After three decades of making his mark in the telecommunications industry, Art Klein (B.S. ’76) finally decided to follow in his sons’ footsteps … and into show business.
The executive producer’s latest movie, Nobel Son, was released on DVD in March. Starring Alan Rickman, Mary Steenburgen, and Bill Pullman, the dark comedy tells the story of an arrogant, self-absorbed chemistry professor (Rickman) who wins a Nobel Prize and later learns that his son has been kidnapped and ransomed for the $2 million in prize money. The father refuses to part with his winnings, setting the stage for betrayal, revenge, and a healthy dose of family dysfunction.
Another film, Bottle Shock, starring Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, Chris Pine, and Eliza Dushku, premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and has received positive reviews from critics. Rolling Stone called the film “hugely entertaining” and “a winner.” The movie is based on a true story about “The Judgment of Paris,” a 1976 competition that marked a turning point in the wine industry as French judges rated California wines better than their French counterparts. “This event,” says Art, “is what put Napa Valley on the map.”
From his home in Danville, Calif., which overlooks the luxurious Falls Golf Course at Blackhawk, the tech industry veteran explains how he was able to transition from Silicon Valley to independent film.
“The skills I used in the tech industry, especially as it relates to young startup companies and developing exit strategies, is not much different than how I approach independent films,” says Art. Due diligence, budgets, scheduling, and knowing your investors are all part of the same business mindset he had while serving in various executive positions at tech companies for three decades.
That career began in 1976. After earning his NYIT bachelor’s degree in business administration, the Queens, N.Y., native worked in the sales department at RCA. After several years, he left to handle sales for Cylix Communications, where he helped boost revenues to $16 million over four years.
In 1985, Art became vice president of sales at Vitalink Communications, which assisted broadcast companies in setting up satellite networks. During his time with Vitalink, he oversaw the satellite provider’s transformation into an Ethernet bridge business until his departure in 1993. “I began talking with people about building Ethernet portals using multi-protocol routers,” says Art. “We had the ability to extend local area network [LAN] connections over a wide area network using terrestrial circuits. This allowed Ethernet to Ethernet connections to appear on the same network.”
Throughout the 1990s, Art worked for more tech companies, including Atlantec and Assured Access Technologies (the latter he founded with a group of engineers). Later, he was recruited by venture capitalists to serve as president and CEO of ipVerse, a voice over Internet protocol provider.
After retiring in 2001, Art got involved with producing independent movies following a conversation with his son, Hal, a film actor in Los Angeles. This eventually led to his involvement in the production of The Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing and Charm School, starring Marisa Tomei, John Goodman, and Robert Carlyse.
Since the debut of Marilyn Hotchkiss in 2005, Art has gone on to produce other films, including Killer Movie , a spoof of reality TV shows gone bad; Jack and the Beanstalk, a live-action TV movie that stars Katey Sagal, Gilbert Gottfried, and Christopher Lloyd; and Lily’s Light, a children’s musical.
It’s been an interesting journey for the NYIT graduate turned independent film producer, who still keeps in contact with the tech industry through his investments in several firms. If you ask Art, he’d probably say that working in the movie biz was not on his list of career goals when he started out in the sales department of RCA’s New York offices. But with two sons in the motion picture industry, perhaps it was just a matter of time (his other son, Scott, works as a studio executive for Sony Entertainment).
One thing is certain: life is good in Silicon Valley, where he and Sally, his wife of 38 years, have lived since 1989.
“If nothing else, you can’t beat the weather,” says the former New Yorker. “Though it took me 20 years to find a place that made decent pizza.”