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Transcript of Interview with Tim Gunn of
Runway" on Lifetime 7/22/10
MEREDITH CORPORATION: Tim Gunn Q&A Conference Call
July 22, 2010/1:00 p.m. EDT
Laura Murphy – New Media Strategies
Tim Gunn – Mentor, Project Runway
Moderator Welcome to the Tim Gunn Q&A Conference Call Webcast. At this
time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later, we will conduct
a question and answer session, and instructions will be given at that
time. I would now like to turn the conference over to your host Laura
Laura Good afternoon or good morning, depending on where you are. This
is Laura Murphy from New Media Strategies. I'd like to thank everyone
for joining us for today's Project Runway Q&A session and start things
off by thanking Tim Gunn for being with us today to answer questions. As
you know, Tim is a mentor on Project Runway, which is about to begin its
8th season on Lifetime, Thursday, July 29th, at the new start time of
In a moment, we'll begin the Q&A session. I'd like to remind all
participants that you will receive a transcript of this session within
the next 24 to 48 hours. I would also like to remind everyone to please
limit yourself to one question and one followup at a time, and then
re-enter the question queue later in the session for any additional
questions. This will ensure that we field as many questions as possible
within the allotted time.
I would like to now turn the call back over to our Moderator to begin
the formal Q&A session.
Moderator Our first question comes from Brian Odell.
Brian I know you can't give away too many details, but the big question,
I think, on a lot of people's mind is what can we expect to see more of
in the new hour-and-a-half format.
Tim Everyone's going to be very frustrated with me. I don't know. I
haven't seen a cut of the show yet. I honestly don't know how the
additional time is being filled. I will say this though, based on seven
seasons of experience, we have so much content that never ever reaches
the air that it should not be an issue for the editors and the producers
in general to fill that time.
When I reflect upon season seven, we barely see the Q&A between the
judges and the designers. We barely hear anything out of the
deliberation. You get a sound bite, when in fact the Q&A and the
deliberation go on anywhere from four to six hours. So you think about
it, if you just want to be a fly on the wall, it's very easy to fill in
Frankly I'll say, somewhat egotistically, I feel the same way about my
critiques in the work room. You would think that I check in with four
designers, sometimes only three, when, in fact, I'm giving equal time to
everybody. So there's a lot of material that never reaches the air that
now our 90 minute format conceivably can.
Brian Well my followup was going to be if you guys saw an impact, if
they had to do more filling, more cameras, but it sounds like it's the
same for you.
Tim No, exactly. Taping season eight for me was no different than taping
any previous season. Though I will tell you this, there's an additional
beat in the season and that is a one-on-one camera interview with me
about things that are happening and frankly about the outcomes. I'm my
candid, honest, truth-telling self and that means I don't know how much
of that they're actually going to put in the show.
Moderator Our next question comes from Jim Halterman.
Jim When I watch the show, I get frustrated when people don't take your
advice or your suggestions, but you always seem to remain pretty cool.
How do you do that?
Tim Well, it comes through 29 years of teaching and knowing that with
some degree of frequency, I'll leave the classroom just to give the
students a little bit of breathing space and I figure that they're
probably trash talking about me. And I will tell you this, there is a
designer this season— And my refrain during these 30 minutes is going to
be I haven't seen it, so I don't know how it's going to play out.
There's a designer this season who takes it upon him- or herself, I
don't want to reveal a gender, to walk around to the designers after
I've done my critique to add comments about this designer's viewpoint of
whether I gave each designer good advice or bad advice and what this
particular designer would advise them to do. And I reached a point where
I will say I became rather frustrated by it because I thought I don't
want this individual to be undermining what I say.
So at one point when I'm leaving the work room, I declare it to the
entire room, "Listen to your own voice. You may have someone coming up
to you suggesting that that individual knows better than you what you
should be doing with your work, but that individual's not responsible
for your presentation of your work on the runway. So, in fact, if you're
recalibrating your thinking based on what this person's telling you, I
would advise against it."
Jim Can you talk about the psoriasis contest? I saw some press stuff
about it. Can you talk about that?
Tim Oh, I am so thrilled to be working with Amgen and Pfizer on this.
I'm thrilled to be working for a second year with some people who have
moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis because, in fact, it really does
affect how they present themselves to the world.
My message, along with Dr. Susan Taylor, who's a renowned dermatologist,
is to manage your condition and get to a dermatologist. There's so many
new treatments that have evolved and developed, and then together, these
individuals and I are working on how to make their fashion work for them
because there's an inclination to never wear dark colors because of
flaking and to not wear wools. It can be very, very limiting. In fact,
my sister has psoriasis, so I know how limiting it can be. In fact,
there are things that one can do.
Also, people don't realize that it's a disease of the immune system and
that there's no cure for it. I will also add that one of our Project
Runway designers in season eight has psoriasis, so it's something that
that individual and I have talked about with some frequency.
Moderator Our next question comes from Pattye Grippo.
Pattye Which has been your favorite season of Project Runway so far?
Tim The reason it's difficult for me to answer is because I look at each
season the way that I look at each semester of students I've had. I grow
very attached to them, and there are different emotions that I associate
with each season just as I do with these semesters of students.
I will say, though, I loved season three and the opportunity of going to
Paris. I thought that was wonderful for everyone, though Vincent
Libretti in that season was driving everyone crazy, in fact, by that
point, the designers more than he had been driving me crazy. But each
season has a different resonance and different DNA according to the
designers who are on the show.
It's interesting to have time to reflect upon the seasons and go back
and look at them again because I do have the DVDs and I don't want you
to think I'm totally obsessed and sitting in my apartment all day and
all night watching reruns of Project Runway, but I do enjoy going back
and reliving it. What constantly blows me away, though, is the level and
quality of the work that they execute, especially after we are at season
three and move forward with our success of seasons.
Seasons one and two, there was a lot of dubious work and work that was
simply poorly made, and that meant that the runway deliberation was in
some ways rather easy. When the work is really all well made, it gets
much, much harder. It becomes much more a matter of taste, and in fact,
you'll see that in season eight.
Pattye Okay, well, I would have thought you would have known.
Tim No, absolutely not.
Pattye As a followup, how do you feel this season's group compares to
the previous ones?
Tim It's a very interesting group and in terms of the chemistry among
them, one that I've never really experienced in a prior season. It's for
this reason, they're very fragile. They're fragile in terms of their
emotional well being. They're fragile in terms of their ego. They're
fragile. So I always felt as though I was tiptoeing around glass that I
didn't want to break while still delivering what I'm responsible for
delivering and what's good for them, a truth-telling session in the work
room and an opportunity for them to look anew critically and
analytically at their work.
And I will also say I don't know of a prior season when I have felt such
profound fondness for everyone, even one designer with whom I have a
serious antipathy at the beginning of the season. It dissipates, and we
become pals later. It was very hard. We just wrapped this week, and it
was very hard to say goodbye to them.
Moderator The next question comes from Sarah Fulghum.
Sarah Do you use your catch phrase to "make it work" in everyday life?
Tim You know I do, but I have to say I've become very self-conscious
about it. I fear that people so expect it that I end up being just this
predictable catch-phrase person. I'm happy to say that this season of
the show I only invoked the phrase when it was really necessary, and I
was grateful that the producers weren't on top of me saying, "Go in
there and say 'make it work.' Go in there and say 'make it work.'" No, I
did it when it was necessary and appropriate, and there are moments that
are really and truly "make it work" moments.
Sarah Where did that come from? Is that something that you started
saying while teaching?
Tim Oh absolutely. It came from my classrooms, and in fact, I even
remember the first time I used it. This was the senior year class and
the course I was teaching was Concept Development, and it works in
tandem with a course in which the students actually execute their
collection. I had a student who— It was March; she was going to throw
the entire collection away, literally and metaphorically, and start a
new one. I said, "We are presenting these collections in four weeks.
You're looking at five months of work, and you're saying you're going to
get rid of it and start all over again?" I said, "You're not."
I said, "You're going to look at the situation at hand, offer up a
diagnosis for what's wrong, a prescription, and then a prescription for
how to make it work. You've got to make this work. You're not going to
start all over again. Period." This was many years ago this happened, I
find that with student that they then end up having this incredible
resource within themselves for how to problem solve as they move forward
as opposed to just starting all over again. And okay it works, but do
you know why? So it's a very useful lesson.
On Project Runway, it's nothing if not “make it work.” Because as I'm
always saying to the designers, once we leave mood, that's it. Whatever
you have is what you have, and you're not going shopping again. You're
not retooling this. It's “make it work” time.
Moderator Our next question comes from Allison Ruppino.
Allison The season now has 17 designers, which is the most in the
series' history. Have you seen a significant difference in working with
more contestants? Are there certain challenges that come along with this
Tim For me, yes. Even when it's 16 people and it's so many designers and
just making the rounds of the work room takes forever. And I have to
tell you, I end up being, in some ways, spent and just exhausted
physically and mentally because it's a lot of work for me to really
understand what each individual designer is attempting to achieve and
then how to speak to them about my view of how successful this is or not
and what I believe would benefit them. It requires a lot of brain
searching and conjuring up former experiences.
I will share this with you, with the 17 designers— I don't know how much
everybody knows about the first challenge but—
Allison That's okay. If you can't divulge it, that's okay.
Tim Well, I will tell you, I can't make it around to all of them. There
isn't enough time. So, it's the only time that I haven't been able to do
that. When are down to 16 designers, yes. It's done, and it's achieved.
Allison When you can't give your time equally to everyone, like if you
try to on the next round, try to give them more time or is it just you
try to keep equal amount of time each time you go around?
Tim Well, that's a good question. I think I referred to equal time. I
guess I should say equal opportunity. They each have me. How much time
they have depends upon what their needs are and how needy they are. And
there's some designers this season who are— I wouldn't even say that
they're needy as much as they're eager for feedback, and in some ways,
they can't have enough. It reaches the point where I simply say, "You
need to be responsible for the decisions that you're making. They're not
my decisions. It's not my work. You have to be responsible for this."
Moderator Our next question comes from Jerry Nunn.
Jerry Do you still keep in touch with past designers from previous
Tim I do. I mean, as much as they want to keep in touch with me. I'm
very careful not to force myself upon anyone, but the designers do get
back in touch with me either about professional advice or they just want
to have a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, and I'm thrilled to see
Moderator Our next question comes from Troy Rogers.
Troy With the 17 designers this season, how does that change the dynamic
of the show? Like will it just be one extra elimination or does it
change the whole thing?
Tim That's a good question. Well, we're so close to the show, maybe I'm
giving something away, but that's alright. I feel at this point you all
have been so patient with me that if I am giving something away, that's
fine. What Heidi and I say is that our intention was to have 16
designers for season 8. We couldn't make up our mind once we got it down
to 17 about who should go, so we're using the first challenge to
determine that. So in a way, the first episode is the last stage of the
audition process. Does that make any sense?
Troy Yes, I understand. We're seeing the return of big glasses from the
‘80s. How will those affect the styles we see over the next year?
Tim Well, my issue with the ‘80s styling in general is you have to have
some current contemporary elements in the styling of a look or else it's
going to look completely ‘80s retro, which for me isn't a good look. I
didn't enjoy the ‘80s fashion when we were going through it, let alone
do I want to reflect upon it. And those glasses can look costumey [sic],
so you can't do a head-to-toe or you shouldn't do a head-to-toe ‘80s
look. You've got to bring in some current items, either through the
apparel or through accessories to keep it looking too costumey [sic]
frankly. In general, I like the glasses, providing they're not too
oversized and too bug-eye-like.
Moderator Our next question comes from Jessica Rae.
Jessica How would you describe the season eight cast dynamic and how
they relate to each other?
Tim They are very respectful of each other and disarmingly willing to
help each other. We have a couple of speed demons who are sewing
prodigies who offer up their services to other designers, and I kept
thinking, "Well, this dynamic's going to change." I mean the fewer
designers there are, the more competitive they're going to feel with
each other, and in fact, if anything, they've become closer.
From where I sit as the mentor, it's very sweet and touching. I hope our
audience doesn't want a lot of blood spill because with a couple of
exceptions, they're not going to see very much of that. Though there is
a group, a team challenge, when we have more team members than we've
ever had in the history of Project Runway, I mean in terms of number of
people on the teams.
There is someone who reveals him- or herself - again, I don't want to
give away gender, as being this big bossy boots and it will be
interesting to see how people respond to that episode because there was
not to be a team leader among the team members. It was to be a
collaborative democracy. In the case of one of the teams, it was not.
So, that was an aspect of that individual's character that I can't say
that I was totally surprised by because I knew certain things about that
individual that had been revealed earlier in the season, but I was
floored that there wasn't a giant retaliation from the team. So later in
the challenge, I retaliate. I couldn't stand it any longer.
Jessica If you could just use three different words to describe this
season, what would you use?
Tim Oh dear. "Hot" because New York has never been hotter, and we've
spent a lot of time outdoors. I'm trying to search for something that
doesn't sound banal. Well, I'll use another word, "Emotional." I'm
probably more emotional this season than I've ever been. It has to do
with how hard everyone's working and how - I'm welling up right now -
how lovely everyone is. They're a great group. Oh, I know. Let me use
another word So we have hot and emotional. “Frustrating” and it goes
back to the judging. I can only believe that all of you with us today
during this call and I just think we're going to be on the same page
about these things. I've always had my blog both to talk about the
outcomes because people don't hear me talk about the final looks but
also to vent a bit. In a way I'm glad to have this on-camera time, as
I've said earlier, in this beat of the show to just say how I feel how I
feel about what happened.
In fact, the producers had wanted me to step into the judges' circle and
I refused to do that. It's "No. I'm not going to." I don't want to do
anything to either undermine them – well undermine them, let me finish
my thought – or to potentially influence their decision making in a
future challenge. They need to do what they do and I respect what they
do. I believe in the separation of church and state, so I do not engage
Moderator Our next question comes from Zach Oat.
Zach I wanted to see if you were excited about Santino and Austin's new
show on the road, if you were going to be watching that?
Tim I am. I am excited about it. I have to tell you I thought it was one
of the oddest pairings I could ever imagine. It's like Oscar Madison and
Felix Ungar, which probably will make for great television. Santino and
Austin are such different individuals with different work habits and
different views of the world. It should be fascinating to see.
Zach Are there any breakout personalities in the season? Obviously, you
can't pick them out but are there are any who stand out to you as
larger-than-life personalities like Austin and Santino?
Tim Oh yes. Well, there's only one Santino, and I say the same about
each individual designer. They have their own DNA. I will tell you this
too because I reacted this way at the very beginning of the season,
there are some people about whom the audience will think, "Oh, they just
put them on there for television." In fact, they really are who they
are. That individual is that individual, and the work that they do is
exceptional. So even I at the very beginning was a little jaded and a
little cynical like, "Oh come on." Though I saw everyone at the
auditions, I don't know who will actually end up on the show and I stand
corrected. Their talent is unimpunable [sic].
Laura Ladies and gentlemen, that will conclude today's session. I'd like
to once again thank Tim Gunn for joining us and remind everyone to tune
into the season eight premiere of Project Runway on Thursday, July 29th,
at 9/8 central on Lifetime. Thanks again and enjoy the rest of your day
Here are the You Tube links for the 30
Second Promo, as well as the exclusive peek at Episode 1 which reveals
our first challenge:
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