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John Landis takes aim at film studios and piracy

Story by Jack Foley

VETERAN director John Landis has taken aim at film studios declaring that “they’re not in the movie business anymore”.

Speaking at the Mar del Plata Film Festival in Argentina, the director of hit films such as The Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London and Trading Places said that the current culture of playing it safe was curtailing genuine creativity within the mainstream.

The Argentinean festival is currently staging a retrospective selection of his work and welcomed the filmmaker, who is also a prolific producer, to introduce several of his works.

And when grilled on his views by a selection of journalists, including The Hollywood Reporter, Landis seized the opportunity to put over his views.

He was quick to note, however, that there are “no villains” and that most decisions were governed by fear. But he said changes in thinking, the current economic climate and the need to make money had led to massive changes that weren’t necessarily to his liking.

Declaring himself lucky to have been able to make movies during the ’70s – which many now describe as the golden era of cinema – Landis said that the current studio model was unrecognisable from that which supported his early releases.

“The film studios are all now sub-divisions of huge multi-national corporations,” he stated. “Time Warner, British Petroleum, Sony – these aren’t companies, they are f**king nations. They are these giant international things that don’t pay taxes! It’s ridiculous. They’re like pirates.

“It really has to do with desperation, because they don’t know how to get people into the theatres, so they bring back 3D and make all this kind of shit!

“It’s very common now to spend more money selling a movie than making a movie. So, the reason they make remakes and sequels is because they’re brands, like Coca Cola. They remake movies because they have pre-sold titles.

“It’s tragic, because you have things like Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which is a brilliant movie, and yet the remakes have made a lot more money!”

Landis did, however, note that there was still a reassuring place in the market for quality films, just that “it’s just harder and harder to see them”.

And he even took a sideways swipe as the likes of James Cameron’s Avatar and Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, stating: “The studios are no longer interested in making good movies – they’re interested in movies that will bring you in. So you have movies like Avatar, or Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity. It’s wonderful to look at. Now, is it a good movie? No! But it’s entertaining, and it’s a spectacle and technically astonishing.”

He did attribute some of the reasons for this change in attitude to the effect of the Internet, not just on the film industry but also the music one. And he pointed the finger at piracy as being a major blow that is difficult to deal with.

“For YouTube, Google, Yahoo to exist, they thrive on piracy. They must steal intellectual property; they’re like vampires. So how do you fight that?” he asked.

“Everything is changing. Steve Jobs destroyed the music industry. He decided a song is worth 20 cents, just like that – boom, destroyed! So, everything has changed. [But] there are no villains here. No one has the handle on it. I understand why they’re scared. All their decisions are based on fear,” he concluded.

Read the full interview here

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