Alan Stewart was on my mind this week before I heard news of his death Tuesday, July 5, at his home in Sherman Oaks, California.
I was working on a story about videos on Waco (http://bit.ly/29wU6D3) and I remembered the short film “Images of Waco” that Stewart had produced decades earlier. It was his love song to the city in which he grew up, graduated from high school (Waco High, 1970) and began his family.
As most of his work, it looked good and had his fingerprints on it. He created it at a time when I did much more film reviewing than now, and my critic’s eye then blinked, briefly, at an implication that part of what made Waco a place to raise a family were the Christian threads in its fabric, such as Baylor University and churches. Stewart wasn’t alone in thinking so, but not all viewers would share those assumptions.
I started covering Waco arts and entertainment in 1987 and Stewart, head of Alan Stewart Productions, was Waco’s filmmaker then. He taught some film classes at Baylor University, did film production in Waco and, in 1989, produced a feature film in his hometown — no small matter to pull off, given that financing a small independent film was just as difficult then as now and cinematic equipment a little clunkier to set up and transport.
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The movie was “A Handful of Trouble,” later renamed “Action U.S.A” with an eye to video sales overseas. It followed his films “GhostRiders” and “Ghetto Blaster” and was a low-budget action film — “Action U.S.A.” proved a pretty good plot synopsis — that brought big-city filmmaking to Waco for a few weeks.It had a chase scene, complete with a car flipping over, a helicopter shot over the Brazos River and, its stunt piece de resistance, a scene where a stunt man is blown out of a fourth-story glass window. “Action U.S.A.” also had a flicker of star power with a cameo of Cameron Mitchell as a criminal boss and plenty of work for young wannabe-filmmakers and actors.
One of those young filmmakers was Damon Crump, now head of Jackalope Entertainment and the producer of one of the Waco videos I mentioned in my story. Other Waco/Baylor-connected film people who had worked with or studied under Stewart include Greg Jurls, Mark Baird, Mike Davis and John Franklin — names I’ve since seen on opening or final credits.
Stewart left Waco to teach at Florida State University from 1993 to 1996 and eventually ended up in Los Angeles where he worked as an editor for Avid Technology for many years. He served as assistant editor for DreamWorks and Disney Studios on such films as “Father of the Pride” and “Planes,” retiring from Disney Studios in 2015.
Film-making and video have become more common in Waco in recent years and part of that is a legacy from Stewart’s years and influence.
There’s a lot of remembrances — his sense of humor and political views are recurring themes — plus comments from some of his children posted on Stewart’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Nala.Trawets