Indie music outfit Concord, via its film and TV department, is partnering on James Erskine’s upcoming documentary, Billie. The film chronicles legendary singer Billie Holiday’s life story. Concord is the successor to the Billie Holiday estate which is providing access to her music and recordings. The doc, originally mooted at the EFM in 2018, will be produced by New Black Films’ Victoria Gregory and Barry Clark-Ewers and REP Documentary’s Laure Vaysse. Concord’s Scott Pascucci and Sophia Dilley are exec producers with Altitude’s Will Clarke, Andy Mayson and Mike Runagall.
The doc is currently in post-production. Also joining is Brazilian colorization artist Marina Amaral who is working on the filmed and still images. While most of the archive images that exist of Holiday are in black and white, Amaral will use new techniques she has pioneered to update them.
Holiday was one of the greatest voices in music, and a woman ahead of her time. The documentary will thread her story through the eyes of one of her most enamored fans, Linda Lipnack Kuehl, who, in 1971, set out to write a definitive biography. Over eight years, she tracked down and recorded over 200 hours of interviews with the characters that knew Holiday personally and populated the iconic singer’s short, tumultuous life. The tapes provide testimony from Charles Mingus, Sarah Vaughan, Tony Bennett, Count Basie, her step-parents, lovers, school friends, jail-mates, lawyers, pushers, pimps and even the FBI agents who arrested her. The book was never finished and the tapes never before heard. Billie is described as a film noir that will capture the complexity of a legend through the point of view of a woman whose own obsession would lead to her own mysterious, untimely death.
Erskine, an Emmy nominee whose previous feature credits include Le Mans: 3D, says, “I am thrilled that Concord and the Billie Holiday Estate are supporting me and my producers Victoria and Barry in making Billie and telling her definitive story. Billie’s soul and voice sang for all generations and Marina’s unique and brilliant skills will bring her vibrantly to life for the first time in history.”
Sophia Dilley, VP of Film and TV Development and Production for Concord, says, “Concord takes the responsibility of representing Billie Holiday’s legacy very seriously. We are thrilled to be working with the creative team of James Erskine and New Black Films who have taken great care to produce a documentary that honors the life and work of Billie Holiday in an exciting, genre-defying way.”
Altitude Film Sales, which is handling international rights and co-repping North America with Endeavor Content, has sold to several markets including Australia and New Zealand (The Backlot), Benelux (Belga), France (AB Groupe), Italy (Wanted), Switzerland (Praesens) and Yugoslavia (Discovery). Altitude Film Distribution has the UK.
New Black Films, most recently produced the Erskine exec produced Maiden which was picked up by Sony Picture Classics in a multi-territory deal.
Concord became home to the Billie Holiday Estate in 2015 through the merger of Concord Music Group and The Bicycle Music Company, which had acquired the estate in 2012.