Director Lauren Greenfield found herself becoming increasingly sympathetic to the stars of her documentary “The Queen of Versailles”, as a film about the conspicuous consumption of America’s super-rich was transformed by the onset of the economic crisis.
Speaking at a Q&A session after the movie was screened in the Indie Pudding programme at the 2-in-1 International Film Festival in Moscow on Oct. 20, Greenfield spoke about the three years she spent with billionaires David and Jackie Siegel. That time saw the couple’s dream of building America’s largest private home — an epic Florida palace modelled on Versailles – turn sour as the sub-prime crisis shattered David’s timeshare business.
“They were extraordinary characters, and they opened their door wide when things were good, but they kept it open when things got bad,” Greenfield said. “They had a remarkable ability to live their life unchanged in front of the camera.”
The documentary presents a slice of life. Nothing was scripted and they just filmed over the story unfolding in front of them. “The hardest part was not the shooting, which was kind of magical, the hardest part was in the edit room,” she said.
Hours of footage, however, were turned into a 100-minute film, premiered at the Sundance festival where it got a Best Director award.
In three words, Greenfield described her filming experience as ‘profound, magical and life-changing’.