Lights, Camera, Lawsuit: The Real Drama Behind Documentaries

2012 queen of versailles 001 300x200 Lights, Camera, Lawsuit: The Real Drama Behind Documentaries

The PR Verdict: “D” (It’s a Dud) for David and Jackie Siegel.

Why does anyone agree to take part in reality TV-style documentaries? Invariably they end in tears and lawsuits. The forthcoming documentary The Queen of Versailles, about a thrillingly tacky billionaire couple that embarks on a quest to create America’s largest home, proves the point. Well before the film’s release date on July 20, lawsuits began flying.

Meet David and Jackie Siegel, the couple with royal pretensions. David is the billionaire founder of Westgate Resorts. At 77 years of age, he says with pride that Westgate is the largest privately owned time-share company in the world. His wife, 31 years his junior, marvels in the film at her crocodile boots by Gucci ($17,000), her ten kitchens, spa, and bowling alley–requisites, obviously, of any comfortable home. The dream? To create a palace to rival Versailles, in the principality of Orlando, Florida.

The dream turned nightmarish when the film’s final edits came through. Westgate, like many other business, hit the headlines for running into problems with the collapse of the property boom. The film suggests that David Siegal was in financial trouble and juxtaposes images of ongoing and then ceased construction.  Wasn’t this meant to be about business success and not business failure? We’ve been stung–call the lawyers!

The PR Verdict: “D” (It’s a Dud) for the Siegels and their delusional expectation that this documentary would be anything but problematic.

PR Takeaway: It’s all in the final cut. The longer the filming, the bigger the edits.  If Siegel wanted a documentary about his business success, he should have paid to have a promo film made about him and his firm. As the film crew followed the construction of the 90,000 square foot house, requiring months of filming, any control of the final outcome was relinquished. Not even a generous banquet with the producers in the Siegel’s Hall of Mirrors would shift the story line on this one. Their best hope is to take a leaf out of the Kardashian book and see how they can milk their new notoriety.

To read more, click here.

Should the Spiegels have expected anything other than drama, or are they getting a room with a view to reality? Give us your PR Verdict, below.

How Can Monica Get Past The Little Blue Dress?

monicalewinsky How Can Monica Get Past The Little Blue Dress?

The PR Verdict: "C" for Monica and her PR reinvention so far.

Monica Lewinsky’s reputation seems to have been frozen in time.  Caught in a sensational political triangle 14 years ago, she still retains the ability to polarize.

PBS’s forthcoming four-hour documentary on the Clinton Presidency is airing this week and according to reviews it focuses minimally on the substantive issues of Clinton’s administration.  Instead of financial deregulation, brewing Islamic fundamentalism and failed health care reform, on centre stage sits Monica and the little blue dress.

Over the years, Hilary Clinton has transformed her reputation as the vilified First Lady into an exemplary Secretary of State. Husband Bill has morphed into the elder statesman. But Monica remains trapped by her PR image as the voluptuous intern who led a President astray.

The PR Verdict: “C” for Monica and her failed reinvention so far. The PBS documentary opens up ample PR opportunities for an image rehabilitation that has her being far more than her current handbag line and NYC partying.

Monica Lewinsky in her previous interviews has complained the past is always following her.  Follow-up from the documentary might be her best chance to make the break. Cultivate a new look and turn a new page. Next, form alliances with well-known and influential female editors who will convey gravitas by association and be eager to show off the new you. Palling around with Tina Brown and Arianna Huffington might be a good place to start.

To read about the PBS documentary click here. To read a New York Magazine profile on Monica click here.