Activist Video Archive

Preserving progressive, multicultural voices of Los Angeles area activists and philanthropists.

Preserving progressive, multicultural voices of Los Angeles area activists and philanthropists.

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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 US Congressman and US Representative to the UN Commission on Human Rights 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.


“Everything that is tearing us down today will become a memory, and this memory will be shared as an anecdote or a story or a poem or a play or a warning. It will be shared with another human being, who will then understand that he is not alone in his sadness. This is why we show up for others and tell our tales and listen to others. The great congregation meets daily, and you are someone’s angel today.”

-Tennessee Williams/Interview with James Grissom

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