Eleven Minutes is a documentary following Jay McCarroll two years after winning the first season of Project Runway as he makes his first collection to show at New York Fashion Week in September 2006. The title refers to the short duration of the fashion show: six months of work given an 11-minute airing for the public. Though no one says it, it also likely refers to where McCarroll's fame clock is at, ticking down his 15 minutes.
The film, directed by Michael Selditch and Rob Tate, follows McCarroll from the previous February's Fashion Week when he decides that he needs to get his act together by the next season and through the resulting show and after, with a bittersweet denouement where the designer has to deal with selling his collection and the aftermath of the whirlwind. Amidst that work time, we see him sketch out his designs, deal with manufacturing, navigate PR nightmares, and talk. Talk, talk, talk. A lot of sitdowns with the camera. You can tell McCarroll was trained in the world of reality television, he can't get enough of the confessional process.
Which is why a lot of viewers may have a love/hate relationship with Eleven Minutes. I love the idea of the movie and some of the brass tacks footage of getting the work done, but I kind of hated its star. McCarroll comes off as a self-involved brat most of the time, desperate to be served endless slices of celebrity cake while pretending he doesn't want to eat it. When Fashion Week is over, he says all he really wants is to be recognized as a designer and not be seen as a reality TV star. Well, my first suggestion, sir, is not to continue to let cameras follow you around 24-7. You protest too much against that spotlight you're standing in.
Granted, this makes Jay McCarroll a pretty good villain for his own movie. The best scenes are when the people who he has roped in to work for him, most of them foregoing payment with the hope that money will eventually manifest itself, have to deal with McCarroll's unrealistic expectations and uncooperative behavior. When should an artist give his singular vision a rest in order to listen to good advice? It's hard to say, but the fact that one of Eleven Minutes' directors has to go on camera every once in a while to give his subject some perspective should be a good indicator of how far into the weeds McCarroll has gone. Some of the designer's tantrums are insufferable, and so are some of his theories about fashion. The Humane Society sponsors McCarroll's show and he seems very passionate about fashionistas not wearing fur, but he has no problem exploiting people with real physical disabilities/differences that he deems "weird" in order to freak his audience out. I also don't think I know a woman that would be all that attracted to a line of clothes that the male designer repeatedly says has been inspired by "vaginal discharges."
Granted (again), this all adds to the watchability of Eleven Minutes. I can't say I was never bored, but I was never so disinterested I wanted to press stop. Sometimes my continued involvement was fueled by my irritation with the subject, and I wanted to see if Jay could deliver the goods. (My verdict is that he couldn't, but I'm not the best judge of such things.) I'd have liked a little more counterpoint, some more from the outside voices to make up for McCarroll's lack of self-awareness, and maybe even a little more in the area of Monday morning quarterbacking, some stronger commentary on what went wrong. Because without that, I am not sure I got to know McCarroll any better than I would have on an average season of Project Runway. (I didn't start watching the show until later, so I never saw Jay's appearances on the program.) There is an aura of safety around the movie, like no one wants to call it like they are seeing it. Where is Heidi Klum to wander into frame and declare Jay McCarroll "out" when we need her?
English Closed Captioning is available.
There are a handful of deleted scenes, just over six minutes, and all fairly inconsequential. Some are trims from scenes we still see in the movie. Watch Jay pick yellow thread, watch Jay go to a nightclub, etc. There is an additional short animated piece illustrating the designer's process of picking what outfits to make and what to leave on the runway that was apparently cut from the film because it was too critical of Jay's timid choices.
Finally, there are new interviews with Jay McCarroll and with the directors Michael Selditch and Rob Tate. McCarroll's bit is just over 17 minutes, and it's him being interviewed by Canadian radio host Jian Ghomeshi on Ghomeshi's show "Q." (Ghomeshi is maybe best known outside Canada for his uncomfortable interview with Billy Bob Thornton last year.) Ghomeshi valiantly tries to bridge the gap between the two aspects of McCarroll's career and gets him talking. The clip with the directors is 5 minutes long, and it's from "The Inside Reel." In it, the pair tackle the distinction between reality TV and documentary, and how their profile of Jay (hopefully) bridges that gap.