Garrett Bradley, director of the Oscar-nominated documentary Time, sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to discuss her acclaimed film in a THR Presents Q&A powered by Vision Media.
Time follows Fox Rich as she advocates for the release of her husband, Robert, who is serving a 60-year sentence for armed robbery at the Louisiana State Penitentiary. The documentary is Bradley’s feature directorial debut, although it began as a short film she pitched to The New York Times’ Op-Docs program, a series of nonfiction shorts by independent filmmakers.
Having met Rich while making a previous short doc about incarceration (2017’s Alone) — and having already established a trust with the woman who would become the subject of her next film — Bradley focused her lens entirely on Rich as she tirelessly fights for an end to the sentence while also raising awareness about mass incarceration in the United States.
“As a documentarian, I don’t see people as subjects; I don’t see one’s life experiences as access to something,” Bradley says of her process of capturing Rich’s life on film and her responsibility with Rich’s story. “It really is about relationships and honoring something you see in the real world and wanting to bring it to the globe — wanting to say, “This is something that’s happening on the ground. How do we honor that? How do we illuminate that? How do we create visibility around that?”
With that in mind, Bradley’s focus was on Fox and Robert in the present rather than rehashing the past — or predicting the future. “Anticipating an ending becomes unethical,” Bradley explains. “The only kind of anchoring point … is in always returning to that intention, and being transparent about what decisions you’re making, and why you’re making them and how they’re connected to that first set of conversations.”
On the last day of filming, Rich handed Bradley a black bag full of home video recordings — 100 hours of her personal archive, delivering the material that would turn Bradley’s short film into a completely different animal. But as Bradley and editor Gabriel Rhodes discovered new ways to fill out Fox Rich’s story, they also discovered how eerily similar her style of filming was to Bradley’s observational sensibility.
“I think I came to meet Fox and meet the family and to make this film with them in this sort of cosmic way,” Bradley says. “Fox had put her camera at the side of her table in her office, and we’re sort of in this profile shot of her on the phone quite a lot ... And it also happened to be the exact same place I was putting my camera 20 years later. Literally, the framing is exactly the same.”
This THR Presents is brought to you by Amazon Studios; additional Q&As and other supplementary content can be viewed at THRPresents.HollywoodReporter.com.