billy preston

The Billy Preston Documentary

Born September 2, 1946 in Houston, TX, Billy’s command of the keyboards at an early age led to his first gig on organ backing the minister at a church where his prodigious talent not only accompanied, but elevated the message. 

Nobody in the history of 20th century music has been such an integral part of so many divergent scenes, from Gospel to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ’60s, to Swingin’ London and the British Invasion, to the 1970s onslaught of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Funk, and Soul, to the Folk tapestry of Topanga Canyon. All of this will play out on screen with joy and positivity. 

 

 In keeping with the best documentaries, the spine of our film will be Billy’s personal story. 

Our story ends with a comeback: Billy’s towering musical accomplishments are matched only by his triumphant personal journey of self-love and acceptance.

WHY NOW?

Despite his preternatural talent which earned him a place on stage beside the biggest names in 20th century musical history, what makes this tale so compelling is Billy’s personal journey toward self-acceptance. His story is a stark reminder of how far we’ve come as a society, and how far we still have to go. Imagine a world in which Billy Preston was as free as Billy Porter.

Meet the Team

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Paris Barclay

DIRECTOR, WRITER & EXECUTIVE PRODUCER

Paris Barclay is one of television's most successful and honored directors, with a resume that weaves through many of the greatest shows of the past thirty years. He has directed nearly 200 episodes of television, including episodes of such classics as NYPD BLUE, ER, THE WEST WING, LOST, THE GOOD WIFE, CSI, SONS OF ANARCHY, HOUSE, GLEE, IN TREATMENT, SCANDAL, EMPIRE, PITCH and STATION 19. Paris is an eight-time Emmy nominee for his producing and directing work, winning twice for directing two of NYPD BLUE’s most pivotal chapters (including Jimmy Smits’ departing episode). For this episode, Paris also won a DGA award, and has been nominated nine other times by the Guild for his work on GLEE, WEEDS, ER, IN TREATMENT, and THE WEST WING. Not only is Paris the first director in the history of the DGA to receive a comedy and drama nomination in the same year, but he also accomplished the feat two years in a row. Paris has received three NAACP Image Awards, for his producing and directing work, and was inducted into the NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame in 2014, joining such luminaries as Sidney Poitier, Oprah Winfrey, and Gordon Parks. Paris has been the recipient of two Humanitas Prizes and four Peabody Awards for his work. In 2021, Paris received the DGA Honorary Life Member Award, the Guild’s top honor. 

Cheo Hodari Coker

WRITER & PRODUCER

Cheo Hodari Coker is a former hip hop journalist who has written for The Los Angeles Times, VIBE, SPIN, Premiere, XXL, Slam, The Face, and most recently GQ. He created and was the Executive Producer and Showrunner of MARVEL’S LUKE CAGE for two seasons. Other television credits include RAY DONOVAN, NCIS: LA, ALMOST HUMAN, and SOUTHLAND (where Coker’s Season Four SOUTHLAND episode, “God’s Work”, won him am NAACP Image Award for “Outstanding Writing in a Dramatic Series"). His feature film co-writing credits include NOTORIOUS, LOWRIDERS, and a co-“Story By” credit for CREED II, as well as uncredited work on STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON and ALL EYEZ ON ME.

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Billy and George
Billy and George

Stephanie Allain

PRODUCER

As a studio executive at Columbia Pictures in the early 90’s, Stephanie Allain championed John Singleton’s directorial debut, BOYZ N THE HOOD, which earned $65 million and two Oscar nominations. She stayed at Columbia Pictures for a decade supervising seminal independently spirited films including POETIC JUSTICE, EL MARIACHI and HIGHER LEARNING before founding Homegrown Pictures and producing HUSTLE & FLOW, SOMETHING NEW, BEYOND THE LIGHTS, DEAR WHITE PEOPLE and more. She is the only African American woman to produce the Academy Awards for which she was Emmy nominated. She served five years as Director of the LA Film Festival, and is a member of AMPAS and the WGA. She sits on the board of American Cinematheque and the PGA and is a member of the Film Preservation Board for the Library of Congress.  A recipient of the 2020 PGA/UCLA Vision Award, she has taught at UCLA, USC and is a frequent panelist and commentator. 

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Jeanne Elfant Festa

PRODUCER

Jeanne Elfant Festa is a Partner at White Horse Pictures. She is the Head of Documentaries & Director of Features, overseeing the company’s documentary slate. Before joining White Horse, Jeanne operated her own production company, Piper Cub Productions, where she had a first look deal with Exclusive Media and executive produced the Grammy- winning FOO FIGHTERS: BACK AND FORTH. Her producing credits at White Horse include Ron Howard’s Grammy and Emmy- winning THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK – THE TOURING YEARS and PAVAROTTI, and the Emmy-winning THE APOLLO. She served as a producer on the Emmy-winning film, documentary THE BEE GEES: HOW CAN YOU MEND A BROKEN HEART, directed by Frank Marshall and most recently she produced a documentary about Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, titled LUCY AND DESI, directed by Amy Poehler. Amongst other upcoming projects, Jeanne is also a producer on a feature film about the legendary drummer of The Who, KEITH MOON.
Jeanne serves on the board of Step Up, a nation-wide non-profit organization that propels girls living in under-resourced communities to fulfill their potential.

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Nigel Sinclair

PRODUCER

Nigel Sinclair is a Partner in White Horse Pictures, a company launched in 2014. Prior to White Horse, Sinclair served as CEO of Exclusive Media. Sinclair is an experienced film producer, having produced or executive produced over the years SLIDING DOORS, HILARY AND JACKIE, THE QUIET AMERICAN, TERMINATOR 3 and more recently PARKLAND, SNITCH, END OF WATCH, and RUSH. Focusing recently on documentaries, his documentary credits include the Grammy award-winning NO DIRECTION HOME: BOB DYLAN, the Oscar-winning UNDEFEATED, the Grammy-winning and BAFTA- nominated THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK – THE TOURING YEARS, the Emmy-winning THE APOLLO, the Emmy-winning GEORGE HARRISON: LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD, the Grammy-winning FOO FIGHTERS: BACK AND FORTH, the Critics Choice-nominated PAVAROTTI and the recent THE BEE GEES: HOW CAN YOU MEND A BROKEN HEART. Sinclair currently produced the Amy Poehler-directed LUCY & DESI. In 2000, Sinclair was awarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom in consideration of his service to the film industry. 

Dava Whisenant

EDITOR & WRITER

Dava’s critically-acclaimed musical comedy "Bathtubs Over Broadway," garnered her the Best New Documentary Director award at the Tribeca Film Festival, a Writers Guild Award for Best Documentary Screenplay, and an ACE editing nomination. Dava has worked in both narrative & nonfiction film for over 20 years, with an emphasis on music and comedy. Her other music docs include the Grammy®-nominated blues & civil rights film "Two Trains Runnin'," which she produced and edited for director Sam Pollard, the 3D rave documentary "Under the Electric Sky" (Sundance 2014) and an "American Masters" film about Merle Haggard. She is a member of American Cinema Editors (ACE), the WGA, and the Television Academy.

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Billy Preston and AA

ALAN ABRAHAMS

ASSOCIATE PRODUCER/MUSIC

As an award-winning record producer of more than 80 albums over the last 45 years, Alan Abrahams has worked with some of the most notable artists, songwriters/composers, and musicians in the music business and film industry, including such notable artists as Joan Baez, Kris Kristofferson, Les McCann, Taj Mahal, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Dolly Parton, The Memphis Horns, The Blind Boys of Alabama and 14 top Gospel albums that topped the Billboard charts.

Alan worked with Billy in the studio on many occasions and was preparing a new solo project with Billy when he became ill and could not continue.

Alan was asked by the family to put on his funeral at Faithful Central Bible Church in Los Angeles, CA, and flew Joe Cocker in to sing "You Are So Beautiful" at the service. 

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS

We are looking for images and photos of Billy and are relying on his fans to help with this search.

If you have an image, footage, or just a great story about Billy Preston – please send them to billyprestonsubmissions@gmail.com, or click the button below to submit directly!

Thanks for submitting!