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Two-Time Oscar-Winner Once Made Nutty Short Film About Dallas Sanitation Worker

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I was looking for something completely, entirely, absolutely unrelated on the Texas Archive of the Moving Image's website this afternoon when I came across this recent addition to its back catalog: a short film called Big D, which comes from the Dallas Municipal Archives. I will let TAMI describe what's contained therein:

"Upon finding a hat in a trash can, a Dallas sanitation worker finds himself transformed into an increasingly lively drum major leading the Sunset Bison Band through the streets of Dallas."

Which doesn't begin do the 1974 movie justice. The seven-minute short, which climaxes with a romp through downtown and a choreographed routine on top of the old Southland Life building, is like some kind of a fever dream.

"That's a good way of describing it," says one of its co-directors -- a man named Ron Judkins, who, upon graduating from SMU's Meadows School of the Arts in 1975, would go on to quite the prolific career as a feature-film director and big-screen sound-mixer who's worked on such films as Schindler's List, The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, Gus Van Sant's Drugstore Cowboy, Stephen Frears's Hero, Clean and Sober, John Carpenter's They Live, several Alan Rudolph films and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Oh -- and he's a Best Sound Oscar-winner too, for his work on the low-budget indies Jurassic Park and Saving Private Ryan.

I found Judkins at his Los Angeles office this afternoon after watching the film, a collaboration between SMU and the city of Dallas he made with Blaine Dunlap (a documentarian) and Pat Korman. Back then, Judkins says, the city used to give out filmmaking grants. The trio got one and came up with this idea, which Judkins hadn't seen "in 40 years," he says, till I sent it to him.

At the moment, he's finishing he's latest doc: the due-out-next-year 24 Peaces, which, he says, contains interviews with "24 peacemakers from around the world," among them Bishop Desmond Tutu and Deepak Chopra. "But," Judkins says, "I had humble beginnings there in Dallas."

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