Born in New York, Mel Stuart exchanged his musical aspirations for filmmaking after graduating from New York University. In 1954, he began doubling as assistant editor for an ad company and special assistant to avant-garde filmmaker Mary Ellen Bute. Stuart later served as main film researcher for Walter Cronkite's breakthrough series, The 20th Century. In 1960, he joined the David Wolper Organization where he produced and directed dozens of documentaries, including The Making of the President, Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Four Days in November and Wattstax (which will be rebroadcast on POV on August 9, 2005). He also directed features including Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium. Since 1977, Stuart has been an independent producer and director. His documentary credits include Man Ray: Prophet of the Avant-Garde and Billy Wilder — The Human Comedy for PBS. His television work includes the dramas Bill, The Triangle Factory Fire, Ruby and Oswald, and the 12-hour miniseries The Chisholms. In 2002, St. Martin's Press published Stuart's Pure Imagination: The Making of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
Stuart has been the recipient of four Emmy Awards, a Peabody award, and an Oscar® nomination for his work. He has served as President of the International Documentary Association (IDA). Stuart is currently producing a one-hour television special, Still Perfect — 20 Memorable Photographs, and a series on living American poets. Over the years he has made over 180 films.