She persuaded Jackie and husband David (a real estate mogul) to allow her access to the project, then hit an even bigger dramatic jackpot when the economy soured and the Siegels' grandiose project fell victim to the same market forces that left less-wealthy Americans (a subset that includes everybody) underwater, or in foreclosure (all recounted in the documentary "The Queen of Versailles").
This was all completely unanticipated by Greenfield — "These were not people that I dreamed would ever be affected by the crash."
She was there to film a routine family event when she learned the Siegels had fallen behind on payments.
"I was there for something not very exciting, a family birthday party, and had no idea what they were going through. But it became apparent that the banks had been pushing him to put the house on the market, and at that point I realized the stakes had completely changed, that the movie had completely changed," Greenfield said.
It became, she said, an "allegory of overreaching" and the way Americans had used homes "not just as a place to live, but an expression of wealth and success. The connection between home ownership and the American Dream."
"The Queen of Versailles" is getting rave reviews, though not from David Siegel, who has sued over his portrayal. Greenfield, meanwhile, is finishing up her photo essay on consumerism, which will be published in book form this fall.
Contact movie critic Gary Thompson at 215-854-5992 or email@example.com. Read his blog, "Keep It Reel," at www.philly.com/keepitreel.