by Barry Avrich

Early on in David Foster : Off The Record, my new documentary on the legendary composer and producer, the Broadway veteran and Wicked star Kristen Chenoweth stares into the camera and says, “What has taken you so long, David? We have been waiting for you!”

Although she is referencing Foster’s arrival on Broadway to develop musicals, she could have easily been commenting on him finally sitting before the cameras and exposing his life in a candid and revealing film.

While I have made over 40 films, including provocative documentaries on a handful of ruthless moguls and game changers, David Foster was going to be a whole new experience. Where could I insert myself into the life of a relentless individual who can’t stop working?

David believes that everyone gets three rounds in their life. He says his two rounds are completed and he’s now on round three. His first round was as a studio musician, arranger and recording artist. His second round was becoming one of the most successful songwriters and record producers in history, working with Barbra Streisand, Céline Dion, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Andrea Bocelli, Michael Bublé, Josh Groban and Earth, Wind & Fire. Collectively they sold hundreds of millions of records, and won 16 Grammy Awards, an Emmy Award, a Golden Globe and three Oscar nominations. He also created The David Foster Foundation to support organ donation.

Round three has Foster taking on Broadway, including a new musical about the iconic animated character Betty Boop, a musical based on Amy Bloom’s New York Times bestseller Lucky Us, and being a judge on both Asia’s Got Talent and World’s Got Talent shows in Asia.

For me as a filmmaker, round one was establishing trust between David and myself. I needed the film to be less laudatory and more of a deeper dive with a few rough edges exposing David’s vulnerability. I spent over a year following him as he toured his one-man show, worked on his Broadway shows and prepared to get married for a fifth time, to actress and singer Katharine McPhee. He gave me unrestricted access to his life, a dozen stars he produced, his family and McPhee. He encouraged everyone to be honest and raw. And they were, from the conflicted founding members of Chicago who at times resented his dictatorial approach to his own daughters competing for his attention during his success to his fiancée and other stars. The result is a very emotional and powerful story.

What I discovered was a complex genius who possesses extreme generosity, talent and a complex need to keep performing to please himself and his fans.

The last of day shooting in New York with David was a sad one for me. I will miss his infectious energy, which propels you at the same speed of light he travels at.