For the umpteenth time in his career, Steward is living the dream¿directing. Be it commercials (such as he and partner Art Haynie shot for Steward’s clothing brand Bonfire, and the sports giant he sold it to, Salomon) or oddball live-action shorts like “The Escalator Danger Squad,” which the duo wrapped for cable TV’s Cartoon Network, Steward has come remarkably far in a hurry.
With a university degree in TV production, Steward dropped out of Brooks Film Institute to accept his rightful place as snowboard marketing first-round draft pick for Sims Snowboards. He then moved to Morrow before founding Bonfire with his family, and grew that from a single run of T-shirts to a multi-million dollar deal with outdoor sports conglomerate Salomon, now owned by Adidas. Steward is still a Salomon consultant, but as his restless intellect moved beyond snowboarding, he was able to revisit his first love, film and video.
He began anew, fashioning a spot for Bonfire with a college snowboard buddy, commercial director Art Haynie. Working as a team they devised a curious character, “The Sniffer,” who enjoys the scents of other people’s garments. In two different scenarios shot in Vancouver, The Sniffer is continually foiled by a Bonfire jacket that doesn’t smell because of its venting system. It’s an original, eccentric take that caught on in the advertising world, spurring write-ups in Shoot, an industry mag. Steward and Haynie teamed as directors on several more projects, including an S&M-themed Bonfire spot that NBC deemed too racy to air during the Gravity Games.
The pair’s offbeat, snowboarder-like approach got the notice of deep-pocketed cable king Turner Broadcasting. Their Cartoon Network hired them to direct a series of “Escalator Danger Squad” shorts about a group of would-be crime fighters employed to guard a building’s escalators.
So it was off to Turner’s home base in Atlanta to be surrounded by a top-flight crew¿”Sniffer” Director Of Photography Marc Laliberte Else; Matt, the laid-back “EDS” writer; Jouelles, the 2nd A.D. who wants to A.D.; Scott the sound man who keeps getting called “Eric” or “Jason”; Vince the prop genius; Alfeo the location scout who wants to D.P.; and Sandy the Script Supervisor who doesn’t miss a line even while filing her nails to perfection.
It’s a movie set¿the real deal, complete with crackerjack cast¿Bart the standup “EDS” captain, big as John Goodman; Brad, a master thespian in the vein of William H. Macy; and Ross, something of a cult hero and slacker king of Nebraska. Motivations vary but everyone is doing what they can to get where they want to be, and everyone wants to direct, for that means playing God with the creative process.
You thought snowboarding moves quick, this industry moves fastest. By the time you catch “EDS” on cable, Steward and Haynie already have parted ways. But one thing’s for sure, making movies is as much hard work as it is the closest thing to never working a day in your life. That kind of contradiction is a guaranteed good time¿something most snowboarders would pay through the nose for.