David Sigal: Meat Packer

Director David Sigal serves up a starry, spicy slice of New York’s LGBT history in his Outfest selection Florent: Queen of the Meat Market.

BY Brandon Voss

July 09 2010 4:25 PM ET

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So you didn’t really have an ending when you started shooting? It’s just hard to imagine the film without that cathartic closure of this great chapter in New York history.
I don’t think it’s unusual for a documentary to not really know where the film is going to go, but you’re right — the closing was good for me and the documentary but bad for New York City. I was extremely conflicted about it.

Were you worried it might be impossible to adequately convey the special magic of the place to your audience? A Florent regular might say, “You really just had to be there.”
Before I started filming, maybe, but then what happened was that every single person I asked to talk for the film said yes. Everyone from Robin Byrd to Diane von Furstenberg — they were all eager to do it. It was so easy for me to arrange these interviews because people wanted to speak about the restaurant, and everyone had a different idea of what it meant to them.

Julianne Moore was quite a get. How did you manage that one?
It was nothing. I’m on the board of an AIDS advocacy and research organization called TAG, which is Treatment Action Group. She was at a benefit one evening. I just asked her, she said yes, and I went to her apartment and filmed her. If you listen really closely to that interview you can hear her kids playing in the background. She had quite a long history in the neighborhood. During one of her first photo shoots, she used a Florent bathroom as a changing room, which I thought was really funny. We were able to find that photo and put it in the film.

She’s probably the sanest person you spoke to, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. You got interviews with the kookiest characters in the downtown New York nightlife, art, performance, and fashion scenes. Who was the most fun to talk to?
Isaac Mizrahi was really funny, and I feel really lucky to have gotten an interview with Christo and Jeanne-Claude before Jeanne-Claude died. But there was a longtime hostess named Darinka Chase — the one with the beehive? She’s just incredibly charming on camera, and people love her perspective and how smart she is. There are so many interesting, wacky folks in the doc, so I hope that in 30, 40 years, this movie will be like watching a time capsule of a certain place and time like those Warhol films.

Tell me about the first time you showed the film to Florent Morellet.
I showed the film as a work-in-progress at NewFest in June 2009 because I was eager to get some audience feedback. That was the first time I showed the film to Florent. It didn’t even have credits because it was definitely a rough cut, but when the light went on in the theater, I saw that he was crying. So I knew that we did pretty well, and then we wound up winning the Audience Award for Best Documentary. He gave me some factual feedback and suggestions, but overall he was a great subject because he pretty much stayed out of it.

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