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David "Dave" K. Stewart (27 August 193716 October 1997; age 60) was a visual effects (VFX) photographer who worked as director of photography for the photographic effects on Star Trek: The Motion Picture from August 1978, while employed at, firstly Robert Abel & Associates (RA&A) and subsequently, after RA&A's release from the production in February 1979, at Douglas Trumbull's Future General Corporation (FGC). Stewart's main responsibility as "Photographic Effects Director of Photography" was heading the team of effects photographers that were shooting the effects shots of the various studio models used in the movie, those of the Enterprise model and the Spacedock model in particular.

Stewart was brought into the production by his former FGC supervisor Richard Yuricich, when the latter was tasked in July 1978 to look into the brewing problems that started to arise with RA&A, "Dick Yuricich had apparently been working on the picture a couple of weeks when I got a call in late August from Bob Abel. I guess Dick had suggested to Abel and the studio that if they expected to get 65mm stuff properly photographed, in focus and things like that, I should come in and do it. This seemed to be the story that I got, and indeed I did go in and, as an operator working with Richard Kline, was in charge of any 65mm live action for later use with effects. I wasn't in charge creatively, the cameraman was still Kline, but I was responsible for certain shots, usually matte shots, callings for optival effects in post-production. Such shots require a 65mm camera, which, in turn has to be locked down and steady. Bob Wise, Kline and Abel would line up the shots, but I did the camerawork." (Return to Tomorrow - The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, pp.174-175)

The work done on the movie garnered him and his team an Academy Award nomination, as well as, though not personally nominated, helping others of the visual effects team win the movie's only award, the 1980 Saturn Award for "Best Special Effects".

No interview with Stewart on his work on The Motion Picture was thought to exist upon his passing away in 1997. As it turned out however, he had, while still working on the movie in 1979, talked indepth about his work for the production to Cinefantastique reporter Preston Neal Jones, but the latter's copy was only published 35 years later in the title listed below.

Career outside Star Trek

Dave Stewart started his professional career in the motion picture industry in 1966 as an assistant cameraman at the Hollywood company Dickson-Vasu Camera Service, operating an Oxberry camera stand. The type, being called a "downshooter" camera stand, was utilized for the production of animated films, main titles, rotoscoping and traveling mattes. In 1971 he switched over to RA&A, working on that company's groundbreaking visuals for period commercials, honing his skills as a VFX cinematographer. [1]

In 1976 he entirely switched over to theatrical features, when he went on to work for FGC (ironically the same company that was to replace Robert Abel & Associates on The Motion Picture). Directly prior to his involvement with The Motion Picture he was responsible for the UFO photography on Steven Spielberg's 1977 science fiction film Close Encounters of the Third Kind where he worked in the VFX department of the company with a staff, most of which he would work with again on The Motion Picture.[1]

Upon conclusion of the work on Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but before FGC was brought in to work on The Motion Picture, the company soon found itself in dire straits as holding company Paramount Pictures withheld funding for a project Douglas Trumbull had lined up, and he subsequently was forced to let a large part of his staff go, Dave Stewart amongst them. One year later however, Paramount was forced to hire FGC, and the company went into full swing again, enabling Stewart to rejoin. In between, during 1978-1979, Stewart worked on Universal Studios' 1978 science fiction television show, the original Battlestar Galactica, as well as on the 1979 television movie, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, becoming the pilot episode of the eponymous television series, albeit uncredited for both. [2]

Remaining in Trumbull's employ after The Motion Picture, now at the Entertainment Effects Group, Dave Stewart worked the subsequent years as visual and special effects unit director of photography on Ridley Scott's science fiction film Blade Runner (1982), Francis Ford Coppola's crime drama The Outsiders (1983), Douglas Trumbull's science fiction thriller Brainstorm (1983), the science fiction film 2010 (1984), the science fiction film Solarbabies (1986), and the thriller The Hunt for Red October (1990, Trumbull's company now having become Boss Film Studios).

In 1984, Dave Stewart was inducted into the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC).

As free-lancer Dave Stewart worked as miniature photography director on David Fincher's science fiction sequel Alien³ (1992), as director of photography for Mass Illusion on the science fiction film Judge Dredd (1995) and the action film Eraser (1996, starring Vanessa Williams) and for Boss Film Studios again on the action thriller Turbulence (1997) and the action film Air Force One (1997).

Prior to his death in 1997, caused by a heart attack, he completed his work as miniatures cinematographer on the science fiction thriller Event Horizon.

Academy Award

Robert Swarthe received the following Academy Award nomination in the category "Best Effects, Visual Effects":

Star Trek interview


  1. Fellow artists on Close Encounters of the Third Kind included, David Berry, Cy Didjurgis, Don Dow, Jim Dow, Glenn Erickson, Rocco Gioffre, Joyce Goldberg, Larry Albright, Mona Thal Benefiel, David Gold, David R. Hardberger, Alan Harding, Jack Hinkle, Robert Hollister, Thomas Hollister, Paul Huston, Joseph A. Ippolito, Don Jarel, Gregory Jein, Tom Koester, Michael McMillen, Bill Millar, Alvah J. Miller, Harry Moreau, Conne Morgan, Max Morgan, Bruce Nicholson, George Polkinghorne, Robert Shepherd, Scott Squires, Robert Swarthe, Ken Swenson, Don Trumbull, Douglas Trumbull, Hoyt Yeatman, Matthew Yuricich, Richard Yuricich, Gregory L. McMurry, Christopher S. Ross (who was an intern at the time), and Jonathan Seay. Like Stewart, most of them went on to work on Star Trek: The Motion Picture as well.

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