ELEVEN MINUTES is a process-driven film: the behind-the-scenes process of creating a collection, the planning of a documentary film, the process of manufacturing clothes, of organizing a show, the process of “selling-out” etc. Was this always your intent -- to be self-reflexive and transformative, revealing processes rather than just results/outcomes?
Yes, this was exactly our intent and we are thrilled that many people recognize and appreciate this. All art forms rely on a process -- from acting to architecture, the journey is not apparent from seeing the end results; and how better to document the intensity of the process than with a documentary! Actually, we almost called the film The Process. Then we thought that might be a tad dry.
The film makes savvy use of the documentary genre, showing a reality star who takes control of his personae and reclaims agency over his image and his life. How much input did Jay have in the filming process?
Jay, Rob and I all agreed from the start that the focus of this film should be the process, and about Jay establishing himself in the fashion world [beyond “Project Runway”]. Therefore, Jay was involved in our decisions about when and what to shoot.
To that end, he had little to do with what actually made it to the screen. We did not want this to be a feature-length commercial for Jay McCarroll Enterprises. It says a lot that a person feels comfortable having his deepest insecurities shown in such a public forum.
Is ELEVEN MINUTES a reaction to reality TV? What is your take on the role/relationship between documentary film and reality TV (kissing cousins, unfriendly neighbors)?
Yes, ELEVEN MINUTES is a reaction to reality TV and the challenge that so-called reality "stars" face after their series is over. “Project Runway” contestants are in a different category because they have a specific talent and career goal, unlike reality "stars" that are famous for eating bugs or winning a date with a millionaire.
For me, the BIG difference between reality TV and documentary is that reality TV is manufactured -- and I do not mean that in a bad way. The rules and circumstances of manipulation are acknowledged and embraced by the producers. No one claims that the events in these shows would actually happen in real life without the show's existence. With ELEVEN MINUTES, we were documenting actual events that were taking place anyway -- in spite of the presence of cameras, not for them.
Both documentary and reality TV can co-exist peacefully, but I do hope audiences can be discerning about the differences. A goal of ours was to have this film hold a mirror to reality TV. One of my favorite sequences is when we’re asking Jay if the foreboding sales agent said anything valid in his critique of Jay’s line, and Jay reluctantly replies, “Yes [he] had many valid things to say.” Then Jay turns right to the camera and says, “THAT’s the line you’re going to use.” And it was the line we used! A reality show would have left off that last comment. That’s Realty TV vs. Actuality.