Fairs & Festivals

Landis in town, thanks to Skype

SARASOTA — Remember that volcanic eruption in Iceland that had all air traffic in northern Europe at a stand-still? It also kept film director John Landis — who just wrapped up editing his latest film in London — from attending the Sarasota Film Festival’s Filmmaker’s Tribute, which was held in his honor.

It kept him away physically, but not electronically.

With the wonders of modern technology, Landis was still able to enjoy Saturday night’s event at the Sarasota Opera House — via Skype, an Internet phone/video conference application.

“I once did ‘Larry King’ this way,” Landis said while being interviewed by film festival artistic director Tom Hall.

“Is this better or worse?” Hall asked.

“You are more coherent than Larry King,” Landis replied good-naturedly.

Before Landis appeared via Skype on a large screen at the opera house, the audience watched a video tribute of his finest works.

The director is known for directing cult classics, including “Animal House” and “An American Werewolf in London.”

Other claims to fame include “Coming To America” and Michael Jackson’s epic video “Thriller.”

A live dance performance of “Thriller” was performed on stage in sync with the video, after an introduction by actor Vincent D’Onofrio.

Ever the director, Landis, critiqued the video tribute, saying it had odd cuts, which brought laughter from the audience. But, overall, he enjoyed watching it, even if, looking back on his life’s work gave him an eerie feeling.

“It was very strange,” he said, sitting in front of a British flag on Skype. “I thought that I died.”

Humorous throughout, Landis talked about the joys of filmmaking, his skills as a director and the industry. He also talked about his new British film, “Burke and Hare” — a comedy about the 19th century grave robberies/murders in Scotland.

“It’s a movie that the studios would never make now,” he said.

“I’ve lived through the death of Hollywood ... It’s corporate now. It’s reflected in the pictures.”

The film will be released in the United Kingdom in October.

Landis also wished the young filmmakers in the audience good luck, encouraging them to read more books because he believes good storytelling is becoming a lost art in Hollywood.

“I really want people to make movies, because they’re aren’t enough good movies,” he said.

January Holmes, Herald features writer, can be reached at 745-7057.