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The September Issue: QA & Interview with RJ Cutler.

Posted in Uncategorized by modman on March 3, 2010

Melnitz Movies and FAST at UCLA screened The September Issue yesterday on campus. The movie is a favorite of mine, not only because its about fashion, Vogue, Grace Coddington/Anna Wintour and the industry, but also because of the filmmaking of the project. When I found out that the director would be there for a Q&A session, I knew I had to be there.

The film was even better the second time around because I picked up on so many details that I hadnt noticed before. I did a great deal of research before going to the screening/Q&A session because I wanted to make sure I had some background information before asking questions. I learned so much about RJ Cutler, his work, the filming process with the Vogue Team, Anna and Grace, the methods of filming he used and why, and so much more.

I had quite a few questions after reading Cutler’s past interviews, so  I set out to try and get a interview with him after the screening and Q&A session. I was somewhat disappointed in the Q&A, mostly because the questions were basically the exact same questions that Cutler had been asked in previous interviews since last year. Still, hearing him talk about the passion of the Vogue team and his insights on the film with passion was something that could never be transcribed onto a written interview. Here are a few questions from the Q&A/interview with director, RJ Cutler.

Why did you make a film about fashion? Were you always interested in it?

Never. I love baseball. More than the subject, though, its about the story, the character. Anna talking about her father sparked my interest and I knew there was something there. The genesis of the project was that I wanted a story of her, what she does and to break down barriers. The Vogue team approached me later and Anna wanted to focus on filming the making of the September issue.

What is the editing process like? How long did everything take?

After about 9 months of filming, we had this lump of clay: 320 hours. Members of our team that went through every single frame. Then we assembled “scenes we couldnt live without”, or so we thought at the time. That put us at 140 hours. I watched the whole thing at 22 hours. That is still a significant amount of time considering a documentary is usually 90 minutes or so. I wanted to include so many parts but the editing had to be done.

It was extremely difficult for Grace to watch her work get cut from the issue. Was it as difficult for you to have to edit down to 90 minutes?

There is always marriage to your work. Some people are definitely more attached than others. Filmmaking is largely about the editing process and finding a theme or storyline, so I would say I am more used to it because it is the nature of the business. Grace is so passionate about what she does and her vision is incredible. She puts so much work into bringing her imagination alive. Who wouldnt be upset when all your work doesnt make the issue when so much of you has gone into it?

How has the movie changed the lives of Anna and Grace and the relationship between the two women?

I dont know exactly how things are now, but I guarantee you that they are still fighting. The dynamic between the two women hasnt changed, but the documentary has affected their lives in a big way. They have been so far away from the public world and they were always surrounded by a shroud of anonymity. That veil of anonymity has been lifted and Anna and Grace are  acknowledged for their hard work which they are still getting used to.

Fashion is thought of as materialistic, over-the-top, frivolous. How has your perception changed about the industry after this documentary? Is the industry bigger than just clothes?

I had similar opinions about fashion before going into this project. After the film was done, my original thoughts completely changed. First of all, the industry is bigger than just clothes. So many different industries depend on fashion – advertising, manufacturing and production, textiles, shipping, retail.. the fashion industry holds the pieces together. And the power of self-expression is invaluable.

Do you believe that your documentary was able to, to some degree, break down the perception that “cameras are evil”?

Cameras are evil in the fashion industry. They are seen as a tool for prying and manipulating. It took three months to gain the trust of the Vogue fashion team. I believe that as filmmakers and journalists, we need to be transparent and tell the truth. There is nothing easier than telling the truth.

You mentioned that you observe fascinating characters at critical moments in people’s lives. How was that true for Anna at the time of shooting the documentary?

The critical moment in her life at the time is that she is at the peak of her career. Her September issue is going to be the single largest issue of any magazine that has ever been published and that is significant. As we now know three years later, it will forever be the single largest magazine ever published.

Do you believe that The September Issue helped better brand Vogue?

Well, you cant better brand Vogue. If anything, Vogue helped better brand The September Issue.

Do Anna, Grace and the staff constantly think about their brand, or the process of branding from a business aspect?
Vogue, they are always conscious of what Vogue means. It means one set of things on the publishing side and one set of things on the editorial side. But it also means common things for both of them. And that is the history of what Vogue is.

If you havent watched the documentary yet, be sure to buy a DVD, now with 90 additional minutes of never-seen-before footage!

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2 Responses

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  1. enid said, on March 7, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    I think for a lot of ardent fashion lovers, The September Issue managed to show us a world we’ve always wanted to see while simultaneously showing others why we love fashion: It’s not frivolous – it’s serious work, craft, art, and business too. I felt a whole new wave of inspiration watching it and now I feel the same way reading about the passionate commitment of RJ Cutler.

    Thanks sooo much for sharing the Q&A, Danny.

  2. The Future of Fashion. « the modman said, on April 12, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    […] got me thinking about the mentor/mentee relationship that is so lacking in the fashion industry. Anna Wintour takes interest in a few designers. CFDA President Diane Von Furstenburg has consulted the budding […]


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