David Kaplan’s SXSW Success

Here’s a review every filmmaker would kill for.

Variety calls “Short Term 12”

a film about scars, some physical, others emotional, but all examined with a sensitivity and understanding that cuts deep.

Set in a group home for damaged adolescents where staff members face many of the same challenges as their young charges, this compelling human drama finds fresh energy in the inspirational-teacher genre, constantly revealing new layers to its characters….

Inexplicably passed over by Sundance…the stunning SXSW fest winner puts the recent Park City competition lineup to shame.

“SXSW” is, of course, South by Southwest — the film, music and interactive festival/conference that concludes today in Austin.

David Kaplan

David Kaplan

“Short Term 12” — which won the SXSW Grand Jury Award for Narrative Feature — is the 1st film from Animal Kingdom Films. Co-owner David Kaplan — a 2003 Staples and 2007 Colgate grad — started his movie-making career the way you always hear it should be done: in the mailroom of a Los Angeles talent agency.

“You push a cart, and hope the desk you’re gunning for opens up,” David explains. “Then it does, and you get kicked around by the masters of the universe.”

He learned about movies at “the macro level,” but wasn’t enamored of either LA or the studio system. He moved to New york, and worked for independent producer Christine Vachon (“Boys Don’t Cry”).

After working his way up to director of development, David left to become a strategic advisor. He helped indie producers raise funds, then began consulting and producing his own films.

“Short Term 12” — his new company’s 1st effort — could be a game-changer. The response has been great, David says, and he’s now in “the incredibly fortunate place where it seems to be selling itself” to distributors.

A scene from "Short Term 12."

A scene from “Short Term 12,” with Brie Larson and Keith Stanfield.

Though a decade out of high school, David credits much of his success back to Westport.

He was surrounded by students like Justin Paul, Daryl Wein, Leslye Headland and Peter Duchan — all of whom are making significant marks on Hollywood and Broadway.

At Staples David took a very meaningful film course taught by Gerry Kuroghlian. At Coleytown Middle School, David was inspired by drama teacher Ben Frimmer.

He also credits his supportive parents. “They didn’t push law school on me — even though they’re both lawyers,” he says.

David looks forward to the day “Short Term 12” is screened in his home town. He’s excited by the news that a theater is planned for Main Street.

He says, “it’s crazy Westport doesn’t have one now.”

Particularly since we’ve just added a SXSW Grand Jury winner to our long list of clever, creative film-making pros.

4 responses to “David Kaplan’s SXSW Success

  1. They should never hade taken “Fine Arts” cinemas out. Those were the days!

  2. Gerry Kuroghlian

    It is always great to hear that former Staples students are utilizing their talents in creative ways. David Kaplan’s sense of humor and quick wit made for lively class discussions and contributed to the environment of the classes he took with me. I sincerely hope his efforts contribute to the re-establishment of a cinema in Westport as a vital component of the film was was to attend current screenings.

  3. Congrats to David–love that review: “Inexplicably passed over by Sundance….” And I learned something new about Gerry–I didn’t realize he taught a film course. I would have signed up for that if he had offered it back in the day.

  4. Does anyone know where I can see this film??