Award-winning filmmaker Todd Thompson produces movies he hopes will inspire, enlighten audiences
by Amy Keller
Todd Thompson knew at a young age that he wanted to make films. He caught the bug when he was about 8, when his father took him to see Star Wars. After that, he started experimenting with his grandfather’s 8mm camera and making his own “homemade, independent” films using the money he earned cutting grass to buy film. “It would take me months because it was expensive for a little kid back then,” recalls Thompson.
Today, the Central Florida filmmaker — who grew up in Cleveland and moved to Orlando more than 30 years ago to work for Disney — is pursuing his passion, producing documentaries exploring stories that he hopes will inspire and enlighten audiences.
Thompson’s award-winning 2019 film Woman in Motion, which is streaming on Paramount+, tells the story of how Star Trek star Nichelle Nichols used her fame as a platform to help NASA recruit more women and people of color to the space program. And earlier this year, Thompson’s film Pre Fab! — which chronicles drummer Colin Hanton’s early years with John Lennon’s original band, the Quarrymen (which evolved into the Beatles) — opened the 2022 Florida Film Festival.
Thompson and his Stars North production company have plenty other projects in the pipeline, including a documentary series called American Originals: The Story of the Highwaymen, which recounts the stories of the Black artists who sold their iconic landscape paintings along Florida’s roadsides beginning in the 1950s. He’s also working on a documentary about the life and music of Del Shannon, whose “hits and musical journey and fight to get all his copyrights back paved the way for other artists to do the same,” says Thompson. He hints that a musical might not be far behind. “We own the Broadway rights to both these stories — Pre Fab! and Del Shannon: The Runaway — says Thompson. “We’re really excited to turn our sights to the stage hopefully in the near future for both those projects.”
- Orlando-based defense contractor Lockheed Martin landed a $15-million research and development contract from the U.S. Air Force for work on the next phase of the Stand-in Attack Weapon, an air-to-ground weapon designed to strike a variety of targets, such as ballistic missiles and surface-to-air missiles.
- TSS Solutions, a defense electronics and engineering company, is relocating and expanding its headquarters to a 55,000-sq.-ft. facility in West Melbourne.
- Summa Development Group says JW Marriott will anchor its 33-story, mixed-use skyscraper it’s planning in downtown Orlando.
- Russell Griffin was named chief diversity and inclusion officer at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, where he will develop and implement diversity and inclusion initiatives and serve as an adviser to university President Barry Butler. He previously served in a similar role at Emory University.
- Guest Services has taken over from Schwarze Enterprises as the vendor operating the Old Spanish Sugar Mill breakfast restaurant, an iconic restaurant in De Leon Springs State Park known for its “make-your-own” pancake breakfasts prepared on tableside griddles. Guest Services also provides concession services at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City and Hontoon Island State Park in DeLand.
- A Central Florida coalition led by Osceola County landed a $50.8-million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration through the Biden administration’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge to accelerate growth of the semiconductor industry cluster in NeoCity, a 5,000-acre technology park in Kissimmee. The funding will be used to upgrade the Center for NeoVation advanced manufacturing facility to expand research and development and production and boost education and workforce training.
- Booz Allen Hamilton, one of the nation’s largest government and defense contractors, has opened an office in Melbourne. AEye, a Silicon Valley company specializing in high-performance lidar (laser-based remote sensor systems), opened a sales and engineering office in Melbourne to advance the company’s technology for aerospace and defense applications. Steve Frey, a Lockheed Martin and L3Harris Technologies alum, will lead the office as AEye’s vice president of business development for aerospace and defense.
- AEye also is collaborating with Booz Allen to expand its lidar-based product offerings.