Jay McCarroll is the winner of season one of “Project Runway”, a contest on the Bravo Network and cult favorite among fashionistas and reality TV-junkies alike. Up and coming designers compete for a grand prize, a spot in the tents at New York Fashion Week, and a mentorship with Banana Republic. Like fellow season one finalists Austin Scarlett (now designer and creative director for bridal couturier Kenneth Pool) and Kara Saun (fashion designer, image consultant, and costume designer for TV shows), McCarroll also has his sights on making his own mark in the industry. And unlike many other reality celebs that seem to get stardom handed to them, McCarroll is in a different league with an independent streak, so much that he was rumored to have declined the grand prize awarded to him upon placing first on the show.
Eleven Minutes (a title taken from the length of the runway show) follows McCarroll’s year-long journey to show his first collection at New York Fashion Week. It is an engaging account of his rite of passage from reality show designer to real world designer. As the victor of “Project Runway”, expectations are high and the pressure is on. He has a lot to prove before the fashion community loses interest and discards him as just another reality show by-product.
McCarroll is entertaining but graphic as the “anti-fashion” fashion designer, and his humor is an acquired taste. He is vulnerable and endearing as he works to put his reality TV star label behind him, not only competing with the media’s embedded image of him, but with himself. He encounters the usual road blocks and harsh criticisms that appear during production, and rolls with the punches with an even keel and unwavering self-truth. Add to that a highlight in the film, where McCarroll speaks about the driving force behind the angry and intimidating monsters that run wild in fashion or any industry – insecurity. “It’s all for the dumbest s***” McCarroll says in the film, “the same end result…. a f***** fashion show Come on ”
Michael Selditch, who directed the film’s small screen prequel “Project Jay”, is back and captures the volatility of the fashion world with guts. The suspense is three-dimensional and remains throughout the film, setting the tone for the chaos that is Fashion Week, and subsiding as McCarroll faces the challenge of pitching his line to retailers.
Like any creative artform, there is a goal. The road to get there is hardly, if ever, smooth. Eleven Minutes is an eye-opening introduction into this process, and a lesson in nurturing your passion and finding your true niche that is undeniably universal.
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