January 28th, 2013

Defamation Lawsuit Against Lauren Greenfield Thrown Out of Federal Court

The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that the lawsuit brought against photographer and filmmaker Lauren Greenfield by one of the subjects of her award-winning documentary “The Queen of Versailles” has been thrown out by a federal judge in Orlando. The parties have been ordered to seek arbitration.

Greenfield and the Sundance Institute, which runs the Sundance Film Festival, were sued for defamation by timeshare developer David A. Siegel, whose family is the subject of Greenfield’s documentary. “The Queen of Versailles” tells the story of the billionaire Siegels as they attempt to build the biggest house in America, only to struggle as the economic downturn threatens their business and their 90,000-square-foot dream home.

The content of the film was not at issue; the lawsuit was over the press release for the film. In his lawsuit, Siegel claimed that the original press release for the Sundance Film Festival premiere of the film made three false and defamatory statements: That “[the Siegel's] timeshare empire collapses”; that “[the Siegel's] house is foreclosed”; and that the film tells a “rags-to-riches-to-rags story.”

Lawyers for Siegel objected to the wording of the press release. It was amended and publications that covered the news, including The New York Times, were contacted to correct the information. The suit alleged, however, that the damage to Siegel’s reputation, and that of his timeshare business, Westgate Resorts, LTD. had been done because the original description had already spread via the internet, appearing on more than 12,000 Web sites, according to the complaint.

In her decision, which was filed on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Anne Conway noted that Siegel’s testimony before the court was “inconsistent and incredible.”

Related: Greenfield Wins Sundance Director Prize
Lauren Greenfield Sued For Defamation By Documentary Subject

January 30th, 2012

Greenfield Wins Sundance Director Prize

Lauren Greenfield won the prize for best director of a US documentary at the Sundance Film Festival for her film, “The Queen of Versailles.” The prize was announced January 28 at the end of the festival for independent films.

Greenfield, a photographer and director whose previous documentaries include “Thin,” an HBO film on anorexia, was honored for her direction of a non-fiction film about a real estate mogul who tried to build the biggest house in America, only to be hit hard by the 2008 financial crisis. Earlier in the week, Magnolia Pictures bought the rights to distribute “The Queen of Versailles” in North America, and plans to release it this summer.

Reviewing the list of other award winners at the Festival, two more photographers’ names caught our attention.

“Chasing Ice,” directed by Jeff Orlowski, which documents how nature photographer James Balog has used time-lapse photography to show the shrinking of arctic glaciers over the years, won the award for Excellence in Cinematography in a US Documentary.

In the World Cinema category, “Valley of Saints,” written and directed by Musa Syeed, won the Audience Award for dramatic film. The director of photography on the film was Yoni Brook, a photographer and filmmaker known to us as a former PDN‘s 30.

The full list of award-winners is available at the Sundance.org Web site.

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Photographers’ Documentaries Debut at Sundance

Lauren Greenfield Sued for Defamation by Documentary Subject

January 19th, 2012

Photographers’ Documentaries Debut at Sundance Film Festival

Image from photographer Lauren Greenfield's "The Queen of Versailles"

© Lauren Greenfield, from "The Queen of Versailles"

The Sundance Film Festival, the 11-day festival of independent films, kicks off today in Park City, Utah, with a roster that includes documentaries by two photographers-turned-filmmakers.

“The Queen of Versailles,” a documentary by Lauren Greenfield, which will debut on the opening night of the Festival, has already been touted as a must-see at the Festival. In the film, Greenfield, whose 2006 documentary “Thin” also premiered at Sundance, documented a time-share developer and his wife as they attempt to build the biggest house in America, and then struggle in the economic downturn. The subject of the film, David A. Siegel, has already brought legal action—not about the movie, but about the wording of the press release for the film, which claimed his timeshare business had “collapsed.”

Also debuting at Sundance, though not included in the competition for festival prizes, is “About Face: The Supermodels, Then and Now,” by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. Greenfield-Sanders expanded a piece he shot for Vanity Fair, shooting video interviews with former supermodels Jerry Hall, Carmen Dell’Orefice, Christy Turlington, Paulina Porizkova, Beverly Johnson and others, who discuss the issue of age in the beauty industry.

The trailer shows that all the former models still look pretty damned good. Yet Rossellini, for one, laughs that she’s no longer invited to A list parties; her daughter is.

Related story
Lauren Greenfield Sued for Defamation by Documentary Subject

January 12th, 2012

Lauren Greenfield Sued For Defamation By Documentary Subject

Photographer and filmmaker Lauren Greenfield is being sued for defamation by the subject of her new documentary, “The Queen of Versailles,” which is set to premier on the opening night of the Sundance Film Festival. The Sundance Institute is also named in the suit, filed on January 10 in Florida District Court, as is Greenfield’s husband, Frank Evers, the executive producer of the film. The suit, which seeks $75,000 each from Greenfield and Sundance, as well as unspecified damages, was first reported by The Salt Lake Tribune.

The content of the film is not at issue; the lawsuit is over the press release for the film.

The plaintiff is timeshare developer David A. Siegel, whose family is the subject of Greenfield’s documentary. “The Queen of Versailles” tells the story of the billionaire Siegels as they attempt to build the biggest house in America, only to struggle as the economic downturn threatens their business and their 90,000-square-foot dream home.

The suit claims that the original press release made three false and defamatory statements: That “[the Siegel's] timeshare empire collapses”; that “[the Siegel's] house is foreclosed”; and that the film tells a “[rags-to-riches-to rags story.”

Lawyers for Siegel took exception to the wording of the press release. It was amended and publications that covered the news, including The New York Times, were contacted to correct the information. However the suit alleges that the damage to Siegel’s reputation, and that of his timeshare business, Westgate Resorts, LTD. had been done because the original description had already spread far and wide via the internet, appearing on more than 12,000 Web sites, according to the complaint. The suit also alleges that Greenfield kept the false description on her personal Web site after receiving notice from Siegel’s lawyers.

“Taken individually and collectively, these [false] statements portray Siegel and Westgate as essentially broke and out of business,” argue Siegel’s lawyers, GreenspoonMarder, in the complaint.

The suit alleges that Siegel and Westgate Resorts have suffered damage to their reputation. It also states that “various owners” and “potential customers” have questioned the financial security of Westgate as a result of the press release.