In 2009, we started collecting long "oral history" interviews on video of LA Progressives -- activists, philanthropists, and people who are both - in hopes of documenting and preserving those who have dedicated much of their lives to crafting a more equitable society. We feel it is a privilege to be part of this extended community. The excerpts below come from longer interviews. We intend to add new interviews continually, and in doing so, help to strengthen the next generation of progressive voices.
- Julie and Brogan
JULIE M. THOMPSON was born in Woodstock, Illinois. This small northern Illinois town was already known in the film world as the home of the Todd School for Boys, where Orson Welles got his schooling. This town lore propelled Julie toward the films of Orson Welles, and a love of the craft of filmmaking was born in her. Woodstock was later to become famous as the location for Groundhog Day.
After a summer in Europe, Julie came to California at age sixteen to study film and television and earned a Bachelor of Science Degree from San Diego State University in 1971. To help pay for college, she sang and played guitar in bars and coffeehouses throughout the state. In San Diego, she worked at the famous Heritage Coffee House.
After moving to Los Angeles, she worked in television commercials and made educational films for American Indian Centers. Julie helped to manage a West Hollywood recording studio for producer/musician Alex Hassilev of the Limeliters. Her first project as a record producer was for singer-songwriter, Holly Near. She also produced records for folk legend Malvina Reynolds, the author of the iconic “Little Boxes,” who was an early mentor.
In the early l980's she co-produced a number of large anti-nuclear concerts at the Hollywood Bowl featuring Peter Paul and Mary, Richie Havens, Harry Chapin, Joan Baez, Lily Tomlin, George Carlin, Bonnie Raitt and the Eagles.
Concurrently, Julie resumed her work in her first love, filmmaking. She produced, along with Mary Beth Yarrow, an award winning documentary film, THE WILLMAR 8. The film told the story of a group of women in a small Minnesota town who stood up to their employer, the town bank, when they were passed-over for promotion, and instead, asked to train young male business school graduates who would be taken on at the bank for higher salaries and fast track positions. The project was directed by Lee Grant and after a successful showing on PBS, was made into a television movie. The film is still used in working women’s organizations to this day.
During this time Julie got to know three pivotal influences, Allard K. Lowenstein, Peter Yarrow, and actor/activist Mike Farrell. When the former Congressman and UN Under-Ambassador Lowenstein was shot and killed in his office in New York City, Farrell and Thompson joined forces to make a documentary about Lowenstein's political life entitled Citizen: The Political Life of Allard K. Lowenstein. The film was also produced and edited by Irish filmmaker Brogan de Paor. Mr. de Paor and Ms. Thompson married in 1986. Citizen earned honors and awards at the Houston International Film Festival, the American Film Festival, and the Chicago International Film Festival.
Throughout the late 1980's and early 1990's, Julie combined filmmaking and event production with media consulting, working for the LA WEEKLY, where she created two radio programs; REAL POLITICS, with Harold Meyerson, for KCRW, and along with Larry Mantle, FILM TALK, still running on KPCC. FILM TALK remains the most comprehensive film review program in Los Angeles.
Concurrently, she began producing film compilations and short films for the internet and public fundraising events, including tribute films to honor Alfre Woodard, Haskell Wexler, Oliver Stone, Bernice Regan Johnson, and Harry Shearer, among others.
Also in that capacity, she produced 6 years of Liberty Hill Foundation gala dinners, helping in her small way to establish the foundation as a nexus for social change and support of grassroots organizing in Los Angeles. In the 1990s, she turned her attention to television movies, working for CBS-TV, and Dan Wigutow productions.
In 2002 Julie was the series producer for a PBS Series, EYES OF NYE, produced for and at KCTS-TV, Seattle. It was at KCTS that Julie met writer Bob Nelson, a sketch comedy artist already well known for “Almost Live,” a weekly comedy show which aired in Seattle for almost a decade. Bob Nelson had just written his first screenplay, NEBRASKA. Julie read it and fell in love with its offbeat comedy and humanity. Julie took the script to Ron Yerxa and Albert Berger, who had produced Alexander Payne’s ELECTION. They presented the script to Alexander Payne and he became “attached” to the project.
NEBRASKA went into production in the fall of 2012 with Payne at the helm. It went on to win accolades and awards including Bruce Dern as Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival, and six Academy Award nominations. Bob Nelson also won an Independent Spirit Award for the screenplay.
Whenever possible, Julie uses her filmmaking skills to help grassroots groups working on social issues to get their message out. Julie is former Board President of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking, based in Los Angeles.
In 2010, Julie and her husband Brogan de Paor started the Los Angeles Activist Video Archive, filming long oral histories on video with LA based activists and philanthropists.
BROGAN DE PAOR was born in Waterford, Ireland. He received his Bachelor's degree and a Masters Degree in Mathematical Physics at University College Cork, National University of Ireland. While there he co-founded a local branch of the Irish Film Society. From early on Brogan was immersed in the cultural and political history of his country and that legacy helped set the course of his intellectual life.
Brogan came to the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena in late 1967 to complete a Ph.D in Applied Mathematics. In 1968, on college campuses across America, the university curriculum was over-shadowed by resistance to the War in Vietnam and cultural changes were rampant throughout the society. Already a firm opponent of the Vietnam War before he arrived, Brogan found life on the conservative Cal Tech Campus a challenge.
In the U.S. he also discovered the existence of film studies and filmmaking in Universities and eventually decided to change disciplines. He was accepted in the MFA program in film production at UCLA. Among the films he made there are two fine short films, Because it Changes and Another Life, both awarded prizes and commendation in film competitions. The invasion of Cambodia, early in his time at UCLA, shut down the campus. Many film students used their craft to aid in the unrest, and one of Brogan's early experiences as a film student was as a cameraman for a French film being made about Angela Davis.
After graduating with an MFA, Brogan became a "jack of all film trades" to support himself and gain experience in the film industry, working as a camera person, sound person, and most often as an editor or editorial assistant. He worked on various low budget features and for two seasons on "....In Search of...." at Alan Landsburg Productions, as an editor and assistant supervising editor.
While working as a camera man on an educational series, he met Julie Thompson and they forged their first project partnership on Citizen: The Political Life of Allard K. Lowenstein which Brogan Co-Produced and Edited. The film was Executive Produced by Mike Farrell and the documentary production took up residence on the 20th Century Fox lot during the last season and a half of M*A*S*H.
Brogan continued to edit films including "Bread and Salt," a feature documentary by Jeanne Collachia set during the fall of the Soviet Union. He also joined Julie in working for the Liberty Hill Foundation, crafting tribute films for those prominent film industry activists who were honored by the foundation for their work. Brogan produced, edited and sometimes shot footage for film compilations about Haskell Wexler, Oliver Stone, Harry Shearer and Alfre Woodard.
In the 1990's Brogan worked on television movies for CBS as a post production supervisor. Shortly thereafter, Brogan and Julie formed their video production company, Sundays Well Productions. The name Sundays Well refers to a part of Cork City where Brogan lived while a student in Ireland.
Sundays Well clients have included The Liberty Hill Foundation, The Nation Institute, Rabbi's for Human Rights, Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking, Wally and Suzy Marks, Center for the Study of Political Graphics and Physicians for Social Responsibility to list but a few.
In 2008, Brogan spent six months in Joshua Tree, California, editing a feature length documentary about new music composer Lou Harrison entitled Lou Harrison: A World of Music.
Recent editing work includes DR. KEELING’S CURVE, a one man multi-camera program for link tv starring Mike Farrell exploring climate change. Additional editing credits include the feature documentary film THE WONDER OF IT ALL and an educational film, NEVER GIVE UP! Ama’s Journey to Freedom on the Underground Railroad.