RJ Cutler spent an entire year with Wintour with the specific mission of capturing life at Vogue as they launch their most successful issue of the year -- The September Issue. Unparalleled access to Wintour and her Vogue world included treks all over the world. Fresh from his world-wide whirlwind The September Issue shoot, Cutler phoned SheKnows for an exclusive chat about The September Issue and Anna Wintour.
SheKnows: First, I was curious what you took away from your time with Anna Wintour that can explain how this brilliant woman has remained powerfully relevant in a world that changes each season?
RJ Cutler: What struck me most was her management style. She has a decisiveness and her faith in her own instincts this is unmatched. At the same time, her clear awareness that surrounding herself with the highest level of talent she possibly could was a wise thing to do. So you have these two very strong impulses that when working together, I think, are very instructive, you know in terms of leadership.
SheKnows: What did you take away in terms of her leadership toolbox?
RJ Cutler: She has a kind of...no looking back. She says in the movie, fashion's not about looking back, it's about looking forward. She loves the saying 'onto the next' which is a Karl Lagerfeld expression that she references a lot. On the other hand, as you see in the movie, she's one of those leaders who aren't afraid to have really strong minded, really talented people, around her -- even people who don't necessarily agree with her.
SheKnows: How did it come about that you had access to not only Anna Wintour working her magic, but as a filmmaker to capture the creative collective that is creating the September issue of Vogue? Were you surprised you were allowed this access?
RJ Cutler: No, not really. This is what I do, I'd say you always get it when you want it, but, Anna and I met and we started talking about working together. We agreed we'd do it. Maybe you don't get surprised when you get access to the things that I've had access to…I don't ever want to take it for granted. I've been very fortunate in the places I've been able to make films and the stories I've been able to tell. But, once I knew that Anna wanted to work with me on a project, I wasn't surprised that would be the September issue.
SheKnows: For you going in -- where there any expectations? If so, how did expectations play out versus what you experienced?
RJ Cutler: You touched on a key part of my process which is to limit my expectations as much as possible. My most valuable resource is my curiosity. The more that I don't have preconceived notions the more successful I'm going to be because then curiosity leads to discovery. Discovery is what allows us to make the film. The more you operate out of your own expectations, the more you see things clearly.
SheKnows: For you as a filmmaker, I'm looking at all the different subjects you've covered and the mediums in which they've been seen, is the process still a continuing education type of situation?
RJ Cutler: Oh, yes. You're always, well, on one hand you're always re-learning how to do it. But, more importantly, every subject is a new challenge and new discovery. When you finish the film you know all these things about the subject that you've made you're film about. But, when you start the next film, you're starting with a blank slate.
Up next…Cutler dishes on learning Wintour's world and capturing President Clinton's 1992 War Room.
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