The Department of Film & Media Studies will greatly miss Jay, who is very fondly remembered. Below is an obituary that appeared in The Ithaca Journal. It, and a guestbook, can be found at the Ithaca Journals website.
FORMERLY OF ITHACA - On December 24th, 2008, James Joseph Kaplan passed away
at UCLA Medical Center as a result of an aneurysm from an arteriovenous
James Joseph Kaplan, affectionately known as Jay, lived the best life ever -
especially if you asked him. Whether enjoying his morning cappuccino,
finishing the final cut of a film project, or just sliding into a good pair
of Levi's, Jay took the greatest pleasure in all life had to offer.
Born in Royal Oak, Michigan on January 19, 1980, Jay moved with his family
to Ithaca, NY when he was six. Since childhood, Jay and his brothers always
had a unique relationship. They seemed to have their own language, which
always revolved around laughter and humor.
Jay demonstrated the ability and the drive to teach himself anything he
found interesting; the more challenging, the better. Difficult or
complicated concepts fascinated Jay, whether studying the neural functions
of a mouse's brain or the intricate details of photographic lighting,
preferring to capture a sunset's fading light as it passed over vinyl siding
versus a typical shot of the horizon.
After graduating Ithaca High School, Jay attended Dartmouth College where he
again left his mark as student, friend, filmmaker, and magician. He majored
in Computer Science modified with Film Studies, realizing and expanding a
profound love for film that would stay with him forever. He spent countless
all-nighters in both Sudikoff and the Film Building, reveling in the
intricacies of both computers and filmmaking, constantly yearning to learn
One person in particular who immediately took to Jay after barely meeting
him was his future wife, Elle. Jay and Elle met in film class his junior
year at Dartmouth, and she spent the next five months "accidentally" running
into him. They started dating with three weeks left in her senior year
(Jay's junior year), and they spent nearly every day of the next seven and a
half years together. To try to describe their relationship, the unparalleled
humor, respect, and the profound love they shared for one another is
impossible to do in normal words. But in Jay and Elle terms, they "love,
love, loved each other...KABAJILLION." In normal words, she adored him from
the day she met him.
Jay and Elle spent over two years in Atlanta, where Jay formed an amazing
relationship with Elle's parents and immediately became known as the newest
member of the Seigler family, befriending old friends as if he had known
them his whole life. He began working in the Atlanta film scene, quickly
earning the reputation as the best Production Assistant in town.
Jay and Elle moved to California where Jay worked as an assistant to
Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, the directors of Little Miss Sunshine.
Again, Jay immediately became the newest member of the Dayton/Faris family,
as well as a trusted confident, creative consultant, and friend to both
Jonathan and Val. In addition, Jay had numerous projects of his own going on
at all times, getting off work at 6 p.m. and immediately beginning work on
his own commercial, viral, or film.
Yet even with all the talent, drive, work ethic, and deep interest in all
things, Jay continued to take such great pleasure in the simplest of things,
like a hooded zip-up sweatshirt on a cool fall day, or on a sunny California
day. He adored children and animals, sitting still for literally hours if an
animal fell asleep on him so as not to disturb their slumber.
Jay's zest for life was infectious, and anyone who met him instantaneously
became a little bit fuller with his love, enthusiasm, and passion. He was a
compass for those who sought his guidance, a trusting confidant for those
who needed compassion, and a best friend for anyone who needed one, which
turned out to be quite a few people.
Jay is survived by his doting wife, Eleanor Hart Seigler (Elle/Smell); his
parents, Marc and Phyllis Kaplan; his brother and sister-in-law, Chris
(Chico) and Sara Kaplan and their children, Kendall and Noah; and his
brother and sister-in-law, Rob (Bunt) and Erin Kaplan. He will be forever
loved and missed.
A James Joseph Kaplan Foundation is in the process of being established, the
funds from which will ultimately go towards filmmakers who exhibit the
incredible qualities and characteristics of Jay, as well as additional
charities. Much of his film work can currently be seen on Youtube under the
name "Chuckhoke" - please watch in high resolution when possible. Memorial
services will be held on January 25th in Santa Monica, California. Further
information concerning the Ithaca memorial will be published at a later
Last Updated: 1/13/09