EXCLUSIVE: White Horse Pictures and Homegrown Pictures have teamed on an untitled documentary feature about the legendary musician and genius keyboardist Billy Preston. He was called the Fifth Beatle, because he the only non-member ever to be credited on a Beatles recording. He had plenty of his own hits and co-wrote the song Joe Cocker made famous, You Are So Beautiful. Fifteen years after his death in 2006, Billy Preston was inducted this past weekend into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Paris Barclay, the multi-Emmy-winning director, producer, and writer (In Treatment, Glee, Sons of Anarchy) will direct. Cheo Hodari Coker (Creed II, Luke Cage, Ray Donovan) is writing the film alongside Barclay.
The film is produced by Homegrown’s Stephanie Allain (Hustle & Flow, Dear White People, 2020 Oscars), White Horse’s Jeanne Elfant Festa, (Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart) and Nigel Sinclair (Pavarotti, George Harrison: Living in the Material World). The exec producers are Barclay, Daniel Shaw, G. Marq Roswell, Olivia Harrison, Jonathan Clyde, Andrew Trapani and White Horse Pictures’ Nicholas Ferrall and Cassidy Hartmann. Coker is co-producing and Erikka Yancy serves as the film’s supervising producer. Pic is presented by Concord Originals alongside Impact Partners, Chicago Media Project, and Play/Action Pictures, Polygram Entertainment, Dave Knott, and Sobey Road Entertainment.
Said Allain: “A singular figure in music history, Billy Preston lent his genius to elevate the most celebrated artists of the 20th Century. Grateful to work with this team, using this soundtrack to explore his personal journey and finally place him front and center.” Barclay said “the Billy Preston we know was an incomparable musician,” but the Billy we’ll see in this documentary was a mass of contradictions. I’m thrilled to dig deeper into the complex man under the Afro, and behind the famous smile.”
A self taught prodigy keyboard player, Preston was just 16 when he met the not-yet-famous Beatles while playing for Little Richard while they toured Hamburg in 1962. He befriended the young, impoverished band by sneaking them food and drinks. Later in the ’60s, this led to Preston playing on The Beatles’ Let It Be and Abbey Road albums as a credited musician, and performing with the Beatles in their last live performance as a group – the famous Roof Top concert. The Grammy Award-winning artist had solo career that included number one hits, and working with The Rolling Stones, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nat King Cole, Sly Stone, Barbra Streisand, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin and Mahalia Jackson, among others. Preston is featured in the upcoming Peter Jackson-directed documentary The Beatles: Get Back.
Despite an enviable career in music, Preston had a challenging personal story that involved sexual abuse he endured as a child. He struggled with his sexuality and had substance abuse problems he used to make his pain. Only later in life did he come to terms with his truth and so find his peace.
Barclay and Hodari Coker asked to make a shout out to those who knew Preston or worked with him, who and may have recordings, photographs, or personal memories to make contact through http://www.billyprestondoc.com.
UTA Independent Film Group with White Horse Pictures helped raise the funding and they will broker sales of the film.
Allain’s Homegrown is repped by UTA, First Artists and Marcy Morris; Barclay is ICM and Lovett Management.