PRODUCTION SOUND MIXER
WILLIAM B. KAPLAN, CAS
The Cinema Audio Society will present multiple CAS- and Oscar-nominated sound mixer William B. Kaplan, CAS, with the organization’s highest accolade, the CAS Career Achievement Award.
Bill Kaplan grew up on the sets of MGM, where his father worked. He sat on the camera dolly watching Gene Kelly dance for Singing in the Rain, Humphrey Bogart push the African Queen on stage, and Marlon Brando command the Bounty through a massive storm on Stage 30.
His high school years were spent at the Happy Valley School, an experimental boarding school co-founded by women’s rights activist Annie Besant (the school was later renamed Besant Hill School of Happy Valley in recognition of Ms. Besant’s original vision of an educational community), Guido Ferrando, philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti and novelist Aldous Huxley. Rebellious at the beginning and student body president in the end, he remains an executive board member of this school that turned his life around. He then attended Cal Western University, University of Arizona, USC, and UCLA, majoring in psychology and pre-med. Eventually, he was wait-listed for film school.
A Hong Kong film producer, meanwhile, saw the list and offered Kaplan a job to DP on his 35mm, Mitchell rack-over, CinemaScope feature. Having no familiarity with the equipment, he accepted the position but read the ASC manual for that camera all night.
Ultimately, Kaplan received a master’s degree in film from UCLA. The eager filmmaker’s hunger resulted in shooting and recording hundreds of training films, commercials and instructionals. He made his way to Roger Corman and New World Pictures and was DP on many low-budget disco, racing and western films. He was eventually offered $600 a week as a sound mixer, including equipment, instead of the $250 a week he was making as a DP. The die was cast, and a sound mixer was born.
In 1977 John Landis hired Kaplan as sound mixer for The Kentucky Fried Movie. He continued with Landis for eight more films, including Animal House, The Blues Brothers and Coming to America. Over the next four decades, Kaplan was the primary sound mixer for directors Robert Zemeckis and Tony Scott on more than 20 projects. On the film , Kaplan recorded live dialog between actors in fighter jets traveling at speeds beyond the sound barrier. Later, given Bill’s extensive experience with stop motion, he was hired on Avatar.
Kaplan has garnered seven Oscar nominations, including Tony Scott’s Top Gun and Crimson Tide and Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, Contact, Cast Away and The Polar Express. He also has a CAS win for Forrest Gump, as well as three other CAS nominations. He has contributed to 155 feature films and has recorded many well-known motion capture video games. Currently, he is working on The Morning Show for Apple TV.
Kaplan is a proud father of his two adult children. His daughter, Lindsey, lives in Colorado and is studying to be a veterinarian. His son, Jesse, worked as a boom/utility on Avatar and other films and now travels the world installing private television broadcast studios. Kaplan lives in Agoura Hills and has no plans to retire any time soon. While he enjoys his horses and goats on his small ranch, he still loves going to work every day!