Have you seen The September Issue?

It’s been a long time since so many people told me to go see a movie. The same movie. And not just fashion and magazine people. All kinds of people have seen this documentary about American Vogue starring the iconic Anna Wintour and have enjoyed it. Even male people.

And so did I. Without spoiling it for you – there’s no plot to speak of so there’s nothing to really spoil – here are my thoughts.

1. Whether it’s American Vogue or Dolly, running a magazine is the same the world over. You have to make a million decisions every day. Not all of them are popular. You have to try and get the most out of your staff in order to make your magazine as great as it can be.

2. Your staff will not always like your decisions. Sometimes they will think you’re a bitch. Other time’s they’ll think you’re insane. But if you’re good, they’ll still respect you in the morning, even if it’s through gritted teeth.

3. An editor is charged with responsibility for the whole magazine – the money, the advertisers, the fashion, the staff, the pictures, the coverlines and the words. The editor is the gate-keeper to all those things but must delegate constantly if she is not to drown in a sea of minutiae.

4. Anna seems cold a lot of the time. Physically cold. She is always slightly hunched over and always has her arms folded or is holding herself. Maybe it’s because her body fat is very low. Or maybe it’s just her body language for “fuck off and leave me alone”.

5. The longer you are an editor, the less patient you are. It’s true. Your tolerance for other people’s stuff ups and weaknesses tends to decrease in direct proportion to how many years you’ve been editing. I have so been there. I may well have been cow-like on more than one occasion towards the end of my editing tenure. It was born out of frustration but still. Mooo.

6. Anna does actually smile and laugh a lot more than we have been led to believe. She has genuine fondness for young designer Thakoon who she almost…..nurtures. And she’s clearly gaga over her daughter Bea.

The movie really is a true reflection of what goes on at a magazine – although obviously on a grander scale than any in Australia.  Like when the publisher hires some kind of theatrette to meet with all his sales team. At any Australian magazine, you could squeeze everyone around a small table at Starbucks.


Like every editor, I’ve stood in front of ‘the wall’ where your art director sticks up mini print-outs of every page of the magazine and broken hearts as I’ve killed or shortened stories that don’t work or aren’t right for that particular issue. All the stuff Anna does like that is just quite simply the work of an editor. You HAVE to be decisive. You HAVE to make quick decisions and they don’t always endear you to your staff, your readers or your advertisers. The aim is to try to please all three and that’s what a good editor does.

The other thing that struck me when watching the film is what a wasted opportunity it is that Anna doesn’t use her power for other types of good. Not just helping out retailers or budding designers. As one staffer brags in the movie, ‘Anna brought back fur – nobody was wearing it until she put it on the cover and started wearing it and she single-handedly revived an entire industry’. What an unfortunate legacy.

Imagine if she’d used that power to euthenase the fur trade?

And if you liked The September Issue, the next movie on your list (it’s on mine) should be Valentino: The Last Emperor. It’s a similar documentary about the final two years of the Valentino empire. It’s also a love story about the Italian designer and his lifelong partner in work and play, Giancarlo Giametti. Two extraordinarily tanned silver-foxes whose love for each other has sustained them both for decades.

Hopscotch films have kindly given me 20 double passes for Mamamia readers. If you want one, email here saying why and they will choose 20 at random by the end of the week.

If you’ve seen The September Issue or The Last Emperor or any other movie you think we should know about, please leave a comment….

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