Baylor alumnus, award-winning filmmaker working on high-profile projects
WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A Baylor alumnus from East Texas who came to Waco 20 years go with just $600 in his pocket, on academic probation, and no idea how he’d survive, is thriving today as one of Baylor’s most distinguished alumni.
Chris Scott, 41, of Las Vegas, is the founder of Strategery Films, where the award-winning director serves as head of documentaries.
Getting to the pinnacle of his profession has been a long, hard road that almost seemed impossible as a young boy, raised poor by a grandmother and great-aunt in Chapel Hill, just outside of Tyler.
“We did not have a lot of money growing up,” Scott said. “I didn’t have a shower, or air conditioning, or central heating in my home until I moved into Baylor.”
Scott graduated from Chapel Hill High School in 1999 and first attended Tyler Junior College so he could stay close to home after his grandmother was moved to a nursing home.
In early 2002, Scott barely got admitted to Baylor, where he hoped to become a Baptist minister.
“I was a transfer student on academic probation because I was horrible in math,” Scott laughed.
“There was an admission counselor,” Scott recalled. “I begged her. I said, ‘give me a chance, give me a chance’ and they let me in on probationary terms.”
Scott was determined to succeed even though he didn’t even have the funds for books.
He borrowed or checked them out when he could to study all while holding down multiple jobs to pay the rent.
He worked on campus at a work study job in Pat Neff Hall and at Central Transportation before eventually graduating from Baylor in 2004 with a degree in Political Science and Great Texts and a change in heart on his career path.
Scott first served as the director of community outreach for Congressman Chet Edwards in Waco. He then served with Obama for America, and in 2010, moved to Las Vegas to work for then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s successful re-election campaign.
Vegas is where Scott says he really discovered his passion and founded Strategery Films in 2015, which specializes in documentary films.
“I came out here and was going to do it for six months and everything just clicked here,” Scott said. “I loved the town. I loved the environment. This is a town where I could really be impactful, and it awarded people with great ideas, and I had a lot of ideas. When I moved to Vegas my career just flourished.”
Scott has traveled the country telling stories.
He received the 2016 Documentary of the Year award from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities for his series, “The Shape of Shreveport.”
In 2017, Scott shined a light on Waco with a documentary series about the history of Waco. It was awarded the Grand Jury Prize of the Deep in The Heart of Texas Film Festival.
In August 2020, Scott produced a film that would change his life, the critically acclaimed “Class Action Park,” the true story of New Jersey’s Action Park, a popular attraction infamous for a poor safety record.
The feature-length documentary has been featured in the New York Times and is one of the top streaming titles on HBO Max. It was awarded the Hollywood Film Critics Award for Best Documentary in 2021.
“It was the number one streaming program on HBO Max platform for eight months,” Scott said. “Esquire Magazine named it one of the top 20 HBO documentaries of all time.”
Scott’s recent projects include “The Five Priests,” which tells the story of the Catholic clergy who sacrificed their lives to relieve the suffering of the sick and dying during the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1873 in Shreveport. It was named a finalist in the prestigious Cannes World Film Festival in 2022.
Scott has also added to his resume, “Ode to Joy: The Death and Resurrection of Baylor Basketball,” a story which is very personal to him as a documentarian who was a Baylor student at the time player Patrick Dennehy murdered his teammate, Carlton Dotson.
“I was working in the office of Public Affairs and Office of Public Relations at Baylor when it happened,” Scott said. “And then I was there when Coach Scott Drew hoisted that National Championship trophy up in Indianapolis. It was surreal and I was the perfect person to tell the story.”
Scott says he’s currently in talks with two major networks interested in acquiring “Ode to Joy.”
Scott’s career has led to encounters with many well-known people, including President Joe Biden.
Scott said of all the successes he’s had so far, the greatest came this past January when Baylor awarded him The Medal of Service for Contributions to the Professions Alumni Award, which is given to individuals for dedication to advancing their chosen fields and making a significant impact in the world.
“It meant everything. Of meeting presidents, having my work on HBO, being able to make money in a profession that I love , they are all second place to me having that medal put around my neck this year,” Scott said. “Baylor, for a poor black kid in East Texas is a Mount Everest and the fact that I’ve been able to climb it and reach the apex of its alumni just personally for me, it meant the world.”
“I didn’t have a lot of resources, but I made it. I set out to do something and I did it.”
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