For decades he’s been Black Velvet, a soul singer scraping by in Brooklyn’s projects with small club gigs in the evenings and odd jobs by day. But 62-year-old Charles Bradley has an impossible dream: he wants to make it in the music industry as…himself.
CanCulture: What was the biggest challenge making the film?
Alexander Brough (producer): I think our biggest challenge was trying to figure out the story arc. We had all the material we wanted and needed to tell the story it was just putting it in a proper form to make it palatable. There was so much we wanted to put into the movie, so much on the cutting room floor, we just wanted to cut the fat and streamlined it so it didn’t drag. That was a huge problem that we had and it took us seven to eight months to figure that out.
Poull Brien (director): I think structure was really tough. One of the hardest things was trying to fit in all his backstory before a certain point in the film. By the time he goes on tour to Poughkeepsie we wanted to know a good chunk of that information, we wanted it to naturally flow with the story.
CC: In the film Charles has a tutor a tutor that says his literacy is at a Grade 1 level. Did that influence his writing?
PB: You don’t need to be able to read in order to sing. And for Charles singing something he’s been doing forever. I don’t think they have anything to do with each other other than it’s a very slow process for him to write his lyrics down. A lot of time tommy… I think a lot of the challenges with his reading comprehension levels were outside of songwriting and being a musician.
CC: How do you integrate Charles’ music stylistically into a documentary that is about his life and his music?
AB: The hardest thing is that structure. Luckily with Charles his songs aren’t abstract, they’re very much about certain things. And that kind of interweaves with the backstory pretty well and pretty nicely. So we luckily had that to be able to work with. So you know it’s all sort of part of one cohesive puzzle and it’s just a matter of putting the pieces in the right place.
CC: What’s the next big project for you guys?
PB: I think right now we’re trying to be a little financially responsible right now. Sell this movie is the main thing. Get this movie out there. That’s a project in and of itself. For a little while it’ll be nice watching audiences like this thing we’ve spent so much time on and after that it’ll be nice for alex to get his life savings back (laughs). And in the meantime take a nice little break and figure it out further on the road. And I really wouldn’t be surprised if something came to us the way this thing came to us so that could all change in three days or three months.