Inside Stephen Apkon’s “Green” Room at Jacob Burns' Media Arts Lab


Since its opening 10 years ago, many a Westchesterite has taken in a classic film at the red-velvet-curtained Jacob Burns Film Center, but fewer have been to the Center’s corporate and educational Media Arts Lab down the street. JBFC Executive Director Stephen Apkon says that he loves working in the 27,000-square-foot, LEED Gold-Certified space, with its natural light, recycled materials, and open floor plan. “I like being in the middle of everything,” says the 49-year-old Massachusetts native. “This space is about communication and creativity, and we’re about storytelling, so the space keeps me grounded in our focus.” Here, Apkon gives us front-row seats to his work space—the director’s cut.

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1. “This is from our opening ten years ago. The ‘ribbon’ is actually a piece of film. That’s me, Glenn Close, Ang Lee, Paul Schrader, then-County Executive Andy Spano, Janet Maslin, and Francis Veber.”

2. “This American flag flew over the Capitol. It was a gift from Congresswoman Nita Lowey on our first anniversary.”

3. “We commissioned these for some of our retiring board members. They are all made out of leader from film that’s been wrapped in sculptural form by a wonderful sculptor who is also a cinematographer. If you look at them in the light, you’ll see images.”

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4. “These are passes from the Cannes film festival, Sundance, et cetera.”

5. “Bucky Pizzarelli, the great jazz guitarist who has a history of playing here and is a born-and-bred Boston Red Sox fan, painted this. It’s the Green Monster at Fenway.”

6. “I’ve raised three Red Sox fans here in New York, so someone gave me a bottle of ‘Big Papi’ wine.”

7. “For now, this Super 8 camera is something to play with, but we’re thinking of introducing it into classes. We’re all digital, but there’s a tactile difference with film.”

8. “This plugs into my cell phone to keep away from those rays.”

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9. “Elmo was here this past September for the premiere of Being Elmo.”

10. “This boy from Charleston, South Carolina, had read an article about our programs. His parents gave him the choice of going to Disney World or coming up to the Jacob Burns Film Center to take a weekend animation class, and he chose to come up here.”

11. “A variety of special guests. From our tenth anniversary, Ron Howard, Steven Spielberg, Ang Lee, and myself. From past years, there’s Ed Harris, Robert Redford, Jerry Goldberg, Sam Rockwell, George Clooney, and Janet Maslin. It’s great fun and it’s exciting to have these people here, but it’s also tremendously affirming.”

12. “This is a quote from a good friend of mine, Albert Maysles, and it’s really been a guiding quote for this place and for all of our work here: ‘The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. If stories come to you, care for them and learn to give them away when they’re needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. That is why we put these stories in each other’s memory. This is how people care for themselves.’”

13. “Today’s pretty gray, but ninety-plus percent of the days, we’re working to natural light. There are no lights on. That’s a really nice work environment.”

Photo by Ken Stabile

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