Director: R.J. Cutler
Running Time: 90 minutes
Madman proudly presents the highly anticipated DVD release of THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE, the revealing and intimate documentary that explores the high and lows, the teamwork and the tantrums that go into the creation of Vogue Magazine's iconic, annual September issue.
Anna Wintour, the legendary editor-in-chief of American Vogue magazine, is the most powerful and polarising figure in fashion. Hidden behind her trademark bob and sunglasses, she has never allowed anyone to scrutinise the inner workings of her magazine. Until now. With unprecedented access, THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE takes viewers beyond the gloss and glamour and delves deep into the sacrosanct world of the globe's most influential taste-makers. It's the real-life DEVIL WEARS PRADA.
Earning rave reviews and over $1.5 million at the Australian Box-Office, along with COCO AVANT CHANEL and VALENTINO, THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE is one of the major pillars in a year where fashion on film is this season's must have, must see, must do!Anna Wintour, the legendary editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine for twenty years, is the most powerful and polarizing figure in fashion. Hidden behind her trademark bob and sunglasses, she has never allowed anyone to scrutinize the inner workings of her magazine. Until now. With unprecedented access, filmmaker R.J. Cutler's new film The September Issue does for fashion what he did for politics in The War Room,taking the viewer inside a world they only think they know.
Every August a record-breaking number of people can't wait to get their hands on the September issue ofVogue. The 2007 issue was and remains the biggest ever, weighing over four pounds, selling thirteenmillion copies, and impacting the $300-billion global fashion industry more than any other singlepublication. An intimate, funny and surprising look at Anna Wintour and her team of larger-than-lifeeditors as they create this must-have Bible of fashion, Cutler explores the untouchable glamour of Wintour'sVogue to reveal the extraordinarily passionate people at its heart. He takes us behind the scenes at FashionWeek, to Europe, on shoots and reshoots, and into closed-door staff meetings, bearing witness to anarduous, entertaining, and sometimes emotionally demanding process.
At the eye of this annual fashion hurricane is the two-decade relationship between Wintour and GraceCoddington, incomparable Creative Director and fashion genius. They are perfectly matched for the age-oldconflict between creator and curator. Through them, we see close-up the delicate creative chemistry it takesto remain at the top of the ever-changing fashion field.
THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE comes to DVD with over 90 minutes of deleted and extended footage.
DVD is the new black - THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE, is now available
What was your inspiration for the film?
I first thought about doing a project about Anna Wintour and Vogue when I read an article in New YorkMagazine about the Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute Ball, the annual fundraising gala that Annaoversees. It created such a fascinating portrait that I couldn't help but be compelled. I knew who Anna was,of course, that she was a formidable and controversial figure in the fashion world, but I didn't know muchmore about her than that. I'm always looking for subjects who care a tremendous amount about whatthey're doing and are doing it as well as they possibly can under high stakes circumstances. Certainly thiswas the case with Anna Wintour.
So I called Vogue and went to New York and I had a couple of meetings with Patrick O'Connell, Anna'sDirector of Communications. Nothing quite panned out, but I had a sense that eventually something would.Sure enough, a few weeks later the phone rang and Patrick said Anna has an idea, can you come out here theday after tomorrow? It was like being summoned to see the Queen. I like to joke that I was able to convinceher to do this film by making her think that it was her idea, but the truth is that focusing on the Septemberissue as a structure was indeed her suggestion. She said it was something she had always thought wouldmake a great subject for a film. We talked about my approach, the fact that we don't come in with an agendaor a thesis, instead our process is observational. She got it and we agreed to work together. When I said thatI would have to have final cut, she said, "My father was a journalist, I'm a journalist, I totally understand." Iwas glad that she got it, that she knew I would have to have final cut, but I was also struck by the fact thatshe spoke so openly about her father. I thought there's definitely something here, and I suspected that if Ifollowed that thread it would lead me to a rich place.
Once Anna and I had agreed to work together, it still took another year to get all of our ducks in a row. Wehad to negotiate a contract with Conde Nast Publishing-it was highly unusual for them to have a cameracrew present for almost nine months. And about that time, our good friends from A&E IndieFilms took therisk and came on board and agreed to finance the film and serve as executive producers. Needless to say,that was the critical piece to making everything work.
What was the biggest challenge? How did you get them to commit?
Every film that you make is going to have its own specific world with its own unique set of challenges, andthe world of Vogue was no exception. Sometimes the challenges are obvious. Like when you're making afilm about people who are really fashion conscious and are wearing expensive, delicate clothes, you can'tput lavs and transmitters on them all day long. You're going to need to record everything with a boom, andyou're going to need an awesome Sound Recordist, which is why we brought Eddie O'Connor on board.Sometimes you're faced with a challenge that's made even more difficult by the fact that first you have tofigure out what it is before you can set about overcoming it. At Vogue, for instance, we were filming agroup of people who had been working together for years, in some cases for decades. They worked togetherwith a fluidity that was almost deceptive. They communicated with nods and glances, not with grandpronouncements. When we first started filming there, we were stymied. When did that decision get made?How do you know that story's happening? Who cut that photo spread? It was baffling. But then we realizedthat the creative process at Vogue is in the gestures, the glances, the conversations that last five seconds. It'snot that they sit down and they say okay now we will be creative and discuss what we're going to do. Oncewe realized that, our jobs became much easier. We knew what we were filming.
But the biggest challenge that we faced in making The September Issue was the fact that people in thefashion world are very suspicious of cameras. They're used to a camera being the enemy, something that isprying and looking to catch you in a compromising position, something that's judging you. And of courseour presence is the opposite of that, our cameras are there not to judge but to observe. Convincing thepeople who worked there that we weren't like other people with cameras was a huge challenge.
Ironically the person we had the greatest amount of difficulty with at the beginning of the process was GraceCoddington. As you know from seeing the film, she ended up playing a very pivotal role in the movie, butGrace's mistrust of anyone with a camera is sort of fundamental to who she is. And she didn't waste asecond making that clear. The first time we encountered Grace she said, "Get away from me." The nexttime I saw her, we were at the Chanel show in Paris and she said, "Anna isn't even here, why do you evenhave to come around?" She was not happy at all. Later that day, André Leon Talley said to me, "What didyou do to Grace?"
Eventually we were able to win over Grace and the entire team at Vogue. Which brings us from the specificchallenges of this project to the fundamental challenge you face on every film: Earning the trust of yoursubjects. And the way you do that is by being who you say you are. You're fortunate to be invited into aworld, in this case the world of Vogue, but you have to remember that it's their world not yours. And youmust believe fundamentally that the story belongs not to you but to the subjects, and that they are sharing itwith you. Philosophically, you believe that this is a collaboration, and that informs everything you do. Andif you are truly there to see things as clearly as possible, rather than to satisfy an agenda of your own, andyou act in accordance with these fundamental beliefs, then your subjects will come to recognize that in youand you will have earned their trust.
How many hours did you shoot? What was the challenge of editing?
We shot over 300 hours on the film. That's a lot of footage. We filmed for 8 months. The footage all had tobe screened, chronicled and documented. And then we had to figure out our story. When people ask aboutthe process of discovering story, whether it's in production or post-production, I like to tell the story of thisinterview I saw with the great hockey player Wayne Gretzky when he was at the height of his powers. Hehad won a bunch of Stanley Cups in a row, he was the greatest scorer in NHL history, there appeared to beno end to what he could do. And the interviewer said, "Tell us Great One, how do you do it?" And Gretzkysaid, "Oh it's quite simple. I just follow the puck." And I remember thinking, "Of course Wayne Gretzky isthe greatest hockey player the Earth has ever seen-- everyone else in the rink is slapping at the puck withtheir hockey sticks, trying to get it to do what they want it to do. Gretzky is following the puck and goingwhere it wants to go."
And that's what the process of making these films is. It's a process of learning to follow the puck. You can'tmake the puck go where you want it to go, because you'll never be able to make your film. You have tofollow the puck and let it lead you. And the puck, of course, is the story. So when we're in the field, wecan't go in there and say, I'm here to prove Anna Wintour is this, I'm going to show she's that. You have togo in asking, "Who is she? Who are the people around her? What's it like to work here?" You go in withthat question mark, you go in with that curiosity. And you discover Anna and you discover Grace and youdiscover relationships and you discover history and you discover themes. And you discover the story. Youfind all of that, you don't know it when you show up. You follow it moment to moment while you'reshooting and then you get into the editing room and you discover it all over again. You look at all of thefootage that you shot, you watch it over and over again, and it reveals itself to you. And you try to see it asclearly as possible, even though you've been watching it over and over again for weeks and months. Godbless Azin Samari, our editor. She has this remarkable gift of being able to see things with absolute clarityno matter how many times she's seen it before. And she has a poet's instinct for combining differentmoments to create a deeper truth. And, believe me, that's really hard. It's hard to be able to see things asclearly as possible. And that's the challenge. Sure, there are concrete challenges, you know, can we put theMet Ball in? How do you get through all the fashion shows in the beginning? How much Andre do we putin the story? How much Thakoon? How do you establish who these people are? How much history do youput in? What's the ratio of interview to verite? What kind of music do you use? Certainly those wereconcrete challenges. But anyone who edits verite films has the challenge finding the story, the challenge offollowing the puck, and for us that was the greatest challenge as well.
What is your favorite scene?
I love being in the Vogue office, being in the hallways, in the meetings, the moments in Anna's office, I loveall that. I'm a big verite fan. And of course, I love the scenes with Andre Leon Talley. And I love the waythe film breaks the fourth wall, especially towards the end of the movie. I'm also a huge fan of the way BobRichman shot this film, the combination of intimate verite with those beautiful vistas of New York and Parisand the world of fashion. But I think probably the material I respond to most emotionally are the scenes thatinvolve Anna confronting her family relationships. The scenes with her daughter Bee; the scenes whereshe's talking about her dad and her relationship with him; the footage that we see of Anna as a youngerwoman. And most of all the sequence towards the end of the film, where Anna is reflecting on herrelationship with her siblings and we see her at home with Bee, and we see her as one of the things she is inaddition to an awesome, fearsome, Editor-in-Chief: a single working mom. Then we see her frustrated withher work, unhappy with the way the issue is going, contemplating the end of her career. In that onesequence, I think, we see a connection between work and family and history and her place in the world; wesee her as a powerful business woman, as a sister and as a mom, and for me it all really comes together.
What were you most surprised about?
I didn't realize just how prominent Anna Wintour's position in the fashion industry was and the more I gotto observe it, the more surprising I found it. You know, you can make a hit movie without StevenSpielberg's blessing, and you can publish best-selling software without Bill Gates' blessing, but you can'treally be a be a successful fashion designer right now without Anna Wintour's blessing. And remember thisis a rapidly-growing 300-billion dollar global industry. Anna is such a singular figure, the way that everyonce in a long while individuals in various industries can be. And it's remarkable and surprising when yourealize the scope of her power and influence. And this phenomenon is only enhanced, I think, by the factthat she's a woman in a very public industry where the knives are kept sharp. Who's to say how much of itis Anna and how much of it is Vogue, but indeed she occupies a unique position.
Editor in Chief
Anna Wintour has been Editor in Chief of Vogue since 1988.
Ms. Wintour joined Condé Nast in 1983 as Creative Director of Vogue and in 1986 she returned to hernative England to become Editor in Chief of British Vogue. She was Editor in Chief of HG from September1987 until July 1988, when she rejoined Vogue in her present position.
Ms. Wintour began her career in 1970 in the fashion department of Harpers & Queen magazine in London.In 1976 she moved to New York and joined Harper's Bazaar as a fashion editor. Next, she joined New Yorkin 1981 as senior editor and in that capacity produced the magazine's fashion, style, and living coverage.During her tenure at Vogue, Ms. Wintour has been actively involved in fund-raising, particularly for AIDSresearch and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 1990, Ms. Wintour played a strategic role in developingthe fashion industry's AIDS charity program, the CFDA/Vogue Initiative, through which she has helpedraise more than $16 million, chiefly through the highly renowned 7th On Sale program.
From 1995 to the present, Ms. Wintour has co-chaired ten fund-raising galas for the Metropolitan Museumof Art's Costume Institute, which together have raised more than $40 million. In recognition of her work onits behalf, the museum named Ms. Wintour honorary trustee in 1998.
In 2003, Ms. Wintour spearheaded the establishment of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, an unprecedentedinitiative and award designed to aid emerging American fashion designers struggling to build successfulbusinesses. The Fashion Fund Award has not only evolved to become a prestigious achievement in a youngdesigner's career, it has also inspired European fashion industries to begin similar programs.
Ms. Wintour has been the recipient of many awards for her leadership and philanthropic efforts, mostnotably the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Lifetime Achievement Award and the Awardof Courage for AIDS Research from the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amFAR).
In addition to editing Vogue, Ms. Wintour executed the development and successful launches of Teen Vogue(2001) and Men's Vogue (2005). Ms. Wintour serves as Editorial Director for both titles.