Life Along the Streetcar with Tom Heath from The Heath Team Nova Home Loans

This week we discuss a local filmmaker who got his start in downtown Tucson and now works to revitalize downtown Douglas.

Today is December 29th my name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to “Life Along the Streetcar”.

Each and every Sunday our focus is on Social, Cultural and Economic impacts in Tucson’s Urban Core and we shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about. From A Mountain to the U of A and all stops in between. You get the inside track- right here on 99.1 FM, streaming on– we’re also available on your iPhone or Android using our very own Downtown Radio app.

Reach us by email [email protected] — interact with us on Facebook @Life Along the Streetcar and follow us on Twitter @StreetcarLife— And check out our past episodes on

Our music is by Ryanhood

We start today with a yearend celebration.

El Burrito Cowboy

El Burrito Cowboy, Paquita Vaquita and Amiga Sue set out to save Douglas from a menacing phantom. These characters are the creation of film maker Alfonso Sahagun Casaus and they have been helping to teach children about healthy eating as part of the El Burrito Cowboy Show. Now Casaus has his team on the big screen fighting to save Douglas Arizona from the horrible phantom. Along the way they showcase the beauty, history, culture and architecture so unique to G Ave in Downtown Douglas,.

Casaus first started in film through access Tucson on Broadway in downtown. That led him to a 20 year career as a photojournalist for local news stations.

Speaking to Alfonso, it’s easy to see his love for Douglas and his desire to make the world see the beauty which is so obvious to him.

We met up a coffee shop to discuss his 20 year career, his children’s show, the movie and his new year resolutions.



Tom Heath: Good morning Tucson. It’s a another beautiful day here in the Old Pueblo. And I want to thank you for spending a part of your brunch hour with us on your downtown Tucson Community sponsored rock and roll radio station. On this week’s show we discuss a local filmmaker who got his start in downtown Tucson and now works to revitalize downtown Douglas. Today is December 29th. It’s the last Sunday of the year, my name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to Life along the streetcar.

Tom Heath: Each and every Sunday, our focus is on social cultural and economic impacts in Tucson’s Urban core and we shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about. From A Mountain to the U of A and all stops in between, you get the inside track right here on 98.1 FM streaming on Also available on your iPhone or your Android by using our very own Downtown App. You can head over to your appropriate app store and get the Downtown Radio Tucson application and take us wherever you go. 

Tom Heath: If you wanna get us here on the show. Our email address is [email protected], you can find us on Facebook and on Twitter and for all of our past episodes head over to our new web page and you can see our features as well as our full podcast lots of information over there on the web page. 

Tom Heath: Going to start today’s show with a year-end celebration. We are approaching that day that New Year’s Eve the 31st. We’re 2019 ceases to be and 2020 comes in to existence. One of the things we’re doing here in Tucson is the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl. That takes place around 2:30 on the 31st. It’s kind of a big deal this year. They have of course the football teams of the Wyoming Cowboys and the Georgia State Panthers are in town to battle it out at Arizona Stadium on the 31st and that is a part of several festivities that have come to be as part of this bowl game. 

Tom Heath: There is a pregame, of course there’s tailgating that you can participate in if you head over to the game. After the game though, they got some fireworks at the stadium and then the bowl group has sponsored the New Year’s Eve Bowl Bash, which is going to happen downtown in conjunction with Hotel Congress, University of Arizona sponsor I think, Tucson Federal Credit Union is sponsoring a big part of that for them to. 

Tom Heath: They are changing the area around Hotel Congress into Tucson Times Square’.  So right there on Congress and Fifth. It’s a free event to the public. It’s going to start around 6 and ed around 1AM, going to be concerts, things for the kids, food, drinks, fireworks and a countdown to the New Year with our very own Taco Drop. So if you’re in the area, head downtown the 31st, Arizona Bowl Bowl, maybe do a little ice skating. It’s right in that area Tucson’s Time Square. 

Tom Heath: Well, El Burrito Cowboy Paquita, vaquita and Amiga Su set out to save the city of Douglas, Arizona from a menacing phantom. These are characters created by filmmaker Alfonso Segun Casas, and they’ve been helping to teach children about healthy eating as part of El Burrito Cowboys TV show. Now Casas has his team on the big screen fighting to save Douglas Arizona from this horrible phantom. Along the way, they showcase the beauty the history, culture, and architecture, thats so unique to G Avenue in downtown Douglas.

Tom Heath: Now, Casas first started his film career here in Tucson down at Access Tucson, which is on Broadway in downtown. Eventually that led him into a 20-year career as a photojournalist for local news stations. Sure you’ve seen some of his work if you watch the evening news. In speaking to Alfonso, it’s easy to see his love for Douglas and his desire to make the world understand the beauty of that town, which is so obvious to him. We met up with a coffee shop it at a coffee shop to discuss his 20-year career, his children show, the movie. Of course, we had to ask about his New Year resolutions. 

Alfonso Sahagun Casaus: Well, my name is Alfonso Sahagun Casaus. I’m a news cameraman and independent filmmaker. I’ve been working TV for 20 years and I’ve made every mistake in television you can think of so, we all we all start in the same place at one point. We don’t know anything and and I think about this field is that you’ll never learn everything. So you’ll always you always going to keep on going forward, but you’ll never learn everything. So that’s why I really love photography, news…

Tom Heath: How did you get started with all of this? 

Alfonso Sahagun Casaus: So when I was when I was 8 years old I was born in Albreta Sonata was raised in Douglas Arizona. There is on both sides of the border. So when I was eight years old my parents went to the movie theater and Douglas and there was a movie they put all the kids in a Disney movie in the Disney movie ended about 30 minutes earlier than the regular action movie they went to go see and I snuck into the back of the theater and watch the last 30 minutes of movie called extreme prejudice with Nick Nolte and Powers Boothe. 

Alfonso Sahagun Casaus: It was a big huge shootout in Mexico, but that was pretty much the first time I’ve seen people that you know, that look like me on screen, Mexican people and and yeah, it was this big shootout, but I was like, wow, I want to be that guy in the movie. That’s so cool. You know, I knew I was watching a movie but it’s like I wanted to be that guy.

Alfonso Sahagun Casaus: So as a kid, I wanted to be an actor. It was until much later that I started learning about. You know, the And the scenes but even at a young age by like around 12 years old I learned about Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese and I watch their movies and like their movies eventually gradually. I went I wanted to go more behind the scenes instead of being in front of a camera. So that’s where it all started with the movie. Wow. When I first started in TV, there was a friend of mine who are the TV station and I would tell him hey, I’m going to make these action movies. I’m going to make these action movies and he’s like, you’re not going to make action movies. You’re going to be kids movies.

Alfonso Sahagun Casaus: I’m like no. No. No, I’m going to make action movies and I’ve never going to make kids movies. I’ll never say never you know, I just came out with my first kids movie and you know, and I’m going to pursue that. I’m going to try to make more kids movies. So yeah, I went from my first movie being Mexican wrestling movie to part to being a Mexican wrestling zombie movie to a 180 turn to kids movies. So 

Tom Heath: How many men how many of you create? How many movies are you done now? 

Alfonso Sahagun Casaus: I’ve done three features. Okay. Yeah, well two features in this one’s about 45 minutes long this little burrito cowgirl burrito Cowboy. 

Tom Heath: Yeah, so and it would I definitely do I want to talk to you today. But you mentioned earlier you got your start in the news world because you’re not just a filmmaker but you’re a journalist or is it a consider a photojournalist photojournalist? Right? And so you cartels about togs photo tags? All right, that’s it. I’m learning stuff. I love this show. But you said you got your start kind of in the downtown area?

Alfonso Sahagun Casaus: Yeah, so So there was in downtown Tucson these be to access channel to access Tucson Channel and there was a else wake I got three in the morning watching TV and this movie came on this like low-budget action movie. So I watched the whole thing and I was really impressed. He was on access Tucson. I was really impressed by it. So I called down access and ask for the director’s name and they gave me his name and a phone number. I called them. He was filming another movie. I came down to help. And that’s how I got started. I started helping him and learning how to make movies with him. 

Tom Heath: And so you’ve been even a photog then for 20…

Alfonso Sahagun Casaus: I’ve been in TV for 20 years. Okay, so I started as an intern. So what I did is I called up guy actually, he was a longtime news anchor for Channel 9 and I called him on the phone and I introduced myself and I said look, I want to get into TV. I want to learn how to life shoot edit. It and I don’t know what I should do. And he said we’ll come down to the station. I’ll give you a tour and he gave me a tour and then I got another tour at Channel 4. 

Tom Heath: So you just randomly called him up. Just wrapping by did you down? 

Alfonso Sahagun Casaus: Yeah, right cool. Yeah, I was pretty shocked when I met I still remember I was at was that at my mom’s house in the kitchen and I called him and I asked for him and they patch me through and I was shocked that they patch me through, you know, I grew up watching him and there he is on the phone with me. Just like how you doing, sir? You don’t know me but this is what I want to do. And I don’t know what to do. You know. He’s the only person I know in television. It’s like grew up watching. I started at Channel 4 as an intern and then from there I work. I got a job in the studio, but there were certain people along the way they helped me get the job because back then it was actually pretty difficult to get a job in the studio. 

Alfonso Sahagun Casaus: So the thing is I was always on time. I worked hard and the main anchor saw that and I went into the office and apply for a job and I did not get it because I didn’t have enough experience, but that that main anchor went in there and talk to the boss and said I think you should give this kid a chance, so they gave me a chance and then from there. The rest is history. I’ve been in TV for 20 years. 

Tom Heath: How do you how do you find stories that you’re going to cover you assigned or do you dig them? 

Alfonso Sahagun Casaus: I’m assigned. Okay. So what happens is my day to day I come in at two o’clock in the afternoon and have an afternoon meeting. His director executive producer all the reporters and producers and they have a list of stories that they’re going to cover for the day and I’m a side but just because I’m a sign doesn’t mean I’m going to stay on that because you know, the world changes really fast and so I can go off and shoot one thing and say hey drop what your doing go over here. So it’s um, you just never know every day is different the it’s never the same. 

Alfonso Sahagun Casaus: It’s very random. You don’t know where you’re going to go who you’re going to need so I’ve met people from Um, you know the most famous in the world to some people that just have different serious rough lives and they let and they invite you in and you get to listen to their stories and incredible like some of the people like met some of the some of the stories that I’ve heard and it’s incredible. 

Tom Heath: And so that this is a what you’re doing. There’s a lot of things that are probably pretty emotional pretty hardcore things. That might even be tough, too. To hear or see in your being you have to be objective and just report it. You can’t get too involved with it fair?

Alfonso Sahagun Casaus:  Yeah, I would say so like so what happens is just a couple months ago. I was at homicide survivors and I was shooting a story after the interview the gentleman that ran that runs the organization asked me. How do you emotionally protect yourself? From all the stuff that you see and interviews that you know that all the interviews that you shoot with some serious issues and that and and something you know, we do take that home with us some of the things we see there’s things I’ve seen that I’ll never forget but what happens is that I have a camera in front of me and I’m watching the world through the viewfinder. So I kind of separate myself from that and it’s a I’m Some of the technical now the reporter the reporter all they have is a notebook in front of them. So they have to carry all that that’s a lot of stress a lot of emotion that they carry.

Tom Heath: Ss the part of your protection as part of your outlet then this creative side that gets into movies so that you can kind of create your own world?

Alfonso Sahagun Casaus: I wanted to to work in a TV station to learn how to light shoot edit. And then I was going to make a movie and that is going to take off to Hollywood and I was going to direct movies full time. That was you know, that the 19 20 year old me. So I did get in the TV. I didn’t learn I learned how to like shoot and edit and I stayed in television and I made a movie and then I made another one and another one. So it was a point where it was. Like should I have gone to Hollywood and got up and made movies or did I do the right thing?

Alfonso Sahagun Casaus: And in some respects I did do the right thing by staying because Television news has educated me because of this little life experience at all the different scenarios. I’ve been able to that have been put in. I I directed and produced a kids movie called. Oh burrito cowboy, and I’m from like I said, I’m from Alberta Sonata raised in Douglas was raised on both sides of the border. And when I was a kid growing up and douglas douglas was a very vibrant Town. Well, it’s like every town in America, they’re downtown as kind of a suffered and died. Out and you know, so what I’m trying to do is a couple things, I want to make some movies. I want to showcase my hometown in a positive light and I want to see if our downtown can come back and be maybe like an artist Hub of some sort, you know, maybe like kind of like how Bisbee is and so I decided you know what I’m going to try to do all three in one so I wrote this kids movie. 

Alfonso Sahagun Casaus: The characters el Burrito Cowboy but you like it down to make a su go on a road trip adventure to my hometown of Douglas. The town is vacant and there’s a phantom scaring everybody. So it shows it shows off the architecture of the Town. It shows off the The Grand Hotel that we have there. It’s called the Gadsden Hotel, beautiful Lobby, beautiful hotel I created a TV show but also then I decided I’m gonna make a movie and that’s where I met El Burrito Cowboys saves Douglas Arizona.

Tom Heath: So that was based off of the TV show that you are doing?

Alfonso Sahagun Casaus: Right now are doing so I grew up watching a TV show called a TV show called Wallace and ladmo it was filmed in Phoenix at the K Pho Studios and it’s the longest running kids show in American history. So as an adult I was thinking, you know, those shows don’t exist anymore. I think it’d be fun to create my own. So that’s where I came up with cEl Burrito Cowboy show. I try to do the show years ago, but I have a host. All I had is the costume characters and it just didn’t work out because somebody needs to speak to the guests and the kids and so we reformatted and reshot it I shot a hand full of episodes. And

Alfonso Sahagun Casaus:  and then from there I decided you know what I’m going to make a movie with these characters.

Tom Heath: Then and you say it’s for kids, but the way you’re describing it. This is not this is a kids aren’t interested in the architecture and the history that you’re here playing to a whole different audience. Right? 

Alfonso Sahagun Casaus: Right, right. So yeah, they saw the movie in terms of in terms of Douglas. You know, it’s Yeah, the Phantom the scary Phantom and the characters those are for kids, but the other message is: look at our town. Yes. It’s not in great shape right now, but it can become something great again. So yeah, it’s it’s two for one. 

Tom Heath: Who are your characters?

Alfonso Sahagun Casaus: So the main star is El Burrito Cowboy and his Pacquita Vaquita, shes a cow. Then there is Amiga Sue, she’s a 1950’s cowgirl. then there’s a the villain his name is Tor the Terrible and then there’s the Phantom.

Tom Heath: Where can or can people find it is is it…

Alfonso Sahagun Casaus: So the episodes are on YouTube. I’m working out some screenings for the next year and I’m gonna try to do a screening every month in a different city and And then we’re going to launch the movie on Amazon. Amazon will be up on Amazon for sale. 

Tom Heath: So the show is available online. I saw you have a Facebook page. So we will link to that but the movie itself is not out yet. It’s not out. You’re going to go through the screening process. 

Alfonso Sahagun Casaus: I’m going to go get some screenings and then we’re going to upload it to Amazon. So people can download it, rent it or eventually be on Prime. 

Tom Heath: Okay outstanding. I love the as you get to that I’d love to if there’s some wayI can be a part of that least to spread the word do that we definitely will just keep us posted on those timelines. 

Alfonso Sahagun Casaus: Yeah, for sure. 

Tom Heath: We are in the middle of our interview with Alfonso Sahagun Casaus. He is a filmmaker from here in Tucson works on a lot of the news stories. You might see on the evening news. He has a children’s show and a film that he’s just finished putting together. It will be releasing early in 2020 will be back to finish up our interview with Alfonso and just a moment. You are listening to Life along the streetcar on downtown radio 98.1 FM and available for streaming on Downtown 

Tom Heath: We’re going to finish up our interview with Alfonso Sahagun Casaus. We heard a really good story about how he came to be a filmmaker and his desires here to use his tools to revitalize the town of Douglas Arizona. As part of the interview, knowing as a year-end we tapped into our New Year’s resolutions questions, and I wanted to make sure we shared this with you because he’s got a very unique New Year’s resolution that it actually started five years ago. 

Alfonso Sahagun Casaus: So five years ago. I made a New Year’s resolution. Was that one day out of the month. I’m going to go do or see something different. Maybe go somewhere I’ve never been before or do something. I haven’t done in a long time. So I talked to my mom for instance and I asked her mom. When was the last time you rode a bike and she said maybe 1950. And I thought to myself like when was last time I rode a bike. When was the last time I went ice skating. When was the last time I did this or that and some of these things don’t have to be these huge Adventures. I don’t have it all had to be, you know skydiving which one of them was skydiving but they don’t have to be that it could be, you know going to Benson for the day, you know, some people have never been to Tombstone and actually, you know, they drive through it. Oh, I’ve been to Tombstone. Yeah, you drove through it. Have you stopped and walked around and gone to the shops. And that’s what it is. It’s just go and do something different every month. 

Alfonso Sahagun Casaus: And it doesn’t have to be extravagant. It doesn’t have to be out of this world. It could just be a simple as you know, what I haven’t gone for a hike in 10 years. Well this this month one day I’m going to go for a hike, you know, there’s people here in the Tucson, unfortunately, they have never been to San Javier Mission, or I’ve never been a Sabino Canyon. You know, there’s never been to Colossal Cave, you know, and there’s a lot of wonderful stuff in Tucson. There’s a lot of wonderful stuff in Southern Arizona to see and to do there’s tons. 

Tom Heath: Have you been tracking this? Do you have a little list? 

Alfonso Sahagun Casaus: I haven’t tracked it down like this month, you know, it’s so like I have a Facebook fan page and I put up my assume like most people just a highlight of their life, right? So whenever I go on a trip or whatever we got four, Right now I’ll take a picture. So because I’m always like the idea of like scrapbooking, you know, putting pictures together and I scrap booking. Well now we have Facebook to do that for us. So so yeah, if you go through my feed you get to follow. Yeah, he’s there he’s there he’s there, you know, and it’s not a thing to your personal page. You don’t my personal page. It’s not one of those things. I do it to like show off it just to keep track of my life, you know, like document my life. So yeah, it has as an enriched me I have I look forward to the next thing I do. Do I never do podcast so this could be one of them, you know, this is something totally different.

Tom Heath: But your intentional about it every month you every you sit down and say I’ve got to do something this month and I haven’t done ever or in a while right? Very intentional. Yeah, I think that is fascinating and I’m going to start doing that you’re going to create a movement and you because I’m going to start doing that intentionality of it, to sit down at the beginning of the month is a what is something that I’m going to do. I think that’s a fantastic way to explore your city or your country, your life. It’s very it’s organized in random at the same time. And I love that. 

Alfonso Sahagun Casaus: My job sends me to so many different places, but sometimes we go places and it’s very quick. It’s very in passing. So that exposes me into a lot of stuff but I don’t count what I do at work as what I do on my personal time, but you might be back but I’ll go back and I’ll spend more time there or explore a little more. You know, I made a list. Just on my phone of all the things new reporters at my station need to do within their two-year contracts. So I’ll email it to them or text it to them. Like these are the things you have to do while you’re here. You know, it’s all the different spots. You can see go see restaurants to go eat at and so on and so on not that this is the list that says, this is Tucson, but this is my list that I come up with things that I’ve done and I’ve enjoyed them. So I’m like I figured maybe you’ll enjoy to so so 

Tom Heath: So At least 60 new things you’ve done or redone intentionally. That’s fantastic. 

Alfonso Sahagun Casaus: Like I said, a lot of  these things don’t have to be anything super extravagant, you know, 

Tom Heath: Do you ever sit around and get to the end of the month and like oh crap. I haven’t done something new and you know, 

Alfonso Sahagun Casaus: No no, I don’t it doesn’t it doesn’t it doesn’t cause me any stress so it doesn’t it. Yeah, it’s not like I’m on a deadline. It just kept it just happens when it happens, but it happens within the month. 

Tom Heath: What a fantastic. Interviewer, you know I met him at an event for Local First Arizona. He was actually working and doing the the filming for a news story and we just started talking and I just completely fascinated with his story and I really like this idea of doing something new and unique each and every month and being intentional about it. So something I am going to take up in 2020 and encourage others to do as well. My  name is Tom Heath. You’re listening to Life along the streetcar on downtown radio 98.1 FM and Streaming a Downtown 

Tom Heath: That’s gonna do it for episode. Number 116. Oh my goodness and the end of 2019 and we’re at the episode number 116 been an amazing amazing run so far as our second full year we start at the end of 2017. So there’s our second full year. Just want to say say thank you to all of our guests to all of those that have promoted and supported us we couldn’t do it without you. And the amount of time and energy that some people here in Tucson are willing to spend to to help us is absolutely phenomenal. 

Tom Heath: We’ve had some great guests this year and look forward to a fantastic 2020. If you head over to our web page you’ll be able to get the rebroadcast of today’s show as well as our featured interview with Alfonso, we’ll have that available probably by tomorrow and on our Facebook page we’ll link to Alfonso’s show. El Burrito Cowboy.

Tom Heath: The movie about saving Douglas.El Burrito Cowboy and Friends save Douglas. The exit for our show today is a little bit different. We look back on 2019 had a tremendous amount of impact players talking to us about what they’re doing in our community. We had artists, we had politicians, we had volunteers organizations. We just it’s just been a great year. So we put together a little Montage of some of those folks there. So you can get a sense of the people that have supported us throughout 2019. Well, my name is Tom Heath. You are listening to Life along the streetcar. I hope you have a fantastic week tune in next Sunday. For more information about our Urban core. 

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