Willie Nelson is participating in a docuseries about his life, “Willie Nelson and Family,” with production said to be already “well underway” on the project from Blackbird Presents and Sight Unseen Pictures. The co-directors of the “definitive” multi-part series are Thom Zimny, best known as Bruce Springsteen’s regular filmic collaborator, and Emmy winner and Oscar nominee Oren Moverman.
Nelson, 88, is described as an enthusiastic participant in the project, opening up exclusive access to his archives and encouraging friends and family to take part in a series that’s already been filming in Austin, Nashville, Los Angeles, New York and Maui.
The country music icon’s manager, Mark Rothbaum, developed the project in collaboration with Keith Wortman, the founder-CEO of Blackbird Presents.
The latter company specializes in films and TV shows about music legends and in recent years has produced projects for or about artists like Merle Haggard, Gregg Allman, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, Mavis Staples, Emmylou Harris, Dr. John and even a previous Nelson special (the 2019 concert tribute event “Willie: Life & Songs Of An American Outlaw”).
“We are celebrating the music, the career, the long road, the family, friends and history,” co-directors Zimny and Moverman said in a joint statement. “But, more than anything, we are piecing together a narrative — one never before seen in its entirety — about an extraordinary man with a unique ability to bring people together; folks of all races, orientations, genders, political ideologies and musical leanings. These days, we sure could use the healing powers of Willie Nelson.”
Zimny’s long list of Springsteen credits includes directing “Springsteen on Broadway” for Netflix and “Bruce Springsteen’s Letter to You” for Apple TV Plus and co-directing the theatrical feature “Western Stars” with Springsteen. Other music-based documentaries include “The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash” and “Elvis Presley: The Searcher.”
Moverman has directed fiction features including “The Messenger,” “The Dinner” and “Time Out of Mind.” On the music biopic front, he co-wrote the surrealist Bob Dylan-based feature “I’m Not There” with Todd Haynes and co-penned the Brian Wilson tale “Love & Mercy.”
Moverman is among the founders of Sight Unseen, a production company responsible for Justin Simien’s recent “Bad Hair” as well as both the film and TV versions of his “Dear White People.” Among other projects, the company also has a Sammy Davis Jr. biopic in development.
Julia Lebedev and Eddie Vaisman are Moverman’s partners at Sight Unseen. Executive producers on “Willie Nelson and Family” are Wortman, Lebedev, Vaisman, Rothbaum, Annie Nelson and Leonid Lebedev.