Picture Start Films
Biography of Elliot Caplan
Elliot Caplan during shooting for Hidden Things at Yad Vashem
Elliot Caplan during shooting for Hidden Things at Yad Vashem

Emmy award winning producer Elliot Caplan served as filmmaker in residence at the Cunningham Dance Foundation from 1983 until January 1998, collaborating with Merce Cunningham and John Cage in the production of films and videos. Together, their work has aired nationally on PBS, Bravo, Arts & Entertainment, and internationally to thirty-five countries. Beach Birds For Camera, a 35mm wide-screen film was first shown at L'Opera de Paris Garnier. Cage/Cunningham, a feature-length documentary on the life-long collaboration of Merce Cunningham and John Cage, was released theatrically by October Films, translated into six languages for international distribution, and distributed on home video by Kultur Video. Points In Space, commissioned by BBC-Television was distributed to more than 400 libraries in the United States through a grant from the MacArthur Foundation. Changing Steps, filmed at the Sundance Institute with an introduction by Robert Redford was produced in association with La Sept and distributed by Éditions a Voir.

From 1996-2000, Caplan served as segment producer for PBS's national series on art in America, "EGG," and received an Emmy Award and Cine Golden Eagle for "Outstanding Cultural Programming." His work includes segments on Richard Serra and The WhitneyBiennial 2000. As producer for City Arts, WNET/THIRTEEN, Caplan's work included, the making of Carmen Backstage at The Metropolitan Opera with James Levine, Plácido Domingo, Waltraud Meier and Franco Zeffirelli; Jackson Pollack @ MoMA; the restoration of the Rose Reading Room at The New York Public Library, Reading Room Restored; and a segment profiling architect/sculptor, Maya Lin.

Caplan's other work includes theater design and direction. In collaboration with Tony award winning performer Bill Irwin, Caplan designed an evening of theater and video, which was presented at The Roundabout Theatre in New York, June 1999. Caplan designed pieces that were performed by the Cunningham Company at the Next Wave Festival, Brooklyn Academy of Music, October 1997 and in Paris at the Opera Garnier, January 1998. Together with composer Michael Gordon and the orchestra ENSEMBLE RESONANZ, Caplan produced the twenty-six screen video opera Weather, sponsored by the Siemens Foundation Kultur Program and Oper Bonn, which toured five cities in Europe through 2001. In 1991, Caplan and Gordon made Van Gogh Video Opera, first performed at the Bang On A Can Festival and then at the Akademie der Bildenden Kunst, Vienna. With German choreographer Sasha Waltz, Caplan designed a sixteen-screen multi-monitor projection for live performance. Alle der Kosmonauten has been the recipient of numerous awards including, "Berliner Theatertreffen", 1996 and the National Theater Festival selection 1997, Seoul, Korea. Caplan produced the film, One To Four with British choreographer, Robert Poole which features Poole as performer. Additional film collaborations include works with Bruce Baillie, Richard Foreman, Yvonne Rainer and Susan Seidelman.

Caplan's work has received numerous awards, including: 1999-2000 Emmy Award for Outstanding Cultural Programming, National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences; 2000 Cine Golden Eagle Award, Outstanding Cultural Series; 1996 Gold Award, Dance On Camera Festival at Lincoln Center, Best Documentary; 1995 Bessie Award for Best New Video Work; "Grand Prix International Video Danse, 1994", and the "Categorie Captation de Spectacle Prix Academie des Beaux Arts", Stockholm, Sweden; 1993 Grand Prize, New York Dance on Camera Festival; 1993 IMZ Dance Screen Award Grand Prix; 1992 IMZ Dance Screen Award for Best Documentary for Cage/Cunningham. Points In Space, commissioned by BBC-Television was awarded the "Golden Prague" at the 25th International Television Festival, Czech Republic. Changing Steps received The New York Times Critics Choice, 1990 Gold Award Dance On Camera Festival, and the 2nd Grand Prix International Video-Danse Festival, France. Caplan's documentary art film on painter, Robert S. Zakanitch won the Chicago International Film Festival and the International Art Film Biennale at Centre George Pompidou, Paris.

Film and video retrospectives have been presented in Portugal, Holland, Japan and the United States. Video installations were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, Buenos Aires (1999); Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York; The Jewish Museum, Vienna (1997); Whitney Museum of American Art, Philip Morris Gallery, New York (1995); and the Cartier Foundation, Paris (1996). Caplan's work is included in the following permanent collections: The Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre George Pompidou and Cinematheque Francais, Paris, the National Institute of the Arts, Taiwan; Tanzfilm Institute, Cologne and the Munich Filmmuseum, Germany, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel, the Instituto Itaú Cultural, Brazil, and The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

He has taught courses, lectured and been in residence at colleges and universities in the United States and abroad including co-direction with Michael Kidd of the Dance/Film/Video Workshop at the Sundance Institute. Caplan has served as a panel member and juror for the National Endowment for the Arts, Mellon Foundation, Jacob's Pillow, IMZ Dance Screen, British Arts Council, Fulbright Fellowships, and the Sundance Film Festival. From 2004 to 2012, Caplan served as professor, Department of Media Study and artistic director, Center for the Moving Image at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. New initiatives completed under the Center included a national dance commissioning and preservation project and an international exchange program with a British university.

In 1998, Elliot Caplan founded Picture Start Films to facilitate art, performance and documentary media projects. Recent works include 15 Days of Dance: The Making of "Ghost Light", a 20-part film documenting of the dance-making process with American Ballet Theatre, Shamayim, a film and music project with composer David Felder and singer Nicholas Isherwood released October 2009 by Albany Records. Current projects include a new film with theater and film director Richard Foreman on his Bridge Project with Sophie Haviland, Hidden Things: A Children's Story, a documentary feature film funded in part by the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, Emergent Forms, an online collaborative dance initiative with choreographer Susan Sgorbati and dancers, and television projects with PBS/Live From Lincoln Center.

  • BA, Bard College
    Painting & Filmmaking
    Teaching Assistant, Art Department
  • MFA, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
    Graduate Assistantship
    Teaching Assistantship
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Elliot CaplanBiographyWorksTeachingAwards...
Current Projects: Richard ForemanHidden Things
Recent Projects: 15 Days of DanceShamayimSteel WorkUtango
Video: PBSVimeo,  Beach Birds for Camera

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