Dime Q&A: The Minds Behind Upcoming Swee’ Pea Documentary

04.21.14 5 years ago
NYC basketball.

The mecca of it all some may say. You can’t go to any other place in the world without feeling the essence of basketball unless you go to NYC. No court, no gym, no park will quite give you that feeling and it’s safe to say it may never change. NYC basketball is known for its rich history in streetball with legends such as Pee Wee Kirkland, Earl “The Goat” Manigault or even Julius “Dr. J” Erving. But what about Lloyd “Swee’ Pea” Daniels?

Lloyd Daniels was a legend in his own right and he, without a doubt, was the epitome of a streetball legend. There are not a lot of words to quite describe the life he lived from the streets to the NBA but thanks to Benjamin May, his story will be told.

Dime Magazine got a chance to speak with director Benjamin May and producer Karl Hollandt as they shared the interest and filming process behind their upcoming documentary on Swee’ Pea Daniels.

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Dime: Why did you guys decide on a film on Swee’ Pea?
Benjamin May: Lloyd lived a dramatic life and has a real natural dramatic feel to it. I was a fan since high school and was always intrigued by the fact that nobody did a documentary about Lloyd Daniels. He was a guy with extreme talent from the New York City area who brought down the No. 1 team, he went to UNLV to play for Jerry Tarkanian, he’s been shot and went to the NBA. So he lived a crazy life. It was actually my wife that brought it to my attention and was telling me that I should do it. So if anything, she really pushed me to do the documentary.

Karl Hollandt: I agree with Ben 100 percent. Lloyd is very complex and very compelling as an individual. The story alone is quite amazing if you really look at it. Here is this guy who was practically a legend in New York City that had this crazy fall from greatness. He was a legend in his own right. Like when you actually meet him in person you see the larger than life character he really is.

Dime: I can tell just from watching the trailer.
BM: Absolutely, he has an insane amount of charisma, very likeable, but at the same time he’s very complex. On one hand he’s likeable but on the other hand he’s very dark and very manipulative. At first it was supposed to be a story on Lloyd Daniels’ life but once we started to know him we uncovered him as a person and his tragic flaws that prevented him from be a potential 10-time All-Star.

KH: When you meet Lloyd you instantly realize that you will never meet another person like that. We could go hours and hours on him but when you meet him you will say “I get it.”

Dime: Why do you think his story should be told to the masses?
BM: On one hand Swee’ Pea lived a very interesting life while on the other hand he is an easy and interesting person and this makes for a very unique and interesting story. This is a redemption story. This is a cautionary tale about when young athletes burn out young because of the temptation of drugs. Then there also lessons about how he is giving back coaching at the AAU level to teach kids the right things to do in life. At the end of the day, this documentary will teach people the lessons about life.

KH: I think we all had some much discussions about the film. By default, this story needs to be told and we truly believe all great films need to be told. There’s also so much history to this film also. He embodies a certain time in basketball history. He talks about fighting addiction, making it to the “stage” and also raising kids.

Dime: How was it looking for film on Swee’ Pea?
BM: Sure. Well, there was a book called Swee’ Pea and Other Playground Legends and that was something I used to figure out the initial interviews around the city. After that we were able to get other interviews because everybody knew Lloyd Daniels. Finding our viral material was a bit harder. We couldn’t find much documented video from his childhood but we did find a video of him playing in high school ball back in ’86. Lloyd never kept any of that stuff to be honest, I don’t think he cared.

KH: Honestly, trying to find video was like trying to find Bigfoot. It’s not like it is today whereas kids have new mixtapes of their high school prep years. But Ben has been doing an amazing job–he’s been finding stuff very often.

Dime: So how was it at first pitching the idea to Swee’ Pea?
BM: He was all for it. Lloyd was initially 100 percent and gung-ho for it, but when you first meet him he’s up for anything. The first several shoots Lloyd was an inactive participant in the film. Now, of course he had a lot of tragic flaws he kept hidden his entire life, which make it almost impossible to film him. But at the end of the day he participated and contributed to the film and he’s excited about it.

Dime: So I guess working with Swee’ Pea was sweet no pun intended (laughs).
KH: Yeah, it was but I really have to give it up to Ben. He really was the first person to help get him to open up and really form a relationship with Swee’ Pea.

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