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Precious Director Lee Daniels Recalls Firing ‘Disrespectful’ Crew Members Who Couldn’t Get The Lighting Right For Black Cast

Precious experiencing the life of her dreams as a fashion model while daydreaming in class in Precious

When it comes to filmmaking, every director has their pet peeves about their process. For Lee Daniels, making sure the lighting for his cast is right is his. This became a major issue while filming the Oscar-nominated film Precious. Daniels wasn’t too pleased about how his crew treated the Black cast members. The director recalled the time he had to fire his crew from the set for bad lighting.

When it comes to Hollywood, Lee Daniels isn't known for mincing words. And working on Precious was a special moment for him as a filmmaker. That’s why bad lighting was not acceptable to him. The Precious director said about having to let the Oscar-nominated film’s first director of photography:

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. 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.

Lighting on sets for Black actors have been an issue in Hollywood for many years. In respect to that issue, Lee Daniels had the best decision for him and his cast. If the lighting hadn’t been correct, Daniels would’ve suffered criticism for the error. As the filmmaker he had to advocate for himself and the cast. The original crew’s reported attitude toward Daniels spoke to how Hollywood views Black talent and their creativity. But after firing his original production crew, The U.S. vs. Billie Holiday director went on a search to remedy the situation.

To fight the indifference of his original production crew, Lee Daniels had a course correction for the bumpy beginnings. He admitted to seeking out a new director of photography to see his vision all the way through. Daniels revealed to Entertainment Weekly who he recruited to correct the lighting issue.

Then, we got back with a new DP, Andrew Dunn. 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.

Hiring The Bodyguard's director of photography was seemingly a good move for Lee Daniels. Precious star Gabourey Sidibe also backed up Daniels’ effort. She confirmed the original dailies did have her looking green. Sidibe admitted it took the original crew an hour to light her properly. But in the end, Daniels pulled the right move to fire the original production. It all worked out in the end as Precious was a well-received, award-winning film. Viewers can now look at the acclaimed drama on Prime Video.

Adreon Patterson

A boy from Greenwood, South Carolina. CinemaBlend Contributor. An animation enthusiast (anime, US and international films, television). Freelance writer, designer and artist. Lover of music (US and international).