After stroke, John Zander working to get back on his feet

DOWNEY - As a sought-after producer in the fast-paced world of reality television, John Zander was never unacquainted with stress and anxiety. Since starting his own production company Reel Reel Entertainment, working 16-20 hours a day was always the norm for Zander, who devoted the last three years to producing reality TV shows.

"There were a couple of pilots that stayed with the networks for several weeks," said Zander. "There was one about a family-run water park in New Jersey. Another about a driving instructor teaching people with anxiety.

"I really loved doing it, but it was hectic and stressful," Zander said with a sigh.

Two months ago, the immense workload caught up with Zander ultimately leading to a sudden, life-altering stroke, leaving the former film producer unable to work.

"It was the biggest surprise. I had a headache that I thought I was going to die from," he said. "I could tell from the look in the eyes of the paramedics that I was in trouble."

There was no waiting. The married father of one 15-year-old son was taken to the hospital immediately.

After some CT scans and MRI, doctors determined that Zander in fact suffered a major stroke due to a blood clot.

"The pain was so bad, morphine didn't do anything," said Zander who know walks with a cane. "I lost one-third of my vision - my depth perception is off. I'm still a little wobbly, but I hope to get rid of that."

Although grieved, Zander understands he cannot return to a career in the entertainment industry. "I wouldn't be able to do what I did - paperwork, phone calls, shooting, filming - 16 to 20 hours a day, but I need to take care of my family so I'm going to lean on my photography work," he said. Zander plans to use his longtime passion of professional photography to support his wife and son.

"I've taken landscape pictures, shots of people on the know, things that are cool and people were asking to buy them," he said. "I want to offer my services to families in town during the holidays."

Over the next several weeks, Zander will shoot holiday portraits for local residents in the hope of earning some Christmas money for his family. "You just don't want to be broke in December," said Zander with a laugh. "That's why I'm trying to do portraits. It's less stress and I can still be my own boss."

A Downey resident since 1966, Zander is confident the community will support him as he makes the transition from Hollywood producer to family photographer.

"I'm looking forward to my new career," said a smiling Zander. "If I could do this, I'll be able to take care of my family."

To see John's photo work or schedule a portrait, visit his website or contact Zander at

********** Published: December 6, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 34