Being a Black director in a white male-dominated industry comes with more than its fair share of racist microaggressions. Nia DaCosta, who made history as the first Black female director to have a film finish number one at the box office with Candyman, revealed the disrespect she endured from white crew members on a set, with one jokingly asking if she was “hooking to make money on the side.”
Another director who knows this far too well is Lee Daniels. In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, the Oscar-nominated director revealed he fired “disrespectful’”white crew members on the set of his 2009 film Precious, which starred Gabourey Sidibe in her film debut.
“I had a white line producer, a white AD, they also read [reviews that said my last film] Shadowboxer was the worst film ever made, and they had zero respect for me, my vision, or what it was,” Daniels said. “They were New Yorkers that looked at this as a job. I kept coming home like, this doesn’t feel right, she doesn’t look right, the set looks weird. I felt like I was giving birth to an alien, literally, so I did something that I now don’t even know whether I’d have the courage to do, but I fired everybody. I shut it down.”
Daniels says his original DP for Precious didn’t know how to light Black skin.
“Then, we got back with a new DP, Andrew Dunn,” Daniels said. “I’d seen ‘The Madness of King George,’ and I loved the way he shot it. I loved The Bodyguard with Whitney Houston, he’d done that, and I asked him, ‘I need your help because my DP is disrespectful.’ They were all white guys, just rude, disrespectful, really rude to what I wanted to do, not knowing I was going to shut it all down.”
Precious was recently featured as a part of this year’s TIFF Rewind program for the Toronto International Film Festival.