“I don’t even know how to explain 2020. It was a crazy, crazy year.”
Those could be the words of any American who lived through a year marked by a deadly pandemic, a widespread racial reckoning and the most divisive and heated presidential election in modern times.
For the owners of Four Seasons Total Landscaping, one of whom offers up that quote in the opening moments of a new documentary airing Sunday night on MSNBC, 2020 was even crazier.
The Christopher Stoudt-directed Four Seasons Total Documentary highlights the bizarre circumstances and ultimately heartwarming aftermath surrounding Rudy Giuliani’s instantaneously infamous Nov. 7, 2020 press conference in front of a landscaping company adjacent to an adult film shop in the industrial sector of Northeast Philadelphia.
“It just seemed like such a captivating moment in time to illustrate this intersection of a small family business and this viral political moment — the two did just did not belong together,” Stoudt told Yahoo Entertainment in a recent interview. “And it just seemed like such a great opportunity to sort of reveal what really happened, and do it from the perspective of, not of the media, but from the actual people that were there experiencing it.”
Stoudt revisits the events through the eyes of Marie Siravo, the owner of Four Seasons Total Landscaping, her son Michael Siravo and their business partner Sean Middleton, focusing as much on the business —and the extreme highs and lows they faced throughout the ordeal — as the spectacle.
With the common perception being that Giuliani, the beleaguered attorney to former President Donald Trump, and his team mistakingly booked the company’s parking lot instead of the luxurious confines of the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Philadelphia, the event made for endless social media memes and late-night monologue cracks. And that was especially true once the press conference, held to contest election results in Pennsylvania, was interrupted by the news that Joe Biden had officially been declared president, leading to Giuliani’s faux-panicked cries of “All the networks!”
Stoudt admits he had to reel in how much absurdity he would revel in with the stranger-than-fiction account.
“The story originally was a lot more comedic,” the filmmaker says. But after watching the events of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, his attitude changed. “You can kind of draw this dotted line from that Four Seasons moment — you know, Rudy in front of this crowd of people screaming trial by combat. We realized how important it was to take a different approach, one that didn't just make a mockery of what happened. [One that] didn't make a mockery of the politics of it, but held a mirror up to it and sort of, with a warm heart and a clear eyes, looked at what really happened.”
Through extensive interviews with the company’s owners and employees and several journalists who covered and later investigated the event, Four Seasons Total Documentary does draw a definitive conclusion to whether or not it was mix-up by Team Trump/Giuliani, or if they actually planned to appear in a landscaping business’s parking lot the whole time. Stoudt doesn’t want to say for the interview; he wants the public to watch the documentary, of course.
But just as significant in the doc is what happened to the Siravos and their business.
Four Seasons Total Landscaping wasn’t just the butt of jokes all over television and the internet, it was also flooded with phone calls, emails and negative Yelp reviews by angry voters on both sides of the aisle. (While the politics of the owners are unclear in the film, they say they would’ve welcomed either candidate’s team.) Their lines were jammed up for two weeks straight, making business tasks impossible. An already-struggling business, it appeared Giuliani’s presser had sunk them.
“For a moment they could have lost everything,” Stoudt says. “This was their whole life. And it was ruining them and their reputations.”
With 20 years of business were on the brink of going boom, Four Seasons Total Landscapin) struck back. Led by Michael Siravo and Sean Middleton, they began actively engaging with social media, cracking wise about the fiasco and making fun of themselves in their own memes and updates. They created a Zoom background. People ate it up.
Soon, they began selling merchandise including business T-shirts and gaggy slogans like “Make America Rake Again.”
Again, it proved successful. Four Seasons took in an astounding $1.5 million in merchandise revenue. Maria Siravo even ended up in a Super Bowl commercial. The company then donated a healthy amount of their earnings to small businesses and local charities like Toys for Tots.
“They were able to take this and actually make the world a better place just a little bit,” Stoudt says.
It’s the title of an upcoming biopic about Super Bowl-winning quarterback Kurt Warner, but Michael Siravo wants to claim it, too: This, he says in the doc, is “an American underdog story.”
Four Seasons Total Documentary airs Sunday at 10 p.m. EST on MSNBC.