Miramax and Altitude Film Entertainment present a Lisa Erspamer Entertainment and Lightbox Production, Whitney.
Whitney Houston broke more music industry records than any other female singer in history. With over 200 million album sales worldwide, she was the only artist to chart seven consecutive U.S. No. 1 singles. She also starred in several blockbuster movies before her brilliant career gave way to erratic behavior, scandals and death at age 48.
The documentary feature Whitney is an intimate, unflinching portrait of Houston and her family that probes beyond familiar tabloid headlines and sheds new light on the spellbinding trajectory of Houston’s life. Using never-before- seen archival footage, exclusive demo recordings, rare performances, audio archives and original interviews with the people who knew her best, Oscar®-winning filmmaker Kevin Macdonald unravels the mystery behind “The Voice,” who thrilled millions even as she struggled to make peace with her own troubled past.
Groomed for superstardom by her mother, singer Cissy Houston, Whitney Houston first wowed crowds at age 11 singing gospel music in Newark’s New Hope Baptist Church. The supremely gifted child stayed with relatives whenever Cissy toured, and later, her hard-driving father John moved the family to the middle-class suburb of East Orange. After her parents divorced, Whitney left home to work as a model in New York City. There she caught the attention of top record company executives including Arista Records president Clive Davis.
Stunned by her charisma and phenomenal voice, Davis signed the 19-year-old Whitney and guided her first album, at 22, to smash hit success in 1985, starting with the release of her first hit, “Saving All My Love for You.” Houston scored six more consecutive No. 1 singles, seven Grammy Awards® and a starring role in the 1992 blockbuster The Bodyguard, which featured her smash-hit ballad “I Will Always Love You.”
But Houston’s brilliant career gradually gave way to a troubled personal life. Over the next few years, she survived a volatile marriage to R&B singer Bobby Brown, drug abuse, divorce, estrangement from her father, rehab, reality TV and a disastrous comeback tour. She died in a Beverly Hills hotel bathroom surrounded by drug paraphernalia at the age of 48. For years, millions of fans have wrestled with the mystery: Why did this once-in-a-lifetime talent seemingly sabotage her own bright future?
In search of answers, Oscar®-winning filmmaker Kevin Macdonald blends never-before- seen home movies and revealing new interviews with three dozen family members, friends and colleagues to gain insights into the woman known privately as “Nippy.” Aided by the Whitney Houston estate, the documentary also celebrates the artist’s spellbinding performances, including her historic rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before the 1991 Super Bowl. Rich in detail and compassionate in its telling, Whitney presents stunning new discoveries behind the rise and fall of an American superstar who seemed to have it all.
Film editor is Sam Rice-Edwards. Director of photography is Nelson Hume. Co-producer is Vanessa Tovell. Executive producers are Nicole David, Pat Houston, Will Clarke, Andy Mayson, Mike Runagall, Zanne Devine, Rosanne Korenberg and Joe Patrick. Produced by Simon Chinn, Jonathan Chinn and Lisa Erspamer. Directed by Kevin Macdonald.
Lisa Erspamer first got the idea to make a documentary about Whitney Houston when she got to know the singer and her family as co-executive producer of “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” where she oversaw the superstar’s famous 2009 two-part interview. “At that time it was jarring to see how people’s opinions of Whitney had changed because of her addiction,” says Erspamer. “It’s very easy to judge someone when it looks like they’re throwing away their God-given talent, and that’s what a lot of people said about Whitney.” Erspamer wanted to make a documentary that would provide a deeper understanding of the woman behind the tarnished public image, and explore Houston’s meteoric rise and the reasons behind her precipitous fall.
In 2015, after helping to launch Oprah’s OWN network and three years after Houston’s death, Erspamer moved forward with her long-gestating plan and approached Houston’s film agent, Nicole David, and sister-in-law, Patricia Houston. “I came to Nicole and Pat with the idea because I felt we could tell this story well and learn more about Whitney, and in so doing have people view her more compassionately, with a deeper understanding,” Erspamer explains.
Patricia Houston agreed to join forces with Erspamer, eager to share insights from family members who rarely spoke on the record about the woman they knew affectionately as “Nippy.” “To tell the story, you need to know the story,” she says. “In my heart of hearts, I feel that if people want
to know Whitney’s story, let it be told by the people who knew her from the day she was born to the day she died, and that’s her family.”
Married to Whitney’s older brother Gary, Patricia began managing the singer’s career in 2001. She now serves as executor of her estate, which includes stewardship of a legacy rarely surpassed in the annals of pop music. Whitney Houston remains the only solo recording artist to score seven consecutive No. 1 singles on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. Her influential “How Will I
Know” music video helped usher in MTV’s golden age. In 1992’s The Bodyguard, Houston co-starred with Kevin Costner in a worldwide blockbuster featuring her performance of “I Will Always Love You,” one of the top-selling singles of all time. Releasing seven albums and two soundtrack albums over the course of her career, Houston sold more than 200 million records worldwide and in 2001 signed an unprecedented $100 million record contract. Houston’s charismatic performances encompassed pure pop hits including “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” soaring ballads like “The Greatest Love of All” and up-tempo R&B tracks including “I’m Your Baby Tonight.” Highly respected by her industry colleagues, Houston was honored with seven Grammy Awards®.
Honoring Houston’s extraordinary talent was one reason David decided to sign on to the project as executive producer. But David also wanted to set the record straight about Houston’s
private life. “I’ve always been hesitant about doing documentaries or anything else related to Whitney because I felt she’d been used a great deal while she was alive,” says David. “I especially didn’t want to be part of a fairy tale. I just wanted someone to portray Whitney as she really was and not let it be left in the hands of scandal magazines. And I trusted Lisa to get it done.”
“All roads lead back to Nicole David,” says Erspamer. “Everyone loves and trusts Nicole, which is why so many people felt safe participating in the film and ultimately opening up about their experiences with Whitney.”
When the three women got together in Los Angeles, Erspamer suggested soliciting the help of award-winning documentarians Jonathan Chinn and Simon Chinn. “We love Simon’s feature documentaries,” Erspamer says. “I was a big fan of Searching for Sugar Man and admired the work they were doing together under their new non-fiction banner, Lightbox. I brought them in as producing partners because I don’t have the cachet in the documentary world that the Chinns have, and we wanted the best team possible.”
Simon Chinn, two-time Oscar® winner for Man on Wire and Searching for Sugar Man, embraced the Whitney project, but insisted on one condition: that the filmmakers retain creative control. “When Lisa came to us, I questioned if the family really wanted us to tell the story in an unvarnished way,” Simon says. “In my first conversation with Pat Houston, she was very
unambiguous in saying yes, she wanted us to tell an honest, unflinching story and that neither she nor the family would seek editorial control over the film.”
Jonathan Chinn, Simon’s Los Angeles-based cousin with whom he produced National
Geographic Channel’s Emmy®-winning documentary “LA 92,” jumped at the chance to tell Whitney Houston’s life story. “When Lisa’s email landed in my office, feature docs were having a moment, certainly music docs were having a moment, and it just felt like the right time to make a quality film about Whitney that would have the cooperation of the family and wouldn’t be tabloid-y,” the producer recalls.
As their first order of business, Jonathan and Simon met with Clive Davis, the legendary music executive and producer who famously guided Whitney Houston’s career as Arista Records president. He now serves as chief creative officer of Sony Music, which together with the Houston family controls the rights to the singer’s music. “It was important to me, Nicole and Pat that everyone meet with Clive because we wanted him to see that we had put together a world-class team for this woman he loved so much,” explains Erspamer. It was essential to the filmmakers that the film celebrate Whitney’s extraordinary talent through her performances. “Clive actually made a great documentary that had a lot to do with his relationship with Whitney,” says Jonathan Chinn, “but our picture is fundamentally a film about Whitney’s family. Theirs were the voices we felt were important to hear.”
An Oscar®-Winning Director
With the producing team in place, the filmmakers began looking for a director to put Houston’s story on film. Nicole David suggested Scottish filmmaker Kevin Macdonald, whose documentary credits include the Oscar®-winning One Day in September and the acclaimed 2012 Bob Marley film Marley. “Kevin is in the top tier in the feature documentary world,” says Simon Chinn. “We hadn’t worked together before but I’ve always been a huge fan, first of all because Kevin’s a great filmmaker. In fact, seeing One Day in September made me want to make documentaries for the cinema myself.”
Macdonald says he initially harbored some reservations about taking on the project. “To be honest I was kind of skeptical as to whether there was an interesting film to be made about Whitney Houston. But then I talked to Nicole David and that really piqued my interest. I’ve come across a lot of agents in my life but not many have the degree of affection for their clients that Nicole clearly had for Whitney. Nicole had this deep desire to understand what happened to the wonderful, beautiful
girl she first met in the ’80s.”
David was equally impressed with Macdonald. “Kevin didn’t come to this project as a sycophant, which was important to me,” David recalls. “He came at this story with a clean eye. He didn’t love Whitney, he hadn’t been on her payroll, he wasn’t a groupie. He was a smart director and I knew he’d create something truthful from what he saw.”
David provided Macdonald with some additional inspiration in the form of a New Yorker magazine essay, first sent to her by Clive Davis, that analyzed Houston’s famous rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the 1991 Super Bowl. “Nicole sent me this article by Cinque Henderson,” Macdonald says. “He wrote about why her performance of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ was such an epochal performance, why the national anthem was so important in understanding race relations and why it was so incredibly original for its time.”
“Whitney represents so much,” he adds, “and yet there’s a kind of mystery, an absence at the heart of this big celebrity tale. That mystery, I suppose, is what made me want to make the film.” Confident that he could bring a fresh perspective to Whitney’s story, Macdonald discussed the project — and the need to have full editorial control — at length with Patricia Houston before committing to direct. “Like with the Bob Marley film, it’s a delicate balance,” he says. “When you work with an estate, you need them to be on your side. I felt very lucky to have the support of Pat Houston and the Whitney Houston estate in this quest. They entrusted me with the ‘keys to the
vault’ while giving me complete freedom to follow the story wherever it went.”
As a result, Macdonald says, “Whitney is the opposite of what you’d expect an authorized film to be. I wouldn’t make a film where you praise the subject to the skies. I needed to pursue what I thought was interesting psychologically.”
In January 2016, Macdonald convened with the producers at the Sundance Film Festival.
“That’s where we all met up and hatched the plan,” says Simon Chinn who set to work lining up the sales and distribution team for the film and securing the financing. He brought in Altitude Film Entertainment, the company that released the Oscar®-winning feature documentary Amy — among many other notable documentaries — in the U.K. as the film’s British distributor and international sales agent.
Leveraging Houston’s global appeal and Macdonald’s filmmaking pedigree, Altitude had no problem preselling foreign distribution rights at the 2016 Cannes Film Market. “We had a couple of one-sheets, a teaser and a poster, a pretty basic package, and we sold the world,” Simon Chinn recalls. “We raised the full budget in 10 days exclusively from theatrical pre-sales which is quite possibly a first for a documentary.”
A Multiplicity of Voices
Barely two months later, in July 2016, Macdonald began his first round of interviews. “I just wanted to get the lay of the land,” explains the director. He ultimately cast a wide net, filming interviews with more than 70 people about Houston’s personal and professional life. “Normally you have no more than 15 or 20 people in a documentary, but because Whitney Houston herself tended to give so little away in her own interviews, we had to use a multiplicity of voices.”
Key interview subjects include Ellen White, a family friend known as “Aunt Bae,” who essentially raised Houston’s daughter Bobbi Kristina. Houston’s longtime personal assistant Mary Jones also proved an invaluable source of information. “Mary is the voice of reason in all this,” says Macdonald. “She’s very normal and straightforward in the sense that you trust everything she says. I think for the audience, Mary’s sort of a guide through all the madness.”
The film also features interviews with music-industry giants Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds and Antonio “L.A.” Reid. Musical director Rickey Minor shares the backstory behind Houston’s innovative interpretation of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and ex-boyfriends, bodyguards, managers and record company executives reminisce about Houston as they knew her.
But it’s the interviews with members of the Houston family that prove most illuminating. Whitney’s older brothers Michael and Gary openly discuss the drug use that surrounded the singer for most of her career. They also talk about pivotal childhood experiences. “I did three interviews with Michael and Gary and sometimes it felt like a therapy session,” Macdonald says. “Each time we went deeper and deeper because, as Gary says at one point, ‘This is a family with a lot of secrets.’”
Patricia Houston remembers going on camera to open up about Whitney’s most guarded confidences. “It’s bittersweet, talking about Whitney’s conversations with me, but I just thought about all the young people who might find themselves in similar situations,” she says. “What happened to Whitney is not an isolated incident. It could happen to anyone.”
Other family members were more reserved. Whitney’s mother Emily “Cissy” Houston, who grew up in an extended family of gifted musicians, was a longtime member of the renowned vocal group The Sweet Inspirations, which provided providing background vocals on recordings by numerous artists including, Elvis Presley, Van Morrison and Aretha Franklin.
Cissy, who never reached the heights she had hoped for as a solo artist, demanded perfection from the young Whitney as she coached her for musical stardom. Shuttled between relatives while her mother was on tour and often bullied as a child, Whitney found sanctuary in the churchgoing routine encouraged by her parents. “Whitney as a child thinks she’s got this perfect family but suddenly it all blows up,” says Macdonald. For reasons detailed in the documentary, the Houston family dynamic is radically disrupted when Whitney’s hard-driving father, John, divorces Cissy. “Whitney realizes her mother, her father — they’re not perfect,” the director explains. “For the rest of her life, Whitney fantasized that her parents would get back together. I think the fact that her parents weren’t together seemed to Whitney kind of like a crack in the fabric of the earth.”
Interviewed inside a church in Newark, Cissy Houston comes across as a formidable but
taciturn presence. “Having lost both her daughter and her granddaughter Bobbi Kristina, Cissy’s in so much pain she didn’t really want to go there,” Macdonald explains. “We decided that bit of her in the church speaks strongly about who Cissy is as a character.”
The film also includes a brief interview with Whitney’s ex-husband, singer Bobby Brown. “Bobby’s ‘economical with the truth,’ as we say in Britain,” Macdonald laughs. “I think he’s very revealing about who he is but not very revealing about Whitney.”
Interviews were conducted in Los Angeles, Atlanta and New York City. Regardless of location, however, Macdonald and director of photography Nelson Hume (Long Strange Trip) filmed their subjects against similar backdrops. “We made the stylistic decision to shoot everybody against a neutral background so that we wouldn’t be distracted by their lives beyond the hotel room where
they’re talking right to the camera,” Macdonald explains. “We wanted each interview to feel immediate, just the subject and the viewer.”
Macdonald says he managed to get the cooperation of everybody on his interview wish list, with the exception of Whitney Houston’s close friend Robyn Crawford. “She probably knew Whitney better than anybody else and I tried very hard to get her on camera,” Macdonald
acknowledges. “She considered it, but I understand Robyn’s writing her own book and in the end she
decided not to participate.” Nonetheless, Crawford’s presence is felt through archival video footage, some of which she appears in and some of which she filmed.
An Audio-Visual Treasure Trove
While Macdonald focused on conducting the interviews, archival producer Sam Dwyer and her team gained access to thousands of photographs, videos and recordings archived in Atlanta and New Jersey by Patricia Houston and the Whit-Nip production company. “The estate owns so much stuff,” says Patricia. “We’ve got things from every tour, every concert, every interview, so our archives are amazing. Whatever the filmmakers needed, our estate team made it happen.”
Archival elements featured in the film, many of which have never been seen publicly, include recording session outtakes, rare videos, and a telling audio recording of Whitney describing a nightmare. “We’ve got lots of home movie footage including this amazing scene of Whitney curling up next to Cissy in a dressing room after one of her shows,” Macdonald says. “The footage is terrible quality but it’s so revealing about their relationship.”
The documentary also includes material from Whitney’s longtime hairstylist Ellin LaVar.
“She had this whole bag full of little 8mm videotapes that we transferred,” says producer Erspamer. “You have to remember Ellin and Whitney were just kids in their early 20s when all of this started. As they traveled the world, Ellin shot video of everything on her little camera.”
The Voice Still Carries
While the life and times of Whitney Houston have been chronicled before, Whitney offers unprecedented insights into the woman who galvanized audiences around the world even as she struggled to keep her personal demons at bay. “What I hope people take from the film is that we’re telling a really complicated family story about somebody who’s normally analyzed as a tabloid star,” says Macdonald. “The funny thing is that when I started this film, I found it frustrating because I couldn’t get her voice. I couldn’t find her. I wanted Whitney to be talking about race, talking about America, and I didn’t have any of that stuff. But slowly, I fell in love with her and now I understand that Whitney Houston is a major artist who did something very unfashionable, which is to use her
voice to express the raw power of emotion through song.”
As told by Macdonald and his team, the story celebrates an indelible musical legacy underscored by unshakeable pain that plagued the singer’s later years. “I was lucky to have met Whitney before I heard her sing,” muses executive producer Nicole David. “At the time all I saw was that there was something very special about her. She had this fake toughness, and a sadness. When you’re as beautiful as Whitney was, the world thinks you have everything. I just hope this film helps
people understand the reason Whitney sang these songs so well wasn’t because she was some kind of vocal ventriloquist. It’s because a song like ‘The Greatest Love’ really meant something to her.”
Whitney offers an intimate portrait of an extremely gifted but perplexing talent that Patricia Houston expects will fascinate casual fans and ardent followers alike. “Documentaries are supposed to be raw and truthful,” she says “Whitney wasn’t just some icon. This documentary shows her human side. To us, she was Nippy. Things your mother or father or sister or brother or child may have gone through, Whitney went through all of that. So I think this documentary will resonate even for people who may not be huge Whitney Houston fans. In a way, it’s another platform for Whitney speaking out. It’s a different voice now, but it’s still strong, and it still carries.”
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
KEVIN MACDONALD (Director) helmed the Academy Award®-winning documentary feature One Day in September (2000. His next feature, Touching the Void, premiered at Telluride 2003 and was released internationally the following year. It won Best British Film at both the BAFTAs and the Evening Standard Awards, and it is the highest-grossing British documentary in U.K. box-office history. His first narrative feature, drama The Last King of Scotland, premiered at Telluride and was released in the U.K. and the U.S. in 2006. Forest Whitaker won an Oscar® and a BAFTA for his performance as Idi Amin and the film won BAFTAs for Best British Film (the Alexander Korda Award) and Best Adapted Screenplay.
More recently, the filmmaker earned acclaim for Marley, a documentary about Bob Marley’s life and work. The film was nominated for Best Documentary at the 2013 BAFTAs and also received Grammy® and BIFA nominations. His latest documentary, Sky Ladder, opened the 2016 international documentary section at Sundance and was bought by Netflix.
Macdonald’s other feature drama credits include State of Play, starring Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck; The Eagle, with Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell; How I Live Now, starring Saoirse Ronan and Tom Holland; and Black Sea, with Jude Law. Other documentary credits include Life in a Day, which received a BIFA nomination, and Senna (executive producer), which won the BAFTA for Best Documentary.
Macdonald co-edited The Faber Book of Documentary (1997) and wrote Emeric Pressburger: The Life and Death of a Screenwriter (1994), winner of BFI Film Book of the Year and shortlisted for the NCR non-fiction prize.
SIMON CHINN (Producer) is a double BAFTA and Oscar-winning producer who is responsible for some of the most successful feature documentaries of recent years. After a successful career as a freelance producer and executive producer for television, he conceived and produced his first theatrical feature documentary, 2005’s Man on Wire. It went on to win more than 40 international awards including the BAFTA for Outstanding British Film and the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. He followed this with a string of award-winning feature documentaries including Project Nim, The Imposter, The Green Prince, Garnet’s Gold, Bolshoi Babylon and Searching for Sugar Man, which also won a BAFTA and an Academy Award.
In 2015 Chinn teamed up with an old friend from school, Louis Theroux, to produce My Scientology Movie. Theroux’s first theatrical documentary, it became one of the highest-grossing feature docs of all time in the U.K.
In 2014 Chinn launched Lightbox with his Los Angeles-based cousin, Emmy®-winning producer Jonathan Chinn. The company focuses on producing high-end nonfiction — series, feature documentaries and shorts — for multiple platforms. Lightbox has completed major projects for Xbox Studios, Netflix, Fusion, Esquire Network, Channel 4, BBC2, FX and ESPN. “LA 92,” a National Geographic documentary about the 1992 riots in Los Angeles, won an Emmy and was shortlisted for an Academy Award.
JONATHAN CHINN (Producer) is a two-time Emmy Award-winning producer and the co-founder of Lightbox, a multinational media company headquartered in London and Los Angeles that is focused on creating high-quality non-fiction programming for film, television and digital platforms. He and his cousin, Academy Award-winning producer Simon Chinn, founded Lightbox in 2014. Since then Lightbox has produced many notable projects, including “LA 92,” a documentary about the 1992 L.A. riots. Produced for National Geographic’s Documentary Films Division, the project won a 2017 Emmy for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking.
Lightbox’s other documentaries include “Atari: Game Over” and “The Thread,” for Xbox Entertainment Studios; “Fantastic Lies,” an ESPN “30 for 30” film about the 2006 Duke lacrosse scandal; and series for both the U.K. and U.S. markets such as “The Traffickers” for
Fusion, “Absolute Fashion: Inside British Vogue” for BBC, “The Runner-Up” for Esquire, “War Child” for Channel 4 and the groundbreaking “Captive” for Netflix.
Prior to co-founding Lightbox, Chinn was one of the most respected non-fiction television showrunners in the U.S. He won an Emmy for “American High” (Fox/PBS) and the Television Academy’s prestigious Honors Award for “30 Days,” which went on to become FX’s highest-rated unscripted series. Other producing credits include “Kid Nation” (CBS), “Push Girls” (Sundance) and “Hotel Hell” (FOX).
LISA ERSPAMER (Producer) is the co-founder of Happy Street Entertainment and the founder of Lisa Erspamer Entertainment, both Los Angeles-based multimedia production and consulting companies focused on creating compelling scripted and non-scripted content for television, digital and film. Erspamer and her team have brought their unique media and storytelling expertise to clients such as Starbucks, Sony, People magazine, Pinterest, Apple and more. She has several projects in production under the Happy Street Entertainment banner, including the nationally syndicated talk show “Pickler & Ben,” which just received a second-season renewal, and a documentary on legendary songwriter Diane Warren produced in association with two-time Oscar winner Barbara Koppel.
Erspamer is a New York Times best-selling author and three-time Emmy-nominated producer. She is best known for her influential 18-year collaboration with Harpo Productions. Serving as co-executive producer of “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” she produced some of the long- running series’ most memorable episodes, including the famous car giveaway, the biggest flash mob in history, Oprah’s “After Oscar” specials and Whitney Houston’s final interview. As chief creative officer and executive vice president of programming and development for OWN: The Oprah
Winfrey Network, Espamer brought over 40 original series and seven original documentaries to air in less than two years. Her other credits include TV documentary “Running from Crazy,” about the Hemingway family.
PAT HOUSTON (Executive Producer) is the president & CEO of WhitNip Inc. and executor to the Whitney Houston estate. Through her role as an executive, she has interacted with many of the industry’s most brilliant talents and a host of extraordinary personalities, proving her personal integrity, focus and drive as well as an unwavering commitment to honesty and equality. In 2016 President Barack Obama presented her with the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award.
One of Houston’s recent projects was the worldwide release of her personal candle line, Marion P. Candles, inspired by Whitney Houston. Partial proceeds benefit the Teen Summit Mentoring Academy in Shelby, North Carolina. She also authored the books Whitney: Tribute to an Icon and A Better You (a mentoring curriculum for youth).
Houston grew up in North Carolina and has over 30 years of experience in promotions, marketing and management profession. Her position as manager covered many aspects of the music industry, including strategic corporate relationships. In 2001 she spearheaded the negotiations of the highest-paying record deal in music history. Additionally, she booked and managed Whitney Houston’s 2010 “Nothing But Love” tour.
In 2007 Houston established a nonprofit mentoring organization called Teen Summit, designed to rebuild, repair and restore the lives of at-risk youth and young adults facing life challenges and provide the life-management skills that so many young people lack. Each fall Houston hosts the Teen Summit in Shelby, bringing together celebrities to spend time with young people and community leaders.
Houston’s honors for community activism and mentoring include the Etta B. Leach Humanitarian Award, the Distinguished Alumni Award of Gardner Webb University, Goodwill Ambassador status with the Divine Sisterhood of Jerusalem, the Lettie Purcell Shields Distinguished Service Award, the Greater Life Network’s Unsung Heroine Award, Minnie’s Food Pantry Community Advocate Award, the President’s Volunteer Service Award Medal, a Certificate of Congressional Recognition and the Beacon of Hope Excellent Civic Engagement Award.
Married since 1994, Houston and her husband Gary (Whitney’s half-brother and a former NCAA basketball champion at DePaul University) are the proud parents of one daughter, Rayah. She is currently a student at Georgia State University, majoring in exercise science (pre-med). The family resides in Alpharetta, Georgia.
NICOLE DAVID (Executive Producer) worked as a senior vice president at William Morris and then William Morris Endeavor (WME). Over the years her client list has included Alicia Keys, Emma Thompson, Rihanna, Jaden and Willow Smith, Patrick Swayze and Whitney Houston. In 2013 David left WME to work as an entertainment consultant for companies such as Starbucks. She serves as a board member for Keep a Child Alive and is a member of both Women in Film and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
After a short stint as an actress (including playing Velma in “Scooby Doo”), David pivoted to representation and partnered with Arnold Rifkin to form the Rifkin/David agency in 1982. The agency underwent several mergers to become Triad Artists. In 1992 Triad was acquired by William Morris for over $30 million.
David currently lives in Marina del Rey with her dog Cosmo and her husband Brian.
JOE PATRICK (Executive Producer) serves as executive vice president, worldwide sales at Miramax. In this capacity, he manages the team responsible for all worldwide television, home entertainment and international theatrical sales. Since 2011 he has been instrumental in re- establishing Miramax as an independent TV distribution company, overseeing the distribution of the celebrated Miramax library as well as the new productions Bridget Jones’s Baby, starring Renee Zellweger and Colin Firth; Bad Santa 2, with Billy Bob Thornton and Kathy Bates; Southside with You, chronicling the summer when Michelle and Barack Obama first met; “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series,” from maverick filmmaker Robert Rodriguez; and Mr. Holmes, starring Sir Ian McKellen and Laura Linney.
Previously, Patrick served as executive vice president at MGM Worldwide Television Group, where he oversaw all aspects of domestic TV distribution and was involved in projects such as
“Stargate: Atlantis,” “Stargate: Universe,” “Teen Wolf” and “Spaceballs: The Animated Series.” He also spent five years in the London office, working in all aspects of MGM’s TV business.
ZANNE DEVINE (Executive Producer) is a producer and consultant for various film, television and entertainment companies. She has held leadership positions at several studios and production companies including Beacon Pictures, The Kennedy/Marshall Company, PolyGram Filmed Entertainment and Universal Pictures. Currently, Devine is executive producer of the live-
action “Kim Possible” movie for Disney Channel, and she is in pre-production on Needle in a Timestack, to be directed by Oscar winner John Ridley. Additionally, Devine advises financier and theatrical producer Scott Delman on the development of a number of film and television projects and serves as president of Pacific Northwest Pictures, an independent, Vancouver-based entertainment company specializing in the development, financing, production and distribution of feature films for domestic and international markets. In 2016 PNP distributed Hannes Holm’s critically acclaimed A Man Called Ove, nominated for two Academy Awards including Best Foreign Language Film.
Devine’s credits as executive producer include Easy A, starring Emma Stone; the Emmy nominated HBO movie “Cinema Verite,” starring Diane Lane, James Gandolfini and Tim Robbins; A Lot Like Love, with Ashton Kutcher; and The Guardian, starring Kevin Costner.
Devine served as head of film and television at Miramax. In 2014 the studio’s revamped new-content division was launched under her leadership, producing original films and television as well as film sequels and television adaptations from Miramax’s rich library. Devine revitalized the studio and the company’s pipeline grew to feature pedigreed film and television projects such as Oscar nominee I, Tonya, about disgraced former figure skater Tonya Harding, and LAbyrinth, about the investigation into the Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. murders. Her other credits in this
capacity include Bridget Jones’s Baby, Bad Santa 2, Southside with You, Mr. Holmes and The Wedding Ringer.
At Miramax, Devine also led the charge to option rights for elevated literary material and unproduced IP from Miramax’s library, including Matthew Quick’s poignant novel The Reason
In addition to her professional accomplishments, Devine is an active member of Women in Film, the Academy Nicholl Fellowships Committee and the Sundance Institute’s ReFrame project, which is committed to closing the gender gap in Hollywood. She participates in mentorship programs through WIF and the Producers Guild of America, with an aim to support women within the industry and beyond. She is also a member of Film Independent and the PGA. Devine was inducted into the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences in 2016. She currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband and two daughters.
ROSANNE KORENBERG (Executive Producer) most recently served as the senior vice president for Miramax. Her projects with the company included Mr. Holmes, Bridget Jones’s Baby, Southside with You and I, Tonya. An established independent producer, her project Outlaws and Angels (starring Francesca Eastwood, Chad Michael Murray and Luke Wilson) was selected for Sundance in 2016. Prior to her time at Miramax, Korenberg set up the new media and film division for Caviar Content in Los Angeles. There, she developed and produced the groundbreaking web series
“Replay” for Gatorade, featuring Eli and Peyton Manning, which won eight Golden Lions at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
At Traction Media, a film production and sales company she founded and ran, Korenberg quickly achieved financial and critical success serving as producer for Half Nelson (which won Gotham, Spirit and AFI Awards and earned Ryan Gosling an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor), Hard Candy and Humanitas Award winner Where God Left His Shoes. Korenberg was also vice president of worldwide acquisitions and co-productions at Twentieth Century Fox/Fox Searchlight.
ALTITUDE FILM ENTERTAINMENT (Production Company) comprises Altitude Film Production, led by Will Clarke, chairman and joint CEO with Andy Mayson; Altitude Film Sales, with managing director Mike Runagall; and Altitude Film Distribution, with head of distribution Hamish Moseley.
The Altitude Film Sales slate includes Black 47, directed by Lance Daly and starring Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent and Sarah Greene; Beats, directed by Brian Welsh and executive produced by Steven Soderbergh; Sophie Brooks’ Tribeca Film Festival hit The Boy Downstairs, starring Zosia Mamet and Matthew Shear; Marc Meyers’ My Friend Dahmer, starring Ross Lynch, Anne Heche and Alex Wolff; Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars, directed by Academy Award winner Lili Fini Zanuck; Mary and the Witch’s Flower, from the filmmaking team behind the 2015 Oscar nominee When Marnie Was There; Noel Clarke’s 10X10, starring Luke Evans and Kelly Reilly; Tom Edmunds’ Dead in a Week (Or Your Money Back), starring Tom Wilkinson and Aneurin Barnard; Maradona, from the Academy Award-winning team behind documentaries Amy and Senna; Ghost Stories, based on the international smash-hit play by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman; and Johannes Roberts’ 47 Meters Down, starring Claire Holt, Mandy Moore and Matthew Modine.
Recognized as the Screen Awards’ Distributor of the Year, Altitude Film Distribution is one of the most exciting independent distributors operating today. The company has released such films as Academy Award and BAFTA winners Moonlight, 20 Feet From Stardom, I Am Not Your Negro and Amy (the highest-grossing British documentary on record), as well as BAFTA nominees Lady Macbeth, The Florida Project, Loving Vincent and Loveless. Upcoming releases include A Prayer Before Dawn, Sicilian Ghost Story, Beast, The Rider and Billie.
Miramax and Altitude Film Entertainment present a Lisa Erspamer Entertainment and Lightbox Production, Whitney. Film editor is Sam Rice-Edwards. Director of photography is Nelson Hume. Co-producer is Vanessa Tovell. Executive producers are Nicole David, Pat Houston, Will Clarke, Andy Mayson, Mike Runagall, Zanne Devine, Rosanne Korenberg and Joe Patrick.
Produced by Simon Chinn, Jonathan Chinn and Lisa Erspamer. Directed by Kevin Macdona