We have acquired the global distribution rights for the premium documentary feature On the Line: The Richard Williams Story, an important addition to the more recent success of documentaries that reframe subjects who were often maligned in their heyday.
In this case, the documentary paints a complex portrait of the extraordinary life, career, and lasting impact of Richard Williams — the family patriarch and “outspoken” tennis coach to Venus and Serena Williams.
Mr. Williams provides rare home video footage and candid interviews to detail the family’s unprecedented gate-crashing in the 1990s and beyond of a predominately white, upper-class sport. Newly discovered archival footage from the courts in Compton and a well-selected roster of interview subjects retraces the Williams sisters meteoric ascent through the tennis rankings in spite of racial oppression and unconscious bias.
At its core, this isn’t just a story about tennis. It’s a story about the African American experience in America, resilience, courage, and the unabashed determination of one family to prove the sceptics wrong to accomplish what was deemed impossible — even if they had to break every rule or custom along the way to do it.
The film, which premiered at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival, will have its UK premiere at the 2023 Sheffield DocFest in June.
Kyle Harris, Director, Global Acquisitions at Fremantle, said: “We are thrilled to share the remarkable life story of Richard Williams with global buyers. Stuart McClave and the filmmaking team have made a touching and unmissable documentary that features unmatched access to an extraordinary person, whose story will fascinate and inspire audiences around the world.”
Stuart McClave, the Director and Producer of On the Line: The Richard William Story, said: “Sitting down with Mr. Williams over the course of several years and listening to his story — many aspects of which I thought I knew going into this project as an avid tennis player and fan — only made me realize how much of this story hadn’t been told before or been allowed to be told. While the media and tennis establishment eventually came to celebrate the sisters, they still have not given Mr. Williams the respect and credit he deserves. I would like to thank him personally and everyone else who shared their incredible insights on the power of this story — a story I firmly believe is one of the most inspirational, unbelievable and crucial American stories of all time.”
The film is produced by ChaVam’s Chavoita LeSane, High Frequency Entertainment’s Duncan Montgomery and Jack Selby, Foundation 360’s Gary Ousdahl, and Stuart McClave’s McClave Lumber Company. Executive Producers include Brenda Robinson, Brit Marling, Ashley Coleman, Charlie McDowell, Alex Orlovsky, Mathilde Jourdan, Harry Gamsu, and Bright West Entertainment’s Alex Lieberman and Gary Lieberman. Fremantle is handling global distribution. The deal was negotiated by Travis Tammero of UTA and Holly Stanton and Joe Cohen of CAA.