On December 24th, 2008, James Joseph Kaplan passed away at UCLA Medical Center as a result of an aneurysm from an arteriovenous malformation.
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 Sudikoff and the Film Building, reveling in the intricacies of both computers and filmmaking, constantly yearning to learn more.
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. And he loved Jesus.
Jay and Elle moved to Santa Monica, 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 confidant, 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.