Spotlight: John Kaplow, A Path to Community Television

John Kaplow

By John Kaplow, Independent Producer

As one of the independent producers in our group I have been asked to write a short piece about my training, background and current work. Here goes…

In 1967 the principal of my junior high school called me out of class to come to his office. In those days it meant the end of your world, except I didn’t know what infraction I had committed. The principal knew I was on the lighting crew – he had just purchased one of the first Sony Porta-Paks and told me to take a few classes ‘off’ and learn how to use it! I was hooked on using video to have fun and make money. I moved onto the lighting crew in high school and got to briefly talk with William Shatner who had just become famous with Star Trik.

After several attempts at college, I enrolled in NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Among my student projects was working with Divine as she taped a demo of “Women Behind Bars” and  commercials for Drakes Cakes for the Hispanic market. That’s where I learned that actors working with food have to have a bucket to spit out the food because after so many takes the actor would have a stomach ache!

I left NYU after 2 ½ years and sold all my belongings to travel to Los Angeles to accept a two-day job as a PA on an HBO Special. Most of my time was with Imero Fiorentino Associates, a lighting design company, as a staff PA. I worked on many great shows like “The Big Show” (someday I’ll tell you about the fight between Barbara Streisand and Neil Diamond).

An actors’ strike forced me to leave LA and move back to the East Coast. First, I worked for SIR, a musical instrument rental and rehearsal studio company with offices in LA and NYC. My first job? I became a designated tech for the second and third year of Saturday Night Live. Someday I’ll tell you about hanging out at the downtown bar that Belushi and Ackroyd bought so they had somewhere to go and decompress after the show wrapped that night.

I decided at this point to move away from production and into the business side of the industry. I joined Worldvision Enterprises, a syndication company. For three years I was the booker/scheduler for all episodes of “Little House on the Prairie” shown domestically, but I never got the chance to meet Melissa Gilbert.

Feeling that I was, as they say, ready to go out on my own, I started a small (one-person) production company, NJ VideoWorks, in 1987. I produced/directed programs for small ad agencies, non-profits and got my first taste of municipal work. Public access cable was just growing up at this time. I helped start Ocean Township’s channel in 2005 and volunteered there until 2007 when I moved to Asbury Park.

I started videotaping council meetings, using my own equipment. A woman had attempted to do this a few years before and was removed by police at the councils request, so I was warned about what I could be facing. However, I was allowed to continue. I posted the meetings on a YouTube channel which I established for just this purpose. This effort won the trust of the council, and in 2007 I was invited  by them to start work on establishing an Asbury Park channel.

For the first two years my time (unpaid) was taken with working with the cable carriers to get a head-end installed, writing our charter, and recruiting people to serve on the newly formed Asbury Park Cable Advisory Committee. I left APTV in 2010 to return to my business, which was almost entirely gone after two years of neglect. I did work for the local chamber of commerce, two different boards of education and another local access channel.

I am currently semi-retired (what’s that?), but still produce work for an ad agency, the Asbury Park Board of Education and a couple of non-profits.

I don’t know about the future of municipal access television. It’s really important yet still needs to fight for its place, and budget, every day. I have enjoyed my career tremendously, and I look forward to more adventures!