Garrett Bradley on How Documentary ‘Time’ Came Together

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In “Time,” an awards contender in the documentary feature race, director Garrett Bradley follows the story of Fox Rich, an author, abolitionist and mother who spend two decades fighting for her husband Robert Richardson’s release from prison.

As Bradley was piecing Rich’s story together, she learned Rich had 100 hours of family footage. That footage would serve as the missing piece of the puzzle to tell the compelling story and would turn the short film into a feature-length story.

Editor Gabe Rhodes helped Bradley seamlessly tell a story through that time, straddling between past and present as she highlights not only Rich’s fight, but captures the elements of daily life. The story is woven together through that footage and Rich tells the story.

How did you hear about Fox and that story?

I never go into the world looking for stories, so I feel passionate about not thinking about people as subjects or the things we can witness.

All of the projects that I’ve made have been a part of my actual life. I met Fox in the process of making another film, “Alone.”

I had initially conceived of that as sort of being a sort of intergenerational space between women who were in incarcerated families, and thinking about the film as a place for the exchange of information between the families as a place of support.

I contacted an organization, Friends and Families of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children. And Gina Womack, a co-founder, and director of the organization picked up the phone and said, “The first person that you have to speak with is Fox Rich.”

The first thing I thought of was “How can I extend the conversation of incarceration from a Black feminist perspective and a familial perspective and effects of incarceration?”

Were you surprised at the footage Fox had?

She had about 100 hours. She had not looked at those tapes since the ‘90s. There are so many things I can tell you as a filmmaker.

What was it like for you as a filmmaker to go through that footage?

I remember having it in my car and shipping it out to the company that was going to transfer everything and being so nervous knowing that none of this was backed up at all.

I was anticipating the challenge of the footage that I already had as being one that did not, it was not achieving what a lot of my hopes were.

The archive, first and foremost, helped address that immediate challenge which was, our histories inform the present moment and form how we act and behave. How do you show that within the parameters of the medium? Myself and Gabe Rhodes, the film’s editor, through the archive footage, could see a true evolution and revolution that happened over 21 years.

The archives also have to fulfill a critical part of understanding that the armor was there and validate the story.

I thought the voiceover aspect was powerful as a mechanism for storytelling. Was that always the approach?

I remember Fox asking me quite a bit if I had titled the film. I thought it was crucial for those that we are journeying with in the process of the film, have a voice and to articulate in their own words, what time was to them.

You use music throughout the documentary and it’s beneath everything. How did that come into play?

I had Éthiopiques playlists already. I fell in love with it right away. The score was composed by Jamison Shaw and Edwin Montgomery, and I fell it live with their work immediately.