James Franco Presents The Director, is a film by frequent collaborator and cinematographer Christina Voros. For her second time directing a documentary, Voros shines an accessible spotlight on a mysterious figure on top of a powerful empire.
Society suggests there’s a certain air a woman in charge might possess to run a brand as historical as Gucci. Those who are lucky to check out director Christina Voros’ portrait of Gucci’s creative director Frida Giannini might be pleased to find that the documentary dispels those illusions. Working from a unique three-act structure, Voros captures her subject in a natural light without shying from the regular demands of running a legendary brand. A film that highlights the high-gloss fashion shows, to the sometimes-exasperating task of finding the perfect handbag for a collection, The Director reveals that every seemingly superficial piece has a grander purpose in the life of Frida Giannini.
The bigger picture that runs throughout the three acts is collaboration. It’s something that pulls together the decisions surrounding runway shows as it does the film itself. As The Inquisitr’s Niki Cruz spoke to Director Christina Voros, the idea of collaboration and how it drives all areas of creation expanded tenfold. The narrative doesn’t stop when the credits roll, with five collaborations with Franco under her belt, it seems to be the beginning of a much bigger story.
The Inquisitr’sNiki Cruz spoke to director Christina Voros about her collaboration with James Franco, and her experience capturing Frida Giannini.
THE INQUISITR: Is this your first time at Tribeca?
CHRISTINA VOROS: As a director yes. I was here with James [Franco] three years ago with a film called Saturday Night that I shot for him. It was a documentary on Saturday Night Live.
THE INQUISITR: You collaborate a lot with James. Can you explain how that came to be?
VOROS: I went to the graduate program at NYU and it was there that I met a professor and mentor, director Jay Anania. James went through the program a few years after me and was looking for a cinematographer to collaborate with. Jay was his teacher and he introduced the two of us. I got a phone call from [Franco’s] producing partner and I wasn’t really familiar with his work as an actor at that point. It was right when things were just starting to explode for him. We met as filmmakers and as collaborators. I collaborated with him on five shorts that he directed and this is our third documentary. We shot four narrative features. Our most recent feature is As I Lay Dying and will premiere at Cannes. It’s a lot of fun working with someone who does as much as he does because it keeps you really busy.
THE INQUISITR: How has that evolution been as a partnership?
VOROS: It’s been really great. We’ve done two documentaries, both of which just happened to come out this year, even though they were made a year apart. Both of them were ideas that James had, that he then came to me with. I had a background in fashion. My first film was a short film about my great aunts who are designers. They had a couture shop on Lexington Ave in the 60s. With my background coming from a family that had fashion roots and being a documentarian and having a similar philosophy about documentary filmmaking, he gave me the freedom to run with it. It’s an evolution in that there’s more facets to our working relationship now. I still shoot features for him and I hope to be able to continue to work with him.
THE INQUISITR: Do you see yourself more as a cinematographer or a director?
VOROS: It’s funny my business card says director/cinematography. I love both. After finishing two documentaries within three months there’s something really appealing about going to a set, with a script, and a shot list, and somebody else making some of the decisions. I’m both. I notice when I am shooting for too long without directing something, I start to have reactions to my work as a shooter that are a director’s reaction. I feel those impulses come up. I think it’s an interesting balance because it helps to be a cinematographer if you can think like a director. You also need to be able to turn it off and if you’re lucky if I have been, you get to collaborate with directors who are collaborators. I was lucky enough to have on this film a really incredible crew. You’re all looking for the story together. It’s like going out in the wilderness and not having a map but someone’s reading the stars and you kind of find it together.
THE INQUISITR: When you approached Frida how did she react to the idea of a documentary centering around her world?
VOROS: She was a little reticent. She was open to it. It was James that approached her, and they had a really good relationship. Gucci was really supporting of the projects that James had done, it was really a genuine friendship.
THE INQUISITR: So James just happened to pop into the film? That wasn’t a stipulation that he had to be in it?
VOROS: No I mean it was one of the first things we shot because he was doing this photo shoot in Cinecitta in Rome and Frida couldn’t be there. I remember for a long time in the edit I was like, “Does this really play into the film?” and then when Frida started talking about the influence of cinema on fashion, and fashion on cinema, and it’s at Cinecitta, and that’s kind of what she attributes to the exposure of Gucci to the global marketplace. I thought, in a subtle way this is totally relevant and it’s a modern version of this thing that she’s talking about in the past. There is a version where he wasn’t in it at all! [LAUGHS] and secretly I was like, “But it’s Cinecitta!” It’s a nice introduction for going into the next show because so much of the film is exploring things that we take for granted when we look at a spread in a fashion magazine.
THE INQUISITR: The three act structure of the film was very interesting. Before you shot the film were you thinking about that structure?
VOROS: No the film sort of dictated it itself. There are a couple of things that happened that were just realities to reckon with as you’re putting a film together. There’s a definitive chronology and I felt like, yeah we could have moved things around and people wouldn’t have noticed, but for a purist and even though this film isn’t just for a fashion audience, the people who watch it with the most critical eye will be the people that know the industry. So much of what Frida does have to do with an evolution from season to season. I really thought it was important to lay it out in the order in which it happens, instead of jumping back and forth. For me you don’t really get to know Frida until that third act. I wanted to start with a show where everything seems super glossy, and perfect and you’re totally on the outside, and then to see a show at the end of the film you’re looking at it through a certain lens because you know what goes into it. The bag has a meaning, the ruffle has a meaning, the model has a meaning, and so you’re re-experiencing things that you started the film with but from a completely different place of understanding.
THE INQUISITR: Did you learn anything from Frida?
VOROS: She’s a tremendous role model for me with the way that she manages to handle herself in a very high-powered position in a creative enterprise where she has to be a collaborator but also a very strong decision maker. As a director I looked up to that.
THE INQUISITR: Have your own thoughts on legacy as a work of art changed?
VOROS: I’m not sure if it has changed. One of the things that I appreciate about Frida is that she never wanted to be her own brand. She always wanted to design for a big brand. I think that’s unusual. When you think of fashion and fashion designers you usually think of big personalities who are maybe there with the brand long enough to make a name for themselves and then have their own brand. Frida’s not interested in that, she never has been. That attitude towards the work has made me think about the way I relate to my own work. I think in some ways it’s similar. With movies it’s like giving birth to a child. It becomes its own thing that you are a part of but it’s so much bigger than you. Partially because there’s so many people involved. I’ve got to work with some of the most amazing artists on this movie, as shooters, and editors, and musicians, it was a really humbling experience. What I was able to make, even though I am the director is only what it is because I was smart and lucky enough to get all these other talented people on board and we made it together.
THE DIRECTOR IS CURRENTLY PLAYING AT THE TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL.