Christina Voros Speaks Gucci, Giannini, & Directing The Director

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At first, it was difficult to pinpoint precisely why we thoroughly enjoyed The Director — the new James Franco-produced, Christina Voros-directed documentary about Gucci's creative director, Frida Giannini (yes, that's a mouthful). Give us a glamorous behind-the-scenes experience, gorgeous design, and a history lesson tied together with a Gucci horsebit, and we are instantly wrapped up, right? But that was really only surface deep.

In The Director, Voros carries the audience from "the past" tradition of the brand, to the "the future" of the industry that suggests a strong influence on the Asian marketplace, and then grounded us back to "the present" life of Giannini, with each chapter featuring the creative director preparing for a different Fashion Week presentation. The last of these was probably our favorite part of the film. Shadowing the powerful, but often shying-from-the-spotlight Giannini, the film captures the designer and industry leader conducting Gucci runway shows, designing new collections, representing her brand as a public figure, and interacting with her loved ones — both at work and at home.

Less about Gucci and more about the humble, hardworking woman who's helping to preserve the brand's integrity and carry its legacy, The Director also shed light on Giannini's personal life. Everything from cooking with her parents at their beach house in Sabaudia; appearing with her boyfriend, Gucci CEO Patrizio Di Marco; or the very moment the news of her pregnancy slips out during preparations for her spring '13 show, with thanks to hairdresser Luigi Murenu, was all caught on film.

While the Gucci glamour was certainly the honey to the fly, it was Giannini's story and Voros' execution that connected the audience with the fashion powerhouse, perhaps in a way that's never quite been done before. We sat down one-on-one with Voros to talk about her experience directing The Director. Read on for our conversation.

Photo: Courtesy of DDA Public Relations
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One of the most interesting things about the movie was the way you formatted past, future, and then present. Why did you arrange it in that way and why in that sequence?
"It sort of chose itself. As the film emerged, there were certain events that we filmed that we knew were going to be in the movie. I mean, we filmed for 18 months. The danger of doing a film like this is that fashion is repetitive. The process is very similar from season to season even though the collections are so different. So, I was looking for a way to somehow revisit a similar pattern of events but in different ways each time...I wanted it to feel true to what [Frida's] experience was. So, that being said, as we began to line things up on our timeline, it started to feel like there were three distinct chapters, partially because Asia falls in the middle and that was such a completely different thing. And that each of these chapters has an ending, which is the [runway] show. So, that’s kind of how it kind of emerged organically."

And what about keeping the present last? You usually think past, present, then future.
"Again, partially chronology...I guess I liked it because it was not what you completely expected. But also that the film is a journey of getting to know Frida, as well as getting to know what her world entails. Her job is one that requires her to look to the past to create for the future. And so you kind of get to know her in that expanse, and then the last moment is when you get to sit and really be in the moment with her, I think.”

What do you think is the significance of having Shanghai representing the future? Do you think that kind of said something more about the fashion industry at large?
"Well, I think, as Frida says in the film, when you're talking about emerging countries, you have to recognized it’s already emerged. I think that one of the things I noticed when I was in Shanghai was that as Americans we are very aware of China being this huge, powerful, entity, economically and culturally and socially. But...it’s almost the same way that people in cities in the U.S. think that everything is happening here, and nothing is happening anywhere else. So, I think China represents a future in a lot of ways."

"I was struck by how fast things are changing there. There’s a moment in the film that actually isn’t in the final cut where Frida’s talking to Angelica, the editor of Vogue Asia, and Angelica was saying that 'you have to understand, 10 years ago, these people were miners.' And in my mind I thought she was saying M-I-N-O-R-S; that 10 years ago these people were too young to go out and spend money on fashion. And then she repeated herself and she was like, 'they were in mines.' And it’s like...right. The economy has exploded so quickly that 10 years ago, people who didn’t even know what a Louis Vuitton bag was are now coveting them because of how quickly things have happened. And that’s fascinating to me. It really elucidated for me not only the vastness of the parameters of Frida’s job, in terms of looking forward to the future of the brand in a context that is familiar, but also really thinking about a global market basically because, as she says, in a time of economic crisis in the U.S. or in Europe, it’s really the Asian marketplace that’s allowing luxury brands to continue to thrive."

Photo: Courtesy of DDA Public Relations
gucci-5Voros and The Director producer, James Franco.

Do you have any favorite moments that had to be left on the cutting-room floor?
"Oh, there’s so much. I mean, the first rough cut of this was, I think, four and a half hours long and I remember watching it and we were like, 'We can’t cut anything! It’s going to be an epic!' There’s a great moment actually when I was having lunch with Frida, and her father brought out a manila envelope and he said, 'I know you think James Franco was born 35 years ago, but he was actually born 65 years ago.' And he pulls out these pictures of himself in his 20s looking an awful lot like James Franco! And then he’s like: 'James Franco, playing for the national football team in Rome. James Franco, with Frida as a baby.' It was so amazing, but at the same time, I was like, 'This movie is really about Frida.' But I think in the DVD extras that deserves to be noted."

Speaking of James...how was it working with him, and what was his special touch that he contributed to this project?
"James and I have worked together for, god, it’s been five years now. You know, since his first student film at NYU, I’ve been shooting him as a cinematographer. And then we started this project two years ago, and then about a year and a half ago, started another project that premiered at Sundance here. Our creative relationship is continually getting more and more multifaceted."

"You know, James is a really incredible collaborator and a great instigator. When he had the idea to do this film, I think part of me was like 'Gucci?!' It was sort of this daunting thing. How do I get behind the walls of Gucci? And he was like, 'You have to do this with me. You’re the only one who could do this with me.' And so he’s very good at pushing you off into the deep end of the pool being like, 'You can totally swim.'"

Photo: Courtesy of DDA Public Relations
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What do you think is the real takeaway with Frida and her being a part of Gucci? What do you think makes her position there so important for the public to know about?
"One of the things I learned making the film is how much is involved for someone in that role. It’s not just being a designer. It really is being the director. I mean, you are directing so many different departments, making so many different choices about so many different things. It’s not just the fabric or the hem or the embroidery. It’s the music, the model's walk, it’s the interior decoration of the space, it’s what pictures are chosen to go out into the world to capture the feeling of this collection. I mean, it’s a really complicated job description."

"And what I think is remarkable about Frida is almost a completely palpable absence of ego. In fashion, it’s an industry notorious for strong personalities and people who are incredibly flamboyant and want the attention. It’s about the name. You want your name to be out there. And Frida never wanted to design for Giannini. She always wanted to design for a major brand. And I think it’s a really interesting examination of someone who loves what they do, is brilliant at what they do, but they’re not doing it to immortalize their own name. They’re doing it with the sense of responsibility for something that came before and will live on after. And I think she’s a fascinating person to watch. Her decisions are very intuitive and she’s an incredible collaborator and she’s surrounding herself with people she’s been with for over 10 years, and I think that speaks very highly to the way she does what she does."

One of our most favorite moments was when Frida reveals she’s pregnant. It happened so perfectly! How did you do that?
"We got really, really lucky! Actually, that was one shoot that I was not on because I was actually shooting As I Lay Dying with James, so I had a camera crew there on that day. My associate producer called me and was like, 'Frida’s pregnant!' And I was like, 'What?! Did you get it on film?' It’s a great moment. It just was a happy accident. When I first started it was right after she and Patrizio (Di Marco) had sort of formally announced their relationship, and there was a big article in The Financial Times. So, it’s been really cool kind of watching that evolution for her. And then the day she had Greta, her daughter, was the day we officially locked everything — sound, color, picture. It was like, 'We’re done with the movie!' and then someone called and was like, 'Frida just had a baby!' It’s crazy. The timing of it was great."

Photo: Courtesy of DDA Public Relations