Town Talk Features

Get to Know: Jay Kanzler

You could ask Jay Kanzler how many different roles he plays in life, but it might actually take less time to list the ones he doesn’t. The Clayton resident is an attorney, husband, dad, media consultant, filmmaker, script writer, boxing judge, radio personality and Episcopalian minister (among others!) and says he strives to give each the attention it deserves. The SLU School of Law alum enjoys collaborating with others to make good things happen in the community.

Through his legal practice at Witzel Kanzler & Dimmitt, Kanzler often helps immigrants and entrepreneurs get a start in St. Louis. “I love getting to know people who are new to the area and then watching them succeed,” he says. He’s also represented a number of businesses affected by the 2014 Ferguson riots. Kanzler and his wife, Karen, have been married more than 30 years and have two children.

original roots
I grew up in New Hampshire and moved to St. Louis the summer after my senior year, so I’m afraid I can’t answer the local high school question! My dad worked for Ralston Purina, and my mom and brother still live here. One of the best things about St. Louis is that we have big-city opportunities in a small and friendly package. If there is good to be done here, people are happy to get involved.

the big screen
I’ve been making films since 2004. I’ve done documentaries and feature-length narrative films, all of which have won awards. (Some examples: 23 Minutes to Sunrise [2012], Marshall’s Miracle [2015] and Talk Radio [2016]) My wife and I used to go to a lot of film festivals, so I ordered a couple of books on documentary film production and gathered up some folks to discuss making a movie about Circus Flora. After that, I was hooked. It’s such a difficult process, and there are so many ways to fail, but you’re so happy when the project is done. Anyone who makes a film, whether for $100 or $100 million, should be proud.

stl as a film destination
When I’m creating a film, I try to shoot in St. Louis or the Metro East whenever possible. There’s such great talent in this area. I’ve done quite a bit of filming in Illinois too, in Edwardsville, Troy and Sauget. My next movie probably will be a documentary, unless someone wants to give me $5 million to do something else.

family time
We’re all pretty busy, so we try to double up on things. If one of my kids is traveling to Florida for sports, I overlap my schedule with theirs for a vacation. We try to find those opportunities wherever possible to create rewarding memories together. My family means everything to me.

life as a lawyer
It’s common to want to help people, but being an attorney is something special. No one comes to you saying, “Hey, life is great, can you help me spend my millions?” They approach you when they’re hurting and need help. The fact that people would put that much trust in you, to help them fix their lives, is humbling and terrifying at the same time. The fear of letting them down can be daunting, but the ability to be of real help is very fulfilling.

in the ring
I’ve been a boxing judge for about four years. I’ve loved the sport since I was a kid watching Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in the ‘70s. I never participated because I didn’t want to get knocked around, but I wanted to get involved as an adult. I shadowed a judge to literally learn ‘the ropes’ and got my license through USA Boxing. I love the young men and women in this sport—they’re usually from areas that don’t offer a lot of other options for success, so I enjoy helping them learn self-respect and seeing them do something positive.

ordained to serve
I became an Episcopal minister about 10 years ago. I have a master’s degree in theology, also from SLU. I always wanted to be a clergyman and originally thought about it when I was an undergrad. It was always with me, although I never felt like I had to do it as a career. I fill in at parishes whenever I’m needed. I’m also involved with a program called Night Life that provides food and outreach to people living on the street. Being a minister doesn’t give you all of life’s answers—in fact, I ask more questions than most people! There’s no superhero cape. The faith I have is mostly a belief that I can always keep trying to help.

on the air
I have a talk radio show on KTRS AM 550, and I’ve served as an on-camera legal expert for CNN, MSNBC, the BBC, CBS and Fox. I try to keep the discussion varied and entertaining on my show. I would consider myself a moderate Republican, but that’s really not the focus of the program. I like to talk about all kinds of issues and am open to various points of view. Some of my favorite guests have been people involved with the arts, comedians and folks who are out there doing crazy things.

Photo: Bill Barrett