Sheila Johnson may not be the household name that Oprah is, but she’s also one of the few Black women worldwide who can call themselves billionaires. The co-founder of BET Networks with her then-husband, Bob Johnson, added to her growing list of media, sports, and entertainment properties by helping “The Butler” get made. Johnson is one of a record 41 producers on the film. She gave The Tom Joyner Morning Show some insight into the business of movie making by explaining her participation in the movie, which topped the box office with $25 million in sales this past weekend.
“When it comes down to money and trying to get a film financed, it comes down to this is a $30 million dollar budget. When this script was brought to me by [producer] Laura Ziskin herself, along with [producing partner] Pam Williams, they couldn’t get one studio to look at this script. So it then became an independent movie and that put us into a whole ‘nother ballgame. I read the script once or twice and I said ‘Look, this movie has got to be made.’ “
Original producer Ziskin, who was behind the “Spiderman” trilogy died of breast cancer before “The Butler” went into production. She left money in her will to help get the movie made. Even while shooting the film, Daniels continued to seek financing. Johnson put in $2.5 million of her own money and personally helped Daniels seek investors for the rest.
“I really wanted all African-American investors. And that’s the way I started out with this. I was able to get [former NBA player] Michael Finley, Earl Stafford, Harry Martin. What you have to understand – the 41 producers – there’s groups. You go outside the boundaries of the United States. You find Canadian investors. There are people who build companies around raising money for movies. And that’s where you get 41 investors. But the people I’m naming, including myself, are individual investors.”
The Weinstein Company put up another $30 million to market and distribute the film, a welcome assist from a company known to champion and with a very successful track record of supporting Oscar-winning films. “It’s really great that [Harvey Weinstein] picked up distribution.
“That’s where Black movies suffer, because they can’t get distribution. So we want to do $60 million more and we’re on our way.” Johnson says that she is proud of her involvement in the film. She felt moved to participate because of the film’s themes of racial struggle and also it’s depiction of an ordinary Black family living their lives despite the harsh discrimination and obstacles they faced every day.
“This is one of the greatest unsung heroes and this is a story that needed to be told. Within the African-American culture, we’ve got a lot of people out there like this who have great stories. If there is a compelling script that can be put together into a screenplay, we can do this. This is not only a great story but it’s an inspiring story, it’s an educational story. I decided I was going to make it my mission to get this film made.”
For showtimes, tickets and more info on “The Butler” click here.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (6/18-6/24)
25 photos Launch gallery
1. Me & the homie @jaleelwhite #RujohnFoundation Happy to be in Jamaica! Good times
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5. Good Morning. Early day in Detroit! Making press rounds for @thebossnetwork's Ladies That Lead Tour. Thank you @traycemadre and @colourbynumbr for my glam.
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6. POWER the best show on TV @djenvy, Queens we so big out here. #EFFENVODKA #FRIGO
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7. They said u lost a step, wasn't explosive as once was, the best days was in the real view, questioned your drive, your leadership, your commitment, you don't have killer instinct, going back home is the worst mistake in your career, he got the coach fired, players traded, won't work between him and Kyrie, Him and Kev won't work, love your teammates to much, there's no way he can deliver a championship in his hometown, etc etc etc.... But guess what THATS NONE OF MY BUSINESS #StriveForGreatness #ThisOneIsForTheLand #PutSomeRespeckOnMyName Hahahaha!!! Yes sir
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8. Oooooh weeee this man right here is responsible for at least three of our four babies!! #JOE ❤❤❤🎤 #rnb #king #voicelikebutter #ForPeetesSake
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9. Hanging with my @abcnetwork family! @abcunclebuck tonite y'all check us out ! @anthonyanderson @traceeellisross
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10. My broski ( @sayeedshahidi ) and I are on Top 5 Live on @go90 at 5 (which is super duper close)! Make sure to tune in :) #UncleBuck #Blackish
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11. Lights out💤 #GoodNight
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12. Late nights mornings
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13. Ran into the lovely talented @siedahgarrett on this brutiful favvuz deh!
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14. #halal #love #thedargans #kattwilliamsSHOW #mashallah when that Jennah piece HIT!! @sweetjennahcollection glasses by @baddieglamaccessories LIZ 😍 @dynamiteko top @dazzledmv and jeans @thevision414 and shoes: @louboutinworld
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15. Big Hair and Optical Illusions #OceanDrive #MiamiLiving #coverparty
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16. MAMA and THE SAVAGES ... ⚓️ #supportyourlocalgirlgang
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17. From the bottom of my ❤️, thank you new followers & old! & hello fellow night owls! #grateful #racheltrue #naturalhair #curlyhair #curlygirl #healthyhair
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18. I feel so grateful because I met these amazing young minds, visiting from Houston TX, during their college tour stop today at #usc.These students are ALL extraordinary and embody academic excellence so I'm humbled to have shared a few moments with them to applaud and celebrate their bright futures ahead! Thank you @EmergeFellows for inviting me to speak and blessing me with your love and attention this afternoon!
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19. Happy Fathers Day Pops. U taught me how to be a man. Lessons of love, hard work & gratefulness. Sorry the fishing didn't stick. LOL. I Love U!
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20. Sky Zone and Ice Cream! Best Fathers Day Ever!! Photo credit @mariahcarey
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21. Look what finally came in the mail 😎 #mtvmovieawards2016 💥+🌽! #straightouttacompton
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22. Claudia Jordan: ....
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23. 'Member that time I almost knocked a bajillion dollar camera off the car? Really? Yeah, me neither! #Greenleaf Episode 2 comin atcha!
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24. Full of love. #birthday #Cabo
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25. Oh hey! Look who just joined Snapchat
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