RJ Cutler’s doc on Anna Wintour and the making of Vogue‘s biggest issue of the year is getting wide release through Roadside Attractions this fall. Just before his doc hits theaters worldwide, realscreen spoke with Cutler about his approach to making The September Issue.
When contemplating Cutler’s profile of the duo behind Vogue, editor Anna Wintour and creative director Grace Coddington, many reviewers seem inclined to compare the doc to The Devil Wears Prada, or at least Wintour to Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly. While Cutler, the president and founder of LA-based Actual Reality Pictures, says he can appreciate the impulse to make this comparison, the speculation over whether Wintour is an ‘icy’ character never interested him. ‘It’s a hugely sexist thing, [the debate over] whether she’s an ‘ice queen,” says Cutler, who feels that this debate wouldn’t exist if she were a man in the same position of power. ‘No one gives a shit whether David Geffen is nice or not. I’ve never heard anybody talk about it… ever.’
Cutler didn’t come into this project to reveal how hard (or soft) Wintour is, he simply wanted to show how she works, how she made it to where she is and, more simply, who she is as a person. He did this, as he does with all of his film and non-fiction television projects, by gaining the trust of his subjects.
‘Our goal is to have a relationship with the subject whereby the subject is as comfortable being themselves in our presence as they would be with anybody with whom they’re completely comfortable,’ says the verité director/producer. ‘As we get to know each other more, we’re more committed to that relationship and a real trust develops. Then great things happen.’
One of the great things that happened working on The September Issue was Vogue‘s creative director, who initially wanted nothing to do with the film, gained trust for Cutler and his team and allowed them to include her in the doc. The inclusion of Grace Coddington not only gave the film a better look at Wintour’s working relationships, but it added another main character to the doc.
‘I think all great movies are stories of compelling relationships. That’s what makes a great yarn; the exploration of a relationship with other compelling characters,’ says Cutler. Though he came on board to make the doc with the largest issue of the year as the hook, he knew that wasn’t the focus. ‘What I learned when I got to Vogue, at least in a way that had most meaning to me, was that the defining dynamic at Vogue was Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington.’
The September Issue will begin its limited run August 28 and will see wide release on September 11. Look for a profile on RJ Cutler in realscreen‘s September issue.