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.

Lunch with Werner Erhard: Why the Disappointment?

wernererhard24 171x300 Lunch with Werner Erhard:  Why the Disappointment?

PRVerdict: “C” for Werner Erhard.

Lunch with the famous Werner Erhard!  The founder of EST, Landmark Education and America’s most famous personal development guru just gave his first interview in many years.  His choice?  The Financial Times and Saturday’s “Lunch with the FT” slot,  written by the notoriously sharp Lucy Kellaway.  The purpose?  To discuss Erhard’s latest work, developed with Harvard economist Michael Jensen, about the nature of integrity and how it applies in the business world.  Erhard says expansively,  “I want people to know that most suffering in their lives is the product of out-of-integrity behavior”.

Kellaway in her write up veered between portraying Werhard as exhausting and draining and  then, most tellingly, a poor listener.  Mistakenly calling her “Suzie” during the interview Erhard introduced an exercise from one of his training sessions as the interview seemed to flag.  The result was more than a hint of irritation from his luncheon companion.

This was a tough lunch and probably better done as a team, with his associate Jensen on hand to have provided some balance.  Not only would it have reduced straying into Erhard’s checkered and much previously discussed personal history, but it may have served as a brake on Erhard using workshop techniques on a seemingly reluctant journalist .

The PR  Verdict:  “C” for Werner Erhard.  For a thought leader with much to say and contribute, this was a disappointment.  This interview got lost in distractions.

PR Takeaway:  Make your point by giving examples and make them easy.  This interview lacked solid illustrations as to how an absence of integrity was the genesis for some of the more recent seismic scandals to have hit the corporate world.  With Erhard’s colleague Michael Jensen, previously one of the more vocal advocates of aligning management interests with stock options, an analyisis of Enron, Tyco and the 2008 financial crisis might have been a good place to start.  It might also have postponed Erhard’s one-on-one workshop with Lucy Kellaway to a later date.

To read the interview click here

What your PR Verdict on Werner Erhard’s interview?

[polldaddy poll=6183755]