Jonathan Trumbull Taplin (born July 18, 1947) is an American writer, film producer and scholar. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio and has lived in Los Angeles, California since 1973. Taplin graduated from Princeton University in 1969 and is currently the Director of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Taplin is married to the photographer Maggie Smith and has three children: Daniela Lundberg, a film producer; Nicholas Taplin, a recording engineer and Blythe Taplin, a human rights lawyer.
Taplin's early production work included producing concerts for Bob Dylan and The Band. In 1973 he produced Martin Scorsese's first major feature film, Mean Streets which was selected for the Cannes Film Festival. Between 1974 and 1996, Taplin produced 26 hours of television documentaries (including The Prize and Cadillac Desert for the Public Broadcasting Service) and 12 feature films including The Last Waltz, Until the End of the World, Under Fire and To Die For. His films were nominated for Academy Awards and Golden Globe Awards and chosen for the Cannes Film Festival six times. Taplin is the author of Outlaw Blues: Adventures in the Counter-Culture Wars, an enhanced eBook from Annenberg Press.
Taplin began working as a tour manager for Albert Grossman Management in the summer of 1965. Grossman was a manager of folk and rock musicians in the 1960s, with clients including Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary, Janis Joplin and The Band. Taplin began work for the Jim Kweskin Jug Band while still a student at Princeton. In 1967 he managed tours for Judy Collins and helped Collins's manager Harold Leventhal produce the 1968 Tribute to Woody Guthrie at Carnegie Hall, which featured Bob Dylan and The Band, Judy Collins, Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie. In 1969, after graduating from Princeton, Taplin moved to Woodstock, New York to manage tours for The Band. In early August of that year, The Band played at the Woodstock Festival, and in late August Taplin managed Bob Dylan and The Band's appearance at the Isle of Wight Festival in England, Dylan's first public concert in three years.
Concert for Bangladesh
In June 1971, George Harrison asked Taplin to help him and Ravi Shankar stage a benefit concert at Madison Square Garden for the newly created state of Bangladesh, which was undergoing extreme famine conditions. The resulting Concert for Bangladesh, with appearances by Harrison, Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton and others was the first benefit concert of this magnitude in world history. The concert, record and film have raised millions of dollars for UNICEF. In a documentary about the concert, Taplin tells the famous story of trying to get Eric Clapton (undergoing heroin withdrawal) on stage.
In early 1973, Taplin moved to Los Angeles where he was introduced to a young film editor who had worked on the Woodstock documentary, Martin Scorsese. Scorsese, who had just finished shooting his first feature, Boxcar Bertha, for Roger Corman, showed Taplin his script named Season of the Witch (co-written with Mardik Martin). Changing the title to Mean Streets at the suggestion of their mutual friend Jay Cocks, Taplin later told Peter Biskind that "I was naive enough to think that if I could have produced 150 concerts, I could produce a movie."  Taplin raised US$500,000 independently and Scorsese cast Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro. Shot in 34 days, the film was eventually sold to Warner Bros. for distribution. The film was hailed by many critics[who?] as one of the most original American films of the 1970s and The New Yorker's Pauline Kael said it was "a true original, and a triumph of personal filmmaking" and "dizzyingly sensual". In 1997, Mean Streets was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
After Mean Streets Taplin produced or executive produced The Last Waltz, Under Fire, Until the End of the World, To Die For and three long form documentary series The Prize (Public Broadcasting Service), Native Americans (TBS), and Cadillac Desert (PBS). He was also instrumental in the distribution of Shine when he ran the American division of Pandora (a Paris-based film distributor that controlled the distribution rights to Shine) and had a legendary confrontation with Harvey Weinstein at the Sundance Film Festival.
In 1984, while working as an independent producer at Walt Disney Pictures, Taplin worked with Richard Rainwater and Sid Bass of Fort Worth, Texas to help Disney fend off a corporate raid by Saul Steinberg. Taplin then joined Merrill Lynch Investment Banking as a Vice President for Media Mergers and Acquisitions. He was involved with various transactions with companies such as Viacom and Vestron. In 1996 Taplin founded the first Internet Video On Demand service, Intertainer, with Richard Baskin and Jeremiah Chechik. Investors included Intel, Comcast, Microsoft, NBC, Qwest and Sony. By 2000 the service had licensed more than 7000 films from Sony, Warner Bros., Universal Studios, Lions Gate Entertainment, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and others. In 2002, Intertainer's shareholder, Sony, launched a similar service MovieLink in a joint-venture with Warner Bros., Universal, MGM and Paramount Pictures. Soon after that, the major studios stopped licensing films to Intertainer and the service was forced to close down. In September 2002, Intertainer filed an anti-trust suit against three major entertainment companies, AOL Time Warner, Vivendi Universal and Sony and their wholly owned service, Movielink in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, Western Division, accusing them of conspiracy to fix prices in the digital distribution of entertainment and restraint of trade. In March 2006, the defendants reached an out of court settlement with Intertainer. The lawsuit "was resolved to the satisfaction of all parties." Intertainer currently is in the business of licensing its video on demand patent portfolio. Companies such as Microsoft, Comcast, The Thomson Corporation and Apple Inc. are currently license holders.
Teaching and writing
In January 2004, Taplin joined the faculty of the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication as an adjunct professor. In 2008 he was appointed a full Clinical Professor for the Communications School. His area of specialization is in the field of digital entertainment and International Communication Management. He conducts three seminars a year with communication leaders called The Art of The Long View. He is a member of the Annenberg Research Network for International Communication. In August 2010, Taplin was appointed Director of the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab. The Lab is funded by the University as well as corporations such as IBM, Intel, Cisco, Verizon, Warner Bros., Orange, DirecTV, EPB, Levi Strauss, and Petrobras. In December 2010, Annenberg Press published Taplin's breakthrough enhanced eBook, Outlaw Blues: Adventures in the Counter-Culture Wars. The Wall Street Journal noted, "What makes Outlaw Blues stand out from the similar cultural memoirs is that Taplin packaged it specifically for the iPad, which he embraced on day one. He lovingly embedded 105 videos into the book's pages." Taplin serves on the State of California Broadband Policy Taskforce and the Singapore Government Media Development Authority Advisory Board.
- Kael, Pauline, "The Current Cinema", New Yorker, October 8, 1973 p. 156
- Kael, Pauline, "The Current Cinema", New Yorker, October 8, 1973 p. 157
- Kael, Pauline, "The Current Cinema", New Yorker, October 8, 1973 p. 157
- Biskind, Peter "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls", Simon and Schuster, 1999.
- Jonathan Taplin at the Internet Movie Database
- Jonathan Taplin's page at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
- Jon Taplin- Outlaw Blues
- USC Annenberg Innovation Lab