Fashion Week NYC has just ended and what better time to review Eleven Minutes the new documentary by Michael Selditch and Rob Tate featuring Jay McCarroll, the first winner of Project Runway. I am not a huge “reality TV” fan as the majority of these shows catapult average people into screen fame (meaning famous on the tv or the internet but without having any accomplishment offscreen or talent whatsoever).
Project Runway is (or was – where is PR now?) different. To get onto the show and to continue on the show you had to have talent. And work hard. Yes, having a big personality helps as well and being too quiet can hurt you. It was exciting to tune in each week and find out what the challenge was and how the contestants were going to pull it off. And similar to child stars, we want to know after the fact “where are they now?” We imagine how amazing our life would be given such an opportunity…Eleven Minutes asks “but would it be?”
The film opens with Jay the day after fashion week of February 2005.
He has just informed us (or the camera) that he’ll be showing in September and follows with
“So today marks when I need to get my ass in gear. I have a design. It’s in my studio. It’s on paper. I just don’t know how to pay for it…or how to get it produced… manufactured… distributed… advertised …merchandised …I just know how to put it on paper!”
And this sets up the premise of the film: how does an idea go from paper to actuality in the world of fashion. But the secondary premise that is not stated so directly is how can someone who has become a reality TV star continue his creative process with the high expectations of the media.
Jay is complex in a very ordinary way. He wants to be accepted by the fashion world but he wants to do so on his terms and there’s no roadmap on how to accomplish this. His story is familiar to any creative artist who wants recognition but doesn’t want to lose control of his or her creative process. Initially offered 100k as part of his winnings, I have read (Jay will not comment on this) that he turned it down because it gave Project Runway 10% of everything for perpetuity. A clause since dropped from the contract.
The documentary is an insightful look at Jay’s process of putting together a show as well as his intimate struggle against his own personality as defined by the media. It is almost uncomfortably real -like when he is swearing during his pre-show interviews- which made me want to reach into the TV and smack him and say “Don’t fuck it up for yourself by saying things they can’t use in TV-land. In Eleven Minutes we experience the tension and insecurity as well as the hope and excitement of trying to make a vision a reality along with Jay -as well as learn more about the process and problems of producing a line than we’d ever want!