Writer, filmmaker, and social entrepreneur Thom E Butler has been working in media, business, and social-justice work for the past 5 decades. He produced and directed his first documentary film as a senior in high school on the third anniversary of Earth Day in 1972. His second documentary film, Nanny, about his Irish immigrant grandmother who was a dancer on Broadway and in Vaudeville, was produced as his senior project at the University of Arizona for his degree in Broadcasting and Film. Thom worked his first professional broadcasting job as an announcer at stations KTUC and KFMM in Tucson while at the U of A and followed that with a year as announcer and news director of KRDS in Phoenix before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area to study for his Masters in Theology and Social Work. His final project for his Masters degree was a 10 year study to update the Bay Area “Little Kerner Commission” Report of 1969. This was accomplished at the behest of, and in conjunction with, the San Francisco Council of Churches and the SF Human Rights Commission. It consisted of a year long community study in San Francisco followed by an extensive final report to the Council and Commission.
Following seminary, Thom spent three years working for the San Francisco Council of Churches as the assistant director of three social service programs, the federally funded Summer Lunch Program, Retired Senior Volunteer Program, and Partners in English (a Methodist sponsored program for teaching ESL to SE Asian refugees). He also served as a founding board member of Dolores Street Community Services (recently celebrating over 30 years in the San Francisco Mission District) and as a volunteer at the DSCS refugee homeless shelter. During this time he also served on a three person pastoral team at Dolores Street Church in a community that stood at the crossroads of the city’s Fillmore, Castro and Mission districts.
While at the San Francisco Council of Churches, Thom developed promotional, marketing, and fund-raising campaigns for each of the programs he worked with and shortly thereafter formed Coyote Communications to develop multi-media and promotional campaigns for nonprofit organizations throughout the city. At this time he also served as a media program trainer for Western Public Radio in seminars for National Public Radio representatives from throughout the country as well as leading production classes at the San Francisco Digital Media Center.
In the mid-80s, Thom joined with his production partner to form BrierPatch Music, an independent record company focusing on producing and distributing gospel, folk and jazz recordings with a social justice theme. During the ten years he served as COO and Head Producer with BrierPatch, he produced ten recordings by a wide variety of artists in various genre. In the early 90s he left BPM to start his own independent recording studio, Anansi Recording, in Sonoma, CA. He also traveled to Nicaragua as part of the first Witness For Peace International Team and produced audio, video and film on the reality of life in post-revolutionary Nicaragua. In the late 80s, Thom produced a musical tour of Nicaragua and an accompanying recording and video project on the experience.
At Anansi, Thom recorded a wide variety of independent artists both in his studio and in live recording situations. He also wrote and produced an ongoing series of advertisements and public service announcements for local and national clients and produced several documentary and video productions in music and social documentary. For several years he served as writer, engineer and producer of audio work for Antenna Productions (producing work for International touring museum exhibitions, the National Park Service, and Disney) and for The American Communications Foundation (The California History Project and EarthBreak), as well as working as lead engineer and producer on an award-winning NPR international series on World Population issues and Social Justice recorded in the United States, Peru and Brazil.
During this time, Thom formed the multi-media production company, SpeakLo Media and returned to his original love of writing, creating and publishing dozens of stories in local and national publications on everything from new developments in digital video technology to the growing art of craft brewing. He was hired by Fender Musical Instruments, Inc. to write and produce the definitive book on live audio production, “Making The Connection – The Fender Pro-Audio Primer.” He was hired to create a software manual for WebFm an internet database company at the very beginning of the general adoption of internet technology, and served as ghostwriter for a Sonoma natural health company creating “The MenoMavens Menopause Manual.” Thom has also written a dozen screenplays (including two adaptations), two publicly produced plays and two produced children’s plays. He also spent 20 years developing websites and web-based marketing for companies throughout Northern California. In 2013 he wrote “Riding The Whirlwind – 5 Questions That Will Change Your Life” which is available on Amazon.
In 2011, Thom co-founded and served as COO for a Sonoma County tech startup, Barrier Free Adventures, developing a smartphone app for disabled travelers, providing a system for gathering, aggregating and disseminating relevant travel information in real time. During this time he also served as media-consultant and primary producer for the Sonoma County iHub/SOCO Nexus.
In 2014, he left BFA and returned to his love of media production, launching the video series, Vocabulary of Expression with his first documentary feature, Raven Awakens (now available on Amazon) and a series of documentary shorts on Bay Area artists. He has recently produced several new audio projects and is currently in production on his twentieth album. Currently he is also involved in two long term media projects, Blues Routes – a multi-media history of Blues in America and The Beloved Community Project dedicated to the collection and dissemination of oral histories of the central figures of the Civil Rights Movement.
Thom is available for writing, video production, consulting, and speaking engagements, and is almost always open to a cup of coffee and friendly conversation around just about any topic.
40 4th Street #283
Petaluma, CA 94952