“The Big Shoot Out” Shoots For Football Moon at Dallas International Film Festival

by BoCarter | Posted on Friday, April 19th, 2013

By Bo Carter
“The Big Shoot Out” documentary movie producer/director Mike Looney summed it up very succinctly in opening remarks.  “It’s a very detailed documentary about one of the greatest football games in history between Arkansas and Texas, but it was produced by a Texas Tech graduate,” he quipped with a smile before the world premiere at the historic Texas Theater in Oak Cliff last Saturday during the Dallas International Film Festival.

And a very good film, at that…

This documentary gained legs when Looney recalled watching the game as a youngster and reading several accounts about the monumental Big Shoot Out between No. 1 Texas and No. 2 Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark., Dec. 5, 1969. Texas won 15-14 in arguably the biggest contest in any sport in the history of the late, great Southwest Conference (1914-96, R.I.P.).

From the embryo stages the Dallas financier gathered a solid staff and began the arduous task of searching for archival film and tape of the historic encounter.

His “brain trust” included brother Phil Looney who wrote and performed about half of the original music in the documentary as well as Jim Suhler who is with George Thorogood also contributed numerous original musical. Sam Donald, a sterling film editor from England, had not seen an American gridiron contest before he production team but came through in an award-winning manner. Mike Looney also credited Don Stokes with Post Asylum Productions as the technical brains behind this fascinating film. Co-producers Michael Humphrey and Fred Baker also made valuable contributions along the way.

But besides putting together a splendid sports documentary, Mike Looney and Co. captured a microcosm of 1960s society through actual network world news footage of events in Vietnam and on the home front as well as interviews with NFF College Football Hall of Fame coaches the late Darrell Royal of Texas and Frank Broyles of Arkansas.

The plot also centers around the decision by ABC Sports, special assistant for programming Beano Cook and ABC Sports president Roone Arledge to move the game back to Dec. 6 just in case the two nationally-ranked teams had the seasons they were anticipating.

And the late Royal expressed one of the most humorous sentiments in the movie.

“When Frank Broyles called me to ask permission to move the game date,” Royal recalled, “I told him it really didn’t matter. ABC was going to move the game anyway.”

Student-athletes from the shoot out are documented both through game and season highlights as well rare, archival footage from the week of Nov. 30-Dec. 6, 1971, and postgame interviews. Over 50 members of both teams either were either on camera in the documentary or part of the screenplay.

Even more touching is the back story of UT’s Freddie Steinmark, a rare out-of-state recruit for Royal via Wheat Ridge High School near Denver, Colo., All-SWC defensive back in 1968 and honorable mention All-America for the ’69 Longhorns.

Texas and Arkansas players reflect on the raw courage of the former All-Southwest Conference defensive back, who more than likely saved the game for UT by grabbing Arkansas All-America wideout Chuck Dicus when he was apparently breaking open for a game-clinching touchdown catch. “The Big Shoot Out” also zeroes into game highlights showing Steinmark’s last college play before he was diagnosed with bone cancer and died in 1971.

Then there also are the background and maincurrents leading up to the visit by then-U.S. President Richard M. Nixon as well as the inspiring pregame invocation by Rev. Billy Graham.

About the only thing that could have topped these chronicles would have been an appearance by Moses to part the teams at midfield at some juncture in the movie.

Getting back to the feature-length documentary, though, appearances and in-depth interviews by the two standout quarterbacks James Street of Texas and Bill Montgomery of Arkansas along with the amazing twists of fate before and after the game were major focal points.

The Campbell twins – Mike and Tom – whose dad Mike Campbell was defensive coordinator at UT and Royal’s hand-picked hopeful successor after the 1976 season before the UT administration chose former Arkansas standout and then-Wyoming coach Fred Akers, kept the audience in stitches with their quips last Saturday while sung and unsung heroes such as Arkansas DB Bob Field, SWC Defensive Player of the Year LB Cliff Powell of Arkansas, longtime coach and administrator/Street high school teammate in Longview, Texas, Terry Don Phillps, heroic pass receiver WR Randy Peschel of UT, venerable Texas publicist/historian/administrator Bill Little, and Julius Whittier, the first African American football scholarship student-athlete at UT and now a prominent attorney; brought great insight to the production.

Dallas professionals and Steinmark’s roommate Dr. Bobby Mitchell and his wife Dr. Honor Franklin and Bill and Linda Holmes Burnett (Bill scored 20 touchdowns and led the SWC in rushing in 1969 with 908 yards) were integral from the start of the process and gave Mike Looney two distinct perspectives on the leadup, actual tussle and postlude to The Big Shootout. Incidentally, it was then-Linda Holmes’ father Col. Eugene Holmes of the Arkansas ROTC unit who helped former Georgetown (D.C.) undergraduate, Rhodes Scholar, Yale Law grad, and 42nd U.S. President Bill Clinton receive a deferment from military service during the height of the 1969-70 draft.

Racial unrest in Fayetteville at that time over the playing of “Dixie” by the Arkansas band and dilemmas in the initial years of integration in the South and Southwest also were covered along with the doors, which were opened through college football and individual achievements/networking during the 1960s. Protests over the Vietnam war and Nixon’s visit surrounding The Big Shoot Out also received ample and fair coverage with “Where Are They Now” segments on many principles.

One only can imagine how many hours of research and interviews went into this potentially award-winning production, and producer/director Looney outdid himself and the capable assembly staff in virtually every area.

“Yes, the premieres in Dallas and (Sunday) at the Angelika Theater are more like home games for Texas,” he noted with a grin, “but we have the Arkansas debut scheduled for the Hot Springs Film Festival Oct. 10-19. That should be a lot of fun, and we have hundreds of people to thank for getting this documentary into production. It truly has been a labor of love.”

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