liked that my dad liked it.
His illness had reduced him, physically and emotionally, but the Tour still sparked his enthusiasm – the competition, the landscape, and the sheer Frenchness of it all.
These memories, and their jagged nostalgia, drew me to Andreas Scheffer's Every Summer, in July (2022). It was shot on Super 8 across 11 years, mostly while Andreas was covering the Tour for German TV.
The film is an atmospheric blend of the professional, the personal, and his passion for the world’s most famous cycling race.
Stitching these together, he created an impressionistic portrait of what it feels like to be around the event – more a montage to submit to than a plot-driven story.
Still it casts a pleasant spell, with its themes of fatherhood, spectacle, and the rhythms and rituals by which we mark off the passing years.
NB: You can turn English subtitles on using the CC button at the bottom of the player.
I spoke with Andreas over Zoom from his home in Berlin. You can see more of his work on his website.
Why did you want to tell this story?
Usually you start with an idea, that becomes a plan, and then go and shoot it. This was the other way round.
As a kid I watched the Tour de France on television and I loved it. Then in my 20s I was able to work it for German TV as a camera assistant, because I could speak French.
By then I was at film school, and a colleague of mine gave me a Kodak Ektrachrome Super 8 camera, because he had bought two at the flea market. So I thought, why don’t I take it with me to the Tour, buy like five cartridges, and use them across the three weeks.
I filmed whenever I could. Working at the Tour you are very busy; you have to jump out the car, do the interviews, then you are needed in some other places.
But whenever I could, I took out the Super 8 and filmed what you would call today a video diary. I thought this might be precious for my later self, or my family.
I filmed in 2007, 2008 and 2010. I loved the texture of the film when I got it scanned, so I started to puzzle over what I could do with it.
Could you capture the feeling of being there? How many aspects there are to the event, how summery it is, the rush all of a sudden when the cyclists arrive, and the hours before when nothing is happening and everyone is waiting.
The last thing that really helped me was that my son and I were watching the Tour on the television, and he said, “It’s not fair, you have been there in person so many times and I can only watch it on TV.”
So we went there together as tourists in 2018. And of course, by that, he delivered me the perfect ending, because I had started filming when my wife was pregnant with him.
What was the biggest challenge you faced?
I wanted to make it a proper documentary film. But when I sat down and looked at the footage I started thinking, what kind of film could this be?
There is no sound. There is no story. And no protagonist. Which made it pretty difficult.
I thought I would need some voiceover to explain a couple of things.
During my trips I took some notes about how it felt to be in the machine, because everything gets mixed up and you don’t remember where you were three days ago. It’s so hard to reconstruct, because it all becomes one.
I started writing a voiceover, then recorded it, then I rewrote that, and rerecorded it and tried to make it work.
It’s more about an impression – like a reconstruction of a memory – rather than a proper plot. It’s a stream of consciousness, what goes through your mind while you're there.
I also wanted other voices, so I asked colleagues who were still working on the Tour to grab some random sounds using their smartphones.
What would you do differently?
Maybe to have more people watch it before I finished. With every film, you’re so into post-production it’s hard to judge if you really reached what you wanted to reach.
What are you most proud of?
It always starts by having an emotion by myself. And the question is – am I able to transmit this emotion, via film, to people I don’t know?
I have the impression it worked.
Usually the Tour is about sports, but without all the people on the side of the roads who come out to watch, and make it a party all across the country, it wouldn’t be the same thing.
So it was a pleasure to tell this story from the point of view of the spectator.
I found it amazing that people would wait a whole day to see 30 seconds of a sporting event, which is not really logical. And they’re still very happy – if you ask them afterwards, they have a great time.
How did making this film change you?
The one thing that was missing in my Tour experience was going as a tourist.
The wish of my son to go and see it with his own eyes made me go as a tourist, and we could ask ourselves, where do we want to go tomorrow?
We went to these little villages right in the middle of the stage. On a competitive level it’s not very interesting, but for the people there, it’s very important. That was massive for me, the most important experience this film opened up.
And I still love Super 8. I have a production company which does corporate films, and I think about integrating Super 8 in our projects.
How do we transfer the values of art into commercial filmmaking? We think this could be the little extra that gives it some texture.
Of all sports, I think cycling has the biggest selection of great short films (although surfing probably runs it close). I wonder if there’s something inherently filmic about that combination of person + equipment + elements? Or were the brands in those worlds quickest to cotton on to the marketing power of beautiful video storytelling?
Thanks to Andreas and to Jessica Best for proofreading. And thank you for reading – send comments, suggestions or unusual uses for ham by hitting reply.