It doesn’t hurt to have someone like Oprah or Tyler Perry on your side when you’re promoting your independent film. Just ask Lee Daniels, the Oscar-nominated producer/director of “Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire,” which went from unexpected Sundance buzz film to Academy Award contender over the course of a year. Oprah and Perry lent their names and their considerable sway to help promote the film — “it had an enormous impact,” Daniels says.
And now he’s returning the favor by championing and helping to get the word out on “Prince of Broadway,” a microbudget indie written and directed by “Greg the Bunny” co-creator Sean Baker and featuring a largely nonprofessional cast, set to open next Friday. “Though I’m not Oprah Winfrey, I know that I have an audience, because of the blessings that I’ve had, a following of people who’ll go see a Lee Daniels independent film,” he explains.
Daniels first came across “Prince of Broadway,” which follows a charismatic Ghanaian hustler of counterfeit clothing and bags who’s suddenly put in charge of the child he didn’t know he had, when he was serving as a juror for the Spirit Awards. He was so impressed he called Baker up to ask “How did you do this, man? This really effected me.”
When Baker asked him if he’d present the film, he agreed. “Anything that I could do to ring the bell as loud as I could for this young filmmaker, to get people to see his film, I did so and I am doing so. I know the power of what Oprah and Tyler Perry did for me, and I gladly do it for someone that I really believe in.”
Daniels is quick to stress that this isn’t an act of philanthropy. “I don’t really look at it as giving back. I work closely with the Ghetto Film School in the Bronx, and I teach kids — that’s my way of giving back. I love it as much as I love directing.” Instead, he says, by doing this “I’m really giving back to my audience. I look at it as telling anybody that would see a Lee Daniels films that if you’d see my movie, this is a no-brainer. You’ll love this movie.”
[Additional photo: “Prince of Broadway,” Elephant Eye Films, 2008]