14 December 2011

Hello to all yet again!  We hope 2011 has treated you well and that you are enjoying your holidays so far!

Thanks to your continued support and concern, the Foundation continues to thrive, as 2011 saw the continuation of Dartmouth College’s James Joseph Kaplan Filmmaker of the Year Award (now affectionately referred to as the ‘Kaplan Award’), as well as Ithaca High School’s James Joseph Kaplan Independent Spirit Award (‘The Independent Spirit Award’), now in its third year.

We are pleased to announce that the second Kaplan Award went to the lovely and talented Dylan Leavitt!  As noted by the Dartmouth Film Department:

“Dylan seemed the ideal candidate because she has been a wonderful presence in the department for years. Dylan is one of our very best students. Her enthusiasm, commitment, and finished work have always been in advance of her peers. Last year, in fact, the department gave her a prestigious award usually reserved for seniors. Dylan is well-liked by all the faculty members as well as by her classmates. She is a very good-humored person, enthusiastic and professional at the same time.

This year she proposed a two-term Honors project consisting of producing a documentary short about a vintage clothing store in Boston and the live-wire, somewhat eccentric lady who runs it. While some were concerned that Dylan might run into unforeseen difficulties filming primarily in Boston, she laid out her contingency plans in such a way that everyone was convinced that she could handle any eventuality. Ambitious as well as creative, Dylan also wanted to insert animated sequences in the film despite never having taken an animation course. Working with our new animation professor, Jodie Mack, Dylan (as usual) handled this extra challenge easily, producing charming cut-out animation travel scenes interspersed with interviews. These sequences added an extra level of charm and wit to a film that was already lively and funny.

In addition to producing excellent and entertaining films, Dylan did very well in her history/theory courses, making her an ideal all-round film major. She not only impressed Film and Media Studies while at Dartmouth; she also received a Peter D. Smith initiative award to help fund her Honors project and worked (as a curator, I believe) at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in the summers.

In her humor, her easy-going temperament, her intelligence and discipline, and above all her outstanding work, the department agreed unanimously that Dylan embodies the spirit paid tribute to by the James Jay Kaplan Filmmaker of the Year award.”

And in Dylan’s own words:

“I was so honored to receive the award this spring…. I wanted to let you know that I was recently hired as the new Coordinator of Film and Video at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and am finding it exciting to get to learn more about how the film industry functions, from screening and writing to mailings and finances….So far I’m loving my workplace and getting to screen tons of films as I consider what my own and the Boston community’s tastes might be….”

We couldn’t be happier and more honored to have Dylan as the second recipient of the Kaplan Award.  Please feel free to visit her websites to view her work:



We continue to keep in touch with Anna Lotko, the award’s first recipient from 2010.  Anna moved to Los Angeles over the summer to begin graduate school at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, where she’s working towards an MFA in Interactive Media.  Elle is particularly thrilled to have Anna in Los Angeles!

As with 2010, there were two recipients of this year’s IHS’s Independent Spirit Award- Elias Spector-Zabusky and Matt Heise!  Elias is a freshman at Brown University, and Matt is a freshman at Amherst College.  We look forward to keeping in touch and hearing from them as their freshman year progresses!

And of course, we continue to keep in touch with the Independent Spirit Award’s past recipients, Jacob Morris-Knower (a sophomore at Pamona College), Will Krasnoff (a sophomore at Columbia University), and Jacob Evelyn (a junior at Yale).  Yes, they continue to be awesome, although we wish they were a little bit smarter…

Many thanks to the Dartmouth Film Department and the Ithaca High School faculty, namely Leann Donnelly, for their continued help and contribution in giving the awards each year, as well as to all of you for your continued interest and support!


1 March 2011


We hope this finds you well. Yet again, we never cease to be amazed and humbled by your continued support of the Foundation. Since its inception, it has now raised over $40,000. All contributions have been solely due to your care, concern, and belief in Jay’s legacy, and that means more to us than we know how to convey.

We are thrilled to announce that 2010 saw the establishment of the James Joseph Kaplan Filmmaker of the Year Award at Dartmouth College. It’s difficult to imagine Jay at Dartmouth without picturing him hard at work on some type of film project. His passion for film grew in no small part due to both his time in the Film Department, as well as to the lasting relationships he developed with his professors and fellow filmmakers. The Kaplan Award will continue to be given each year to the student who best exemplifies the qualities embodied by Jay as filmmaker, student, and friend.

We could not imagine a more fitting and deserving recipient of the first Kaplan Award than Anna Lotko. Her talent and incredible work ethic, in addition to her kind and humble nature make her the natural pick.

Below reads the formal announcement from Dartmouth:

“During her time at Dartmouth, Anna Lotko has been a mentor and friend to many students breaking into games and media areas. As a filmmaker, she has completed several documentary shorts, including one about Dartmouth gamers called PLAY (in collaboration with B. Scully, 2008), Downsizing the Dartmouth Experience (2010), and Pick up the Pieces (2010), in addition to documentary works on various campus-wide
projects and exhibitions.

A native of Hanover and the daughter of two scientists, Anna Lotko began working at Dartmouth’s game research laboratory, Tiltfactor, in 2009. In addition to serving as a Teaching Assistant in Spring 2010 for the Game Design workshop course, Anna has authored game design projects, become an experienced and prolific video producer, and
pursued arts management. She has been the lead curator of the PLAYCUBE, Dartmouth’s first mobile exhibition and event space, launching a silent disco, alternate reality game, and ten other events with students and faculty on Dartmouth’s campus.

As a scholar, her intellectual contributions in the field of media and game studies stem from her cross-disciplinary interest in art history, literature, games, and film and video, with particular attention to the modernists, Fluxus, and other 20th century avant-garde movements. Her co-authored article “Anxiety, Openness, and Activist Games: A Case Study for Critical Play” was published in the Proceedings of the Digital Games Research Association, Uxbridge UK, 2009.

Because of her work ethic, assistance to others, and excellence in film and digital media, we are happy to select Anna Lotko as the first winner of the James Joseph Kaplan Filmmaker of the Year Award.”

Again, we could not have imagined a more suitable recipient, and we look forward to keeping in touch with Anna. Please visit her website, http://annalotko.com, and see for yourself!

We feel incredibly fortunate that so many professors in the Film Department knew and admired Jay so well as a student and friend, which made the establishment of the Award that much more meaningful and special for all of us. We’d like to thank Amy Lawrence, Jim Brown, and the entire Dartmouth Film Department for their time, support, and commitment to establishing the James Joseph Kaplan Filmmaker of the Year Award.

Additionally, 2010 saw the continuation of Ithaca High School’s James Joseph Kaplan Independent Spirit Award, now in its second year. We are pleased to announce that this year not one, but two students received the award: Jacob (Jake) Morris-Knower and William (Will) Krasnoff. Both Jake and Will impressed us not only with their truly independent natures, but even more so with their all-around good-natured attitudes and excitement about what the future may hold. They just so happen to be good friends, as well, which makes it that much more fun. Jacob is now a freshman at Pomona College in California, and Will, a freshman at Columbia University in New York.

In Jake’s own words:

“Oh man, this summer was pretty crazy. After catching up on four years’ of sleep deprivation from rowing, my friend Gabe and I rented a tandem bike and rode 507 miles in four days from Ithaca to Ocean City, MD. That was one of the craziest, hardest, stupidest, most rewarding adventures I’ve ever been on. Had we known what we were getting ourselves into- two mountain ranges, unreliable maps, not finding a hotel on Day 2- I don’t know I could have made it. Anyway, after kicking it in Ocean City for a week on the beach, I did the Cayuga Lake Triathalon, (almost drowned) and had an incredible time. I’ve been looking for SoCal triathalons ever since. Then I said goodbye to my friends and set off for the west, and haven’t looked back. I love all of my classes, I have no idea what I want to major in, I’m playing viola in a string quartet, and I’ve made so many incredible friends.

Will and I have actually both taken up rugby, unbeknownst to each other until just recently, which is particularly funny ’cause neither one of us is very big. At all. But he seems to be having just as good of a time as me- i.e. neither one of us appears to have any regard for our personal well-being.

Life is not just good, it’s amazing…”

And likewise, in Will’s own words:

“I’m making my way through my first semester here at Columbia and loving it. I started playing rugby and so far it has been a great decision. New York City is also pretty great- right now I am soaking in the sights and being overwhelmed by all the different things there are to do here. I recently performed in a play called Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead that meant a lot to me, as it had a powerful message regarding intolerance in schools. Aside from that I am reading lots of Greek literature and discovering that the classics are really not half bad….”

We look forward to keeping in touch with both of them and following their lives and careers, whatever and wherever they may be.

We continue to keep in touch with the Independent Spirit Award’s first recipient, Jacob Evelyn, now in his second year at Yale. He continues to be a rock star. Need we say more?

In other news outside of the Foundation:

In June, through the incredible efforts of Jay’s childhood friend Andrew Janis and with the support of many of Jay’s family and friends in Ithaca, the field at Cayuga Heights Elementary School was re-named the James Joseph Kaplan Field. Not only did Jay attend Cayuga Heights, but also the school is located down the street from the Kaplan home and continues to be used by both students and the community in a number of ways. After the dedication ceremony, everyone participated in a pick-up soccer game, another favorite past-time of Jay’s and one that will continue for years to come on the James Joseph Kaplan Field. Many thanks to Sarah Dinger for the incredible sign she created- we can’t imagine anything better capturing Jay, his qualities, and everything the field represents for all of us and for those to come.

Next time you find yourself in the Finger Lakes region, we highly recommend a pick-up game of soccer on the James Joseph Kaplan Field, followed by a Jay Kaplan sandwich from Collegetown Bagels. It’s a fool-proof plan!

Again, thank you for your unbelievable commitment to and belief in Jay’s Foundation. It continues to amaze and to inspire us, and Jay would no doubt be blown away by your incredible dedication. Please continue to check back in, as we have other ideas circulating, and as always, we love hearing any and all ideas and suggestions you may have as to other ways to continue Jay’s legacy. Thank you, thank you!