Paul Conrad: Drawing Fire

A tribute to a legendary journalist and artist who epitomizes the fiercely independent voice that has been vanishing from American news media.

Film Signature Image
Independent Lens
Premiere Date
November 7, 2006
60 minutes

Barbara Multer-Wellin

Barbara Multer-Wellin’s work as a documentary writer and producer has aired on HBO, Showtime, PBS, the Discovery Channel, UPN, Lifetime, Fit-TV, TBS, and TLC. She most recently produced Taking the Heat: The First Women Firefighters of New York City, narrated by Susan Sarandon, for the 2006 season of Independent Lens. Multer-Wellin was nominated for two Show more News and Documentary Emmy Awards (in writing and research) for HBO’s Violence: An American Tragedy. She also produced Funny Is Money: Comedy In The 20th Century, directed by Norman Jewison for Showtime; two seasons of The Justice Files, one of the Discovery Channel’s highest-rated series; 16 hours of global wildlife adventure for World Gone Wild: War Games for TBS; Speaking of Women’s Health for Lifetime; and 13 hours of the fitness/nutrition makeover series Ultimate Goals for FitTV. Show less


Jeffrey Abelson

Jeffrey Abelson started his career producing, directing and editing music videos, including eight number one MTV hits. He pioneered and popularized the hybrid “movie/music-video” format (from Ghostbusters to Terminator 2), resulting in this dual-use format becoming a staple of movie marketing campaigns. More recently, Abelson has been producing, Show more writing, and editing documentaries, as well as developing feature films and television series, with projects set up at HBO Films, Showtime, PBS, and the Disney Channel. Current projects include Love in Vain, a music-driven movie about blues legend Robert Johnson; The Cheese and the Worms, a dramatic feature to be directed by Werner Herzog; and RockZone, a TV series featuring Twilight Zone-style dramatizations of classic songs, launching with Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.” Show less

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The Film

One of the most distinguished editorial cartoonists in the world, Paul Conrad has won three Pulitzer Prizes, in addition to a long list of journalism’s most prestigious awards — although his favorite distinction is his 1973 inclusion on Richard Nixon’s enemies list. An extraordinary artist and journalist, Conrad epitomizes the fiercely independent voice that has been disappearing from American news media in recent years. Featuring nearly 200 Conrad cartoons and interviews with the artist’s family, friends, and colleagues, Paul Conrad: Drawing Fire is a documentary tribute to this legendary editorial cartoonist who, at 81, is still drawing for the daily paper.

Fellow cartoonists including Tony Auth, Doug Marlette, and Mike Keefe wax poetic about Conrad as role model and shed insight on his place in the pantheon, as do columnist Harold Meyerson, cartoon historian Stephen Hess, and Huntington Museum Curator Sara S. Hodson. Former Los Angeles Times publisher the late Otis Chandler, Conrad’s former editor John Carroll, former Times National Editor Ed Guthman, columnist Patt Morrison, and other Times staffers speak eloquently about the influence Conrad has had on them, the paper, and the public. Augmented by archival news footage of the 11 presidents Conrad has lampooned, the film also serves as a political pop history of the past five decades.

As traditional newspaper readership continues to decline, Paul Conrad: Drawing Fire spotlights a rarity: a beloved figure that makes us think about the issues, about ourselves, and about what it means to be a moral human being and a responsible citizen in modern times.