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Billy Preston: That's the Way God Planned It


Born September 2, 1946, in Houston, TX, Billy Preston’s command of the keyboards at an early age led to his organ gigs backing the minister at his church where his prodigious talent skyrocketed him beyond the throes of his hometown and landed him in the company of the greatest musicians of all time. 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, Preston’s reach knew very little bounds. However, behind the joyous, illuminating exterior of his persona laid stood a soul haunted by abuses and mistakes of his past. 

Enlisting an all-star team of interviewees including the biggest stars in music history and the closest people in Billy’s life, you will get to know this musical genius in a way never before portrayed on screen. The film will paint an extraordinary canvas of America during Billy’s lifetime, from the Jim Crow South and the Bible Belt across to California, exploring how Billy carved his path in an ever-changing cultural landscape. Most importantly, the film will  illustrate the Billy that the world didn’t get to know – the kind, sensitive, infectiously-charming man who, through his immense talent, was constantly in search of acceptance.

The Filmmakers

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 Humanities 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.

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. 

Stephanie Allain 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. Her first children’s book, I’M IN CHARGE! will be published by Candlewick Press in 2024. 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.

Jeanne Elfant Festa Producer

Jeanne Elfant Festa is a Partner in 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. 

She joined White Horse Pictures and her producing credits include Ron Howard’s Grammy and Emmy-winning THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK – THE TOURING YEARS and Critics’ Choice-nominated, PAVAROTTI, the Emmy-winning THE APOLLO, the Emmy-winning, THE BEE GEES: HOW CAN YOU MEND A BROKEN HEART, directed by Frank Marshall, and the six-time Emmy-nominated 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.

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, PARKLAND, SNITCH, END OF WATCH, and RUSH, most recently, THE QUEEN MARY. 

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 Emmy-winning, THE BEE GEES: HOW CAN YOU MEND A BROKEN HEART, and most recently, the Emmy-nominated LUCY AND 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.