EXCLUSIVE: Production is underway on a documentary about Whitney Houston, which will explore the iconic singer before she became an international superstar.
Whitney Houston In Focus, directed and produced by Benjamin Alfonsi, is based on an upcoming book on Houston by photographer Bette Marshall, who met the future sensation when Houston was an unknown 18-year-old, before she signed her record deal with Clive Davis and Arista Records.
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Audra McDonald, the Emmy, Grammy and six-time Tony-winning actress and singer, will narrate the documentary and serve as executive producer.
“Whitney Houston is an artist I worshipped from the moment I first heard her sing. Her voice was simply miraculous and her artistry was perfection,” McDonald said. “We all witnessed her superstardom, and I’m honored to help tell this part of Whitney’s story, before it all began.”
Marshall will feature in the documentary, described as a “cinematic photo story of a photographer and her young muse.” Marshall, whose photographic subjects have included Queen Elizabeth II and Nelson Mandela, gained a unique perspective on Houston as she went from New Jersey teenager to one of the top-selling recording artists in history.
“[Marshall] was given unprecedented access by the Houston family to document Whitney’s rise to fame,” according to a release. “Over the subsequent years, Marshall’s camera followed the young singer to early auditions and recording sessions, and even to church.”
Whitney Houston in Focus is being produced by Cinergistik, formerly Metabook Entertainment. Ken Siman and Christian Alfonsi will serve as co-executive producers on the film.
Marshall’s book, titled Young Whitney, will be released in February 2022, commemorating the 10-year anniversary of Houston’s shocking death on February 11, 2012. Houston was found unconscious in her room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, just hours before she was due to appear at Davis’s annual pre-Grammy party.
The book, Davis said, “captures all the beauty, promise and love of life that was indeed Whitney when I first met her.” The Grammy Museum will initially be the exclusive seller of the hardback edition of Young Whitney.
The tentative release date for the documentary is early 2022. Distribution plans will be revealed at a later date. Several documentaries have been made about Houston following her death, including the 2017 film Whitney: Can I Be Me, directed by Nick Broomfield and Rudi Dolezal. But Whitney Houston in Focus is the first that will “reveal rare photos and personal stories of an up-and-coming Whitney Houston.”
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