Learn from the editor of time, one of the most important documentaries of 2020.
Nominated for Best Documentary at the Academy Awards, Amazon Studios’ time follows Fox Rich, who is fighting for the release of her husband, Rob G. Rich, who is serving a 60-year sentence for a robbery they both committed in a moment of desperation. Combining the video diaries Fox recorded for Rob over the years with intimate glimpses of her life today, the film paints a fascinating portrait of the shortcomings of the American judicial system and Fox’s resilience and radical love necessary to the infinite to overcome separation.
Editor Gabriel Rhodes won the Cinema Eye Honors Award 2021 for excellence in editing and recognized his incredible work on the documentary. We spoke with Rhodes about remotely editing the film during the pandemic. Why? Premiere Pro was the right choice and where to get his creative inspiration.
How and where did you first learn to work?
After college, I moved to San Francisco and knew I wanted to be a filmmaker, but I had no idea if I would specialize in a craft. I was fortunate enough to run a small post production company in Berkeley and the owner allowed me to use the Avid systems for free at night. I had always been familiar with computers, so I was drawn to technology at first. But I started meeting editors doing projects and I really clicked with a lot of them on a personal level. I have seen that in editing the film – especially documentaries – has found its form. So I started selling myself as an editor on projects that wanted to rent Avid time but couldn’t afford editors. And I basically learned when I left.
How do you start a project / set up your workspace?
My first step in starting a project is to do as much research as possible on the subject. I read books, articles, listen to podcasts – whatever I can do to understand the story I’m about to help create. I then look through all of the footage and use markers to jot down anything that intrigues me. When it comes to interview material, I usually transcribe the soundbite onto the marker note, which really helps me shape it in my head. These markings then form the basis for creating the first cut.
Tell us about a favorite scene or moment from this project and why you notice it.
About an hour into the movie, there’s a scene where Rob Fox calls from prison and we overhear their conversation. I love this scene because it starts with Fox being playful and then moved to tears at the end of the scene. When Fox hangs up, she thinks about how her twins will turn 18 and they never knew what it was like to have a father in the house. This moment serves as a transition point to jump to archival footage from Fox visiting the twins at school on their fifth birthday. It’s an emotionally strong connection between today’s footage and the archive.
What specific post-production challenges did you face that were unique to your project? How did you solve it?
Garrett and I did most of the editing remotely. This was before the pandemic made working remotely the norm. So we developed workarounds that now seem archaic but worked for us.
For example, when we finely cut, we export frames for reference while we FaceTiming each other and ask, “Stop at this frame?” and, “No, let’s roll forward three more frames and stop at this one.”
What Adobe tools did you use for this project and why did you originally choose them? Why were you the best choice for this project?
We used Adobe Premiere Proand it was the perfect tool because Garrett had to hold the edit in his hands and it was very comfortable Premiere Pro. We have worked with so many formats, aspect ratios, and Frame rates With Premiere Pro, you can easily integrate all of these sources into one timeline.
What do you like about Premiere Pro and / or any of the other tools you use?
One of my favorite things to do at Premiere Pro is going to the forums for problem-solving and learning new editing techniques. I feel like the Premiere Pro community is actively working to find new and exciting ways to use the software, and I love being able to interact with other users on forums to explore ideas and inspiration.
I try not to overuse it, but I love using ring outs on music to create musical transitions. I also like the color tools in Premiere Pro. I would never consider myself a colorist, but I use the tool quite often to smooth out any annoying transitions that can appear between two footage with different color palettes.
Who is your creative inspiration and why?
My creative inspiration is constantly changing. Of course, I watch a lot of films and get inspiration from filmmakers, but I also listen to a lot of music and read a lot of books, so my inspirations switch between art forms.
Right now I’ve been very inspired by Brian Eno and his approach to creativity. I used his Weird Strategies Method to broaden my creative horizons and I love the way he finds new sounds and musical textures in his compositions and the music he produces.
What was the hardest part of your career and how did you get over it? What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers or content creators?
I’m a pretty energetic person by nature, so I started my creative career thinking that with enough muscle and work ethic, I could tackle any creative problem. As I got older, I was humiliated enough times to learn that sometimes the solution is not to try so hard. Often times, taking a walk, slowing down, and getting away from editing will give you better results. This is hard to learn when you are used to pulling it off, and I still have trouble remembering this lesson.
A friend of mine converted a building in Brooklyn into his architectural office and offered me one of the rooms as a processing room.
His work includes designing post production facilities so that he can turn part of the common room into one Projection room as a showcase for its customers. I can use this incredible viewing room to review and criticize rough cuts throughout the editing process.
I love being able to throw a cut on a 20-foot screen at any time – it really gives me a new perspective on my work! As the pandemic ends, we’ll be renting the theater for indie screening prizes.