Jonathan Taplin

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Jonathan Taplin
Born (1947-07-18) July 18, 1947 (age 75)
OccupationScholar, film producer, writer
Spouse(s)Rosanna DeSoto (1974—1978)
Maggie Smith

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 since 1973. Taplin graduated from Princeton University in 1969 and is the Director Emeritus 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 Move Fast and Break Things: How Google, Facebook and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy, which was published by Little, Brown and Company in April 2017. Taplin's new memoir,The Magic Years: Scenes from a Rock and Roll Life was published in May 2021 by Heyday Books.The award winning journalist Robert Scheer called it "A really important book... The Magic Years is not nostalgia. It really puts you front and center, where we are."

Early career[edit]

Taplin began working as a part-time tour manager on weekends and school breaks 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 studying at Princeton University. He managed tours for Judy Collins in 1967 and helped Collins's manager Harold Leventhal produce A Tribute to Woody Guthrie at Carnegie Hall in January 1968; in addition to Collins, Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie, the concert featured Bob Dylan and The Band in their first live appearance since 1966. After graduating from Princeton in May 1969, Taplin moved to Woodstock, New York to serve as The Band's full-time tour manager. In mid-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 full-length public concert in three years.

Concert for Bangladesh[edit]

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.

Film production[edit]

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 second 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."[1] 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; The New Yorker's Pauline Kael said it was "a true original, and a triumph of personal filmmaking"[2] and "dizzyingly sensual".[3] 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, My Science Project,[4] 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.[5]

Entrepreneurial activities[edit]

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[edit]

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."[6] Taplin serves on the State of California Broadband Policy Taskforce and the Singapore Government Media Development Authority Advisory Board.

In 2017 Taplin published Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google and Amazon Have Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy (Pan, ISBN 978-1509847709). The book's title refers to a motto used by Facebook until 2014: "Move fast and break things". The reviewer in Forbes said that "Taplin’s book posits that intellectual property has been usurped by what he calls the new "marketing monoculture" led by Facebook, Amazon and Google.",[7] while The Guardian's reviewer summarises the book as: "the titans of the digital age frequently behave like spoiled and ignorant brats with far, far more money than sense; and their victims include many of the artists who create things of real value and who can no longer earn a living from doing so."[8]


  1. ^ Kael, Pauline, "The Current Cinema", New Yorker, October 8, 1973 p. 156
  2. ^ Kael, Pauline, "The Current Cinema", New Yorker, October 8, 1973 p. 157
  3. ^ Kael, Pauline, "The Current Cinema", New Yorker, October 8, 1973 p. 157
  4. ^ Holden, Stephen (August 10, 1985). "FILM: 'SCIENCE PROJECT,' FROM JONATHAN BETUEL". The New York Times. Retrieved June 5, 2012.
  5. ^ Biskind, Peter "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls", Simon and Schuster, 1999.
  6. ^ The Wall Street Journal
  7. ^ Runciman, David (April 26, 2017). "Move Fast and Break Things by Jonathan Taplin review – the damage done by Silicon Valley". The Guardian. Retrieved September 17, 2019.
  8. ^ Auerbach, Brad (April 18, 2017). "Review: Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture". Forbes. Retrieved September 17, 2019.

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