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Elliot Caplan

Condensed Biography


Filmmaker, producer/director Elliot Caplan served as the filmmaker-in-residence for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. His work in documentary, art filmmaking, and performance with choreographer Cunningham, composer John Cage video artist Nam June Paik and filmmaker Bruce Baillie is internationally recognized.  Caplan’s films and videos are in museum and film collections throughout the world. Caplan received an Emmy Award for “Outstanding Cultural and Historical Programming” for his work on the PBS Network. He is the recipient of numerous grants and awards. Film and video retrospectives have been presented in Portugal, Holland, Japan and the United States. 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 and Stanley Donen of the Dance/Film/Video Workshop at the Sundance Institute. In 1996, Caplan founded Picture Start Films to facilitate his artistic work.

Selected Press:

The New York Times, “Beautifully filmed …A revolutionary project”.

The Washington Post, “One of the things which makes the film remarkable is that although the ingredients are familiar with other documentaries…the tapestry that Caplan has woven from these threads is not like any you’ve seen before”. 

TIME OUT/ London, “Attention: genius at work.  Elliot Caplan’s lovingly observed film is one of the most entertaining and revealing entries in the short ‘Summer Dance’ season.



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. Steel Work was commissioned by Ballet Opera Linz with Poole as choreographer, and music by Philip Glass, David Bowie and Brian Eno.  Additional film collaborations include works with Bruce Baillie (The Cardinal's Visit), Yvonne Rainer (Journey To Berlin) and Susan Seidelman (Smithereens).

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. Notable works include 15 Days of Dance: The Making of "Ghost Light", a 20-part film documenting the dance-making process with American Ballet Theatre and Paul Taylor: Process - a multi-part document of choreographer Taylor in his last two years of making dances. As SUNY professor of Media Study, Caplan commissioned theatrical director Richard Foreman's new feature film Once Every Day. During production Caplan recorded Foreman for My Name is Rainer Thompson and I've Lost It Completely.  Shamayim, Netivot, Jeu de Tarot are theatrical music projects made with composer David Felder. For PBS/ Live From Lincoln Center, Caplan shot and produced segments Curtain Up: The School of American Ballet Workshop with a feature-length documentary titled The School of American Ballet 2014 Workshop and Simple Gifts: The Chamber Music Society at Shaker Village with a feature-length documentary, A Gift to Be Simple.  Emergent Forms developed with choreographer, teacher Susan Sgorbati and dancers from Bennington College and Trisha Brown Company. The film was completed in 2016.   Hidden Things: A Children's Story, is a documentary feature film currently in post-production, funded in part by the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture.



  • BA, Bard College
    Painting & Filmmaking
    Teaching Assistant, Art Department

  • MFA, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago Filmmaking
    Graduate Assistantship    
    Teaching Assistantship

  Donald DuBois

Donald DuBois has worked in film production for over 25 years.  His work includes feature films, documentaries and educational programming.  DuBois began his career while still in college by co-founding a production company producing a nature film about Long Island that was funded in part through the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.


He began working with Elliot Caplan in 2002 and has since collaborated with him on a variety of projects including work with Merce Cunningham, American Ballet Theatre, School of American Ballet, Paul Taylor Dance Co., Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Mills College, Bennington College, choreographer Pam Tanowitz, jazz artist Roswell Rudd, silk screen printer Gary Lichtenstein, playwright Richard Foreman, composer David Felder, Holocaust survivor Samuel Pisar.


His work has shown or resides at the New York Public Library, National Gallery of Art, New York Film Festival, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Sans Souci Festival of Dance Cinema, and PBS’ Live From Lincoln Center.


He is production manager, cinematographer and online editor at the Picture Start Films office in New York City where he oversees the editing and post-production of numerous projects.

Positive press includes: The New York Times, Time Out NY, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post Magazine, Writing Dance.




• BA, Hofstra University

Communications, Film

Fine Arts, Photography


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