The September Issue DVD Relase: Quite the Catch
Last fall, I had slumped in a Vogue conference room chair, munched on strawberry cake at a September issue shoot, admired the New York City view from editor-in-chief Anna Wintour’s office, straight up sat front row next to Anna at Fashion Week (making sure to sit up), and hid out in the clothing racks for the fun rides to and fro. They were the best kind of rides- roller coasters really- even matching Dictionary.com’s definition- “…a train with open cars that moves along a high, sharply winding trestle built with steep inclines that produce sudden, speedy plunges for thrill-seeking passengers.” To do all of the above, my ride ticket came in the form of a movie ticket and now admittedly, the only slumping I had done was in the theater watching The September Issue– a fascinating documentary following Anna and her team concepting and creating the September 2007 Vogue issue, which remains the heaviest and largest issue ever. Afterall, I’d never dare slump anywhere in Vogue.
I liken The September Issue to a ride because director R.J. Cutler steers his passengers through the magazine’s creative process and for one ticket allows us to get quite close to great industry minds like Vogue creative director Grace Coddington, editor-in-large André Leon Talley, and fashion designer Thakoon. R.J. pulls back the lever at all the right places for pause and allows us to take in all that it takes to create an issue that weighs over four pounds. We share intimate moments with the Vogue team as if we were the teammate who got lucky when the “good” team picked us. Only without that somewhat excluded feeling even when you are on the “good” team. Instead, we feel very much included- feeling the rich fabrics of the couture gowns and the riches of craftsmanship that were spent on them… seeing the world’s elite designers trying to impress Anna with their collections and her definitive reactions that make her opinion elite… hearing the pounding editors’ hearts when they output the kind of ideas that make our hearts pound at every page turn… and tasting the sweetness when all 840 pages become one cohesive issue that the public devoured. That is- thirteen million copies devoured full.
And on February 23rd, we can all go on this ride anytime we want. The Lionsgate DVD comes out then, and it is available as a two-disc “Double Issue” that will immerse you in 90 minutes of never-before-seen deleted scenes, audio commentary with R.J., and a photo gallery.
Yesterday I had the distinct pleasure of joining a conference call with a handful of bloggers and R.J. himself, who was gracious enough to answer our questions.
I wanted to know more about the other prominent female in the film besides (and beside) Anna so I asked R.J.-
“I had the great opportunity to learn more about Grace Coddington through your documentary and did not know that she would be splitting the screen time with Anna. Did you go into filming knowing that Grace was going to be as prominent a character as she is in the documentary or did your footage dictate a need to include Grace as much as you did for the story’s sake?”
“I certainly didn’t know that Grace was going to play such a prominent role in the film when I started making the movie. I hadn’t met Grace, and I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t really know who she was. I went into this film with a real kind of blank slate in terms of any deep knowledge of the fashion industry, and I liked being in that position with this film because I could see everything with fresh eyes and learn everything anew. But one of the things that became clear to me immediately was the nature of the relationship between Anna and Grace. You know, all the action seemed to take place between the two of them or in the context of the shoots that Grace was doing. And you’re always looking when you’re making a movie for defining relationships, and to me very quickly it became apparent that Grace and Anna’s relationship was the defining relationship at Vogue while we were there. And through that relationship, I felt the film would learn most about Anna and learn most about Grace and you can build a film around it so I felt very early on that this was what I wanted to build the film around.
The challenge was that Grace didn’t want to have anything to do with the movie. In fact, the very first words she said to me when I met her were “Go away”- very adamantly opposed to being involved in the film. She felt that she didn’t really know who we were, what our process was, and she felt that we would get in her way. And it took some time for us to earn her trust and for her to realize that our filming with her was only going to enhance her process and the experience of doing what she does- she came to quite enjoy it and of course it became the film. The film really is a story of the relationship between these two women who appear to embody these kind of mythic polar opposites- fire and ice and art and commerce- but as you get to know them, you realize that their relationship isn’t really a relationship of opposites. It’s a symbiotic relationship. In fact, they drive each other to greater and greater heights and they contribute to each other’s work in these really extraordinary ways and that together they have achieved so much in two decades of working side by side and that’s very exciting. I’m often told that people find one of the most moving parts of the film to be at the end when Anna acknowledges Grace’s genius and Grace herself said when we were doing a panel discussion that the first time she saw that she was nearly moved to tears.”
R.J. also shared his take on Anna’s power-
“I’m often asked how Anna compares to the so-called fictional version of her that Meryl Streep plays in The Devil Wears Prada. And my answer always is the Miranda Priestly character isn’t nearly as powerful as Anna. The more power you have, the more economical you can be in your communication. Anna doesn’t need to jump up and down, throw her coat on desks, and make speeches degrading people or any of those things and explain herself at great length. Everybody is so finely atuned to her, to her responses, to their work, and even their presence that it’s almost as if no words or very few words need to be said.”
R.J. touched on a universal characteristic that we can all appreciate- Anna’s embodiment of power. We strive to be the best in our respective industries and her stance at the top of hers means she’s a solid model to study. All of us can take a few morsels or chunks of learning away from how she thinks and conducts herself in her career and apply them to our own lives. This universal desire to be in her position made me wonder if men saw this documentary on their own without any female influence. And my wonderment was met with three style bloggers who shared why they took it upon themselves to see this film, proving that this examination appeals to both men and women alike-
Jon from Getting Beat Like You Stole Something–
“I didn’t go see the film with a girlfriend-I’m single (hence all the extra time for my silly blog). Although I’m probably not a good barometer for why guys saw this film-I just finished a documentary on Yves Saint Laurent. What attracted me to The September Issue wasn’t really the fashion per se, nor the attitudes and personalities behind Vogue. It was the notion that this small group of individuals are in a large part responsible for the distillation of fashion to a mass audience. That and Madame Wintour herself – what guy isn’t at least intrigued by reserved, witty British women with penchants for Chanel suits and high heels?”
Jeremy from Start With Typewriters–
“Even though Vogue is a women’s magazine it still speaks to anyone who has anything to do with fashion. I also don’t think many folks know how much work goes into putting together a magazine. It’s not some dragging jpegs into Quark! The film really displayed what goes on behind the scenes.”
Shaun from Trimmed with Gold Above–
“Being in the industry and having my own publication site, ie. my blog, I was most interested to see how a physical magazine was run. To see the choices that are made that shape women’s fashion year after year. And most of all to understand how much work is put into an item that costs less than $10.00 but will change the way most people will live their life that year.”
Now excuse me while I go slump in my chaise lounge while I watch my advanced DVD copy. Again. It’s that delicious.