*This weekend, the film “King Richard” will made its world premiere in theaters and is streaming exclusively on HBO.
The Warner Bros. film is based on the true story of how Richard Williams, the father of Compton, California-raised Venus and Serena Williams, coached and guided his daughters’ incredible pathways to become two of the greatest pro tennis players the world has ever seen. Actor Will Smith plays Richard Williams.
Veteran producer, director, videographer, and documentarian Keith O’Derek is excited about the film’s release, which contains some footage from a 1995 interview he conducted in Compton with Richard Williams and daughters Venus, 15 and Serena, 14. Outside of Compton, the three were virtually unknown.
Both sisters talked candidly with O’Derek about their dreams of becoming professional tennis players. Richard Williams proudly spoke about his bold vision, confidence, and prediction that Venus and Serena would dominate the tennis world, despite being raised in Compton. For Richard, he wasn’t bragging… only serving notice.
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The interview aired on O’Derek’s Emmy-nominated Fox television series “Straight From The Streets” and Good Day L.A. -Fox 11 Los Angeles. O’Derek’s segment was the first time Richard, Venus, and Serena had been interviewed by a major television and news outlet.
“There were people who couldn’t believe that these two young Black girls from Compton were going to be successful in tennis,” recalled O’Derek. “There were lots of doubters, but I saw in the two sisters what their father was describing. I didn’t doubt him or them.”
Filming stories such as the Williams sisters’ plight to greatness was the mission of O’Derek through “Straight From The Streets,” which ran almost four years. His mission was to film and present positive stories about people from various walks of life in the urban communities in and around Los Angeles and beyond.
“I was the first person hired by Fox TV to create, produce, direct, host, and shoot his own feature stories,” said O’Derek. “SFTS was the highest-rated news series and voted the best regularly scheduled news segment.”
In addition to “Straight From The Streets,” O’Derek started Upfront Productions in 1985. Through Upfront, which was also the name of O’Derek’s talk show, O’Derek interviewed and filmed hundreds of entertainers, sports figures, business giants, and other individuals in the news. The extensive list includes but is not limited to Aretha Franklin, Jody Watley, MC Hammer, Whitney Houston, George Duke, Kenny Rogers, Anita Baker, Smokey Robinson, George Michael, Will Smith, LL Cool J, Destiny’s Child, New Edition, Earth, Wind & Fire, Michael Jordon, Johnnie Cochran, Guns N’ Roses, and Biggie Smalls (The Notorious B.I.G.), and many more.
While O’Derek has interviewed and filmed hundreds of stars of television, film, and music, in a heartbeat, he calls the iconic Aretha Franklin his all-time favorite person he has interviewed and filmed.
“It was just electrifying walking in the room backstage with Aretha and Dionne Warwick,” O’Derek said. “Aretha was just glowing. It was a privilege to be in that room and for her allowing me to roll tape on her because there are a lot of people who have been in the film industry for many years that had not gotten one-on-one footage with Aretha unless they were a major network or major player like Oprah Winfrey.”
Growing up in Gardena, California, about 17 miles south of Los Angeles, O’Derek’s interest in videography and filmmaking came at an early age.
“I used to watch my father use his Super 8 camera when I was a kid,” O’Derek said. “I played with his camera and projector because I thought they were fascinating. I used to take his camera out and shoot up all of the film. I didn’t think at the time it would lead to what I’m doing now. I was just a kid with dreams and aspirations.”
O’Derek continued to learn about cameras, filmmaking, and videography by taking classes and going the extra mile to sharpen his craft. A big opportunity presented itself to interview and film celebrities when young O’Derek danced on American Bandstand, a music performance and dance television program created and hosted by legendary Dick Clark. Clark gave O’Derek permission to interview the artists performing on American Bandstand. Clark also gave him access to do the same for the American Music Awards.
Today, O’Derek and his Upfront Productions are in demand. His Los Angeles-based company is a full-service entity specializing in video production, photography, internet services, clip licensing, and video editing. O’Derek is currently working on several projects, including producing and directing a series of diversity, equity, and inclusion storytelling videos for The Aerospace Corporation; creating, directing, and producing instructional guitar videos with famed guitarist Paul Jackson Jr.; and completing a children’s book with African American Jonathan Strickland, who made history as one of the youngest commercial airline pilots in the world.
O’Derek has also produced two riveting feature-length documentary films: “Straight From The Streets,” featuring Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Maxine Waters, Denzel Washington, and others. The second documentary is Barack Obama: Road To The White House, chronicling Obama’s arduous pathway to become America’s first Black president.
“I have many remarkable stories that need to be told, and I have one of the largest independently owned urban video archives in the world,” said O’Derek. “I have this passion to create historical films and television projects that resonate with truth and honesty. For companies like Netflix, Apple TV, or any major studio or independent television or film company, if they want great content, they should reach out to me.”
For more information about Keith O’Derek and Upfront Productions, log on to www.upfrontproductions.com or call 310.516.0232.