Stuart McClave is white, but grew up with a unique insight into the challenges Venus and Serena Williams faced in the tennis world: His adopted sister is Black, and growing up in a tennis family, everyone was acutely aware that it was once mostly known as a white, affluent sport. McClave brought that perspective to On The Line: The Richard Williams Story, his documentary about Venus and Serena’s father that recently highlighted NewFilmmakers Los Angeles In Focus: Black Cinema festival.
HIs family rooted hard for Venus and Serena — and their father/coach — as he was growing up in Los Angeles.
“Tennis was my first love and my family were all obsessed with the Williams family. And you know, we’re from Southern California, as were they, and so we were just always rooting for them, going to the tournaments, driving 300 miles to go to tournaments,” McClave tells NFMLA‘s Carolyn McDonald in an interview you can watch below.
Meeting Richard Williams
McClave read an article about Williams in 2019 — long before Williams’ story became the basis of a biopic, King Richard, for which Will Smith won a Best Actor Oscar in 2022. Through mutual contacts, McClave arranged to meet with Williams at his home in Florida and won his trust.
“”I was sitting down with him in his home in West Palm Beach and just talking to him about tennis and life and his story and why I felt that he really needed a comprehensive feature documentary to tell his story in in his own words,” McClave says.
McClave is an award-winning director and producer who is passionate about social justice, politics, sports, LGBTQIA+ issues, and shedding light on underrepresented voices and communities. He enjoys weaving together archival-based footage to tell a modern day story, and following unique voices and characters as their journeys unfold in real time. He is a former development executive for NBCUniversal, Discovery Channel, and feature film producer Mark Ciardi. You can follow him on Instagram at @stuartmcclave.
On The Line: The Richard Williams Story uses rare footage and intimate interviews to provide insight into the extraordinary life of Richard Williams.
Watch the NFMLA interview with Stuart McClave, director of “On The Line: The Richard Williams Story”:
On The Line: The Richard Williams Story was among the films celebrated in February at NFMLA’s annual InFocus: Black Cinema program, spotlighting Black stories and emerging Black talent in front of and behind the camera across two shorts programs and a spectrum of genres.
The day began with InFocus: Black Cinema Shorts I, a program that weaved together nuanced stories of friendship, place, perspective taking, family, loss, and joy. It continued with On The Line and concluded with InFocus: Black Cinema Shorts II, an exploration of connection, community, identity, mental health, climate activism, and motherhood through a range of genres, including movement, comedy, coming of age, sci-fi, experimental, and drama.
NFMLA showcases films by filmmakers of all backgrounds throughout the year in addition to its special InFocus programming, which celebrates diversity, inclusion, and region. All filmmakers are welcome and encouraged to submit their projects which will be considered for all upcoming NFMLA Festivals, regardless of the InFocus programming.
Main image: Richard Williams in On the Line.