Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Park mourns the loss of Ol'Cine Prof Skip Landen

It's a sad day for the Park School and for generations of alumni: Skip Landen, Professor Emeritus of Cinema and Photography is being laid to rest today in Arkansas.

Skip, who in retirement called himself the "Ol' Cine Prof", mentored generations of communications students, many of whom say that they owe their careers to him. He created one of the ties that continued to bind our students and alums -- his typewritten newsletter that for decades was his brag sheet about alums' new promotions, marriages, and babies.

Through Skip's tireless efforts to promote the college and support our students, we have benefited from the Pendleton endowment that supports our Los Angeles Center and so many other student and facutly initiatives. The "Golden Doorknob" film contest continues his legacy of his assignments to students to produce a film in which a person meets his/her demise because of a doorknob; many of our alumni cherish their Doorknob films and the little awards he gave out every year. Several years ago, former dean Dianne Lynch and a number of alums put on a wonderful tribute to Skip in Los Angeles (picture above).

Carl Mazzacone '81, who has been a faithful supporter of Skip and his legacy, was kind enough to get the word out on Skip's passing, and has been in contact with Skip's son, Berry. Carl reports:

Berry credits the love and affections Skip has received from everyone who attended his tribute dinner and the contact from you all after the party, for extending his life. On a funny note Berry has requested the movie which played at his tribute dinner be played at the funeral. Today Berry met with some resistance from the minister over the 45 minute running time of the Tribute Film. Then Berry asked the Minister, "how long are you speaking for", the minister answered, "20 minutes." Berry responded, "I'd rather give you 20 seconds if it means I can show this movie which is a declaration of how many people were touched by my father.... "

GOOD NEWS, The movie is scheduled to be screened at Skip's funeral services thursday.

I am in the process of arranging for a fitting memorial to Skip in the spring -- and we are also working with some of Skip's former students on a fund to continue his legacy.

His family has requested that in lieu of flowers, that donations
be sent to the residential facility where Skip's son Kris lives:

C.H.D.C. Volunteer Services
150 E. Siebenmorgan Drive
Conway AR 7203

Here is a lovely eulogy delivered at Skip's funeral by his former assistant and lifelong friend,
Mack Travis:

Gustav”—it’s a beautiful and prestigious scandinavian name.
Skip’s father was a preacher—he named his son, gustav
emmanuel landen. Emmanuel…
Picture a heart free of prejudice. A joyous, gentle, man
—a man with his hand stretched out to assist you;
a stable man; a man with an inner independence;
a man who could give direction and orders when needed,
yet a man who could work in a group for a cause; a
man who saw your inner worth and could assist you in
discovering it yourself.
Picture a teacher, a man with high goals for you;
a man with high goals for himself—a man who carried
a feeling of fellowship with him wherever he went;
whatever he did; a man who could dissolve all barriers
in the performance of a joint undertaking. Picture all
of this, and you have skip—gustav emmanuel landen.
To his students skip was no mother hen—he was more
the eagle with his talons stretched over the egg
that would become you—the spark of life that existed
within, that would one day fledge and fly high on its own.
He was the source of your protection, your inspiration,
your guidance and strength.
To his first wife, norma, he was the embodiment of
patience and caring, as they built a family and brought
berry to an early independence, while they poured
their lives into caring for kris. “all we want,”
skip said to me one day back in ithaca, “all we ever
wanted for kris, is what every parent wants for their
child—that he become all he can be.” And norma spent
hour after hour struggling, teaching kris to talk, to
dress himself, to communicate, as best he could with the
world, without sight, without speech— “otherwise he
would have lived out his life alone, in a corner, with
his back to the world,” skip told me. A compassion for
all life was formed in skip long before i met him.
To berry, even to his last moment, as skip died
with berry holding him, he was the dad with ideas,
with patience, with inspiration—when berry was a
child, they built a slot car business—racing miniature
cars and charging kids to join them. Over the forty
years i knew him, skip bragged to me about every film,
every contact, every job and accomplishment berry pulled off.
Berry was the first man to mount a camera on a race car,
which he did at the grand prix track in watkins glen,
new york—berry was a close friend to paul newman;
berry pursued ever-widening circles of success and
influence under skip’s shining eye.
To marian hill landen, skip was the joy that
left her after her first husband died. To skip,
she was the transformation he sought for so long,
and feared he would never find—as norma slowed and
grew ever more forgetful and weak with parkinsons.
They had all been friends, and skip told me, norma
in her final requests had urged him to seek out marian.
After norma died, skip did begin a friendship with marian.
He brought her to ithaca on several of his lecture tours
to ithaca college. On the second visit, you could tell
he was “bringing her home to the family” for approval.
My wife, carol, and i took them to dinner, and we got
to know them together. We enthusiastically approved.
Not long afterwards, skip called me, and told me he had
cancer—he was “managing it”. Sometime later he called
and told me the doctor had given him six months… six
months to live. “marian and i had planned to get married,”
he said, “but i can’t marry her now. It wouldn’t be fair
to her.” He called her from his home in hot springs village
to break it off.
Of course they did get married, and when carol and
i came later to little rock for a visit, we heard
the other side of the story from marian. “he called
me to tell me he had only six months to live, and
we had to break it off—it just wouldn’t be fair…
i listened… and i said to him—skip, that’s foolishness—
you get on over here!” And skip did, and that was almost
six years ago. They’ve been back to ithaca. They’ve taken
a cruise to alaska. They have had happiness and honors.
They’ve worked together on the governor’s task force for
retarded children, for they share that common bond.
In july of 2006, skip was honored in hollywood by
ninety of his former film school students at a
reception held in his honor. These were a few of
the men and women skip had shaped over his twenty years
as professor and chair of the cinema department at ithaca college.
They are now successful producers, directors, cameramen,
editors—every trade in the business, thanks to the work
skip did in guiding them, networking them with his famous
newsletter, and in establishing the los angeles campus for
ithace college film student interns—mike nathanson, an
ithaca college graduate, who became president of columbia
pictures at the age of thirty-one was one of the former
students who were there to honor skip.
After each one of us is gone—a legacy will be left behind.
We will be remembered for what we have accomplished;
who we have served; the joy we have created in the world.
For me skip’s legacy is embodied in the words he used to
describe what he and norma wanted for chris—become all you can be
—son, wife, friend, associate, student, colleauge, dean,
or custodian—become all you can be.

There's been an outpouring of sentiment from his former students:

Just the other day I was talking about the first time I met Skip when I was interviewing at film schools. Ithaca was the first one I visited and once I met Skip the only one I applied to. To this day I have the light meter he gave me on my first visit and I consider him one of my great mentors.

Patrick Donoghue '86

I remember Skip's sense of humor. And his honesty. He said, "most of you won't make it in this field to be the next Steven Spielberg. If you want to make money fast...go into porn!" And that's how he intro'd the Censorship Legislation class my junior year at IC.
--Jeff Riegel '87
Skip was a great mentor and friend. He made you look outside the box
to see there was more than one way to achieve your goal.

Skip taught us how to “network” before it was fashionable
Skip shared his family with us and made college life a little more

like home. My condolences to Berry and the rest of Skip’s family.
Thanks ol’prof.

Rob Lieberman '79

Our dear Cine Prof. is now with his beloved Norma. As others have stated,
I cannot even begin to tell
you what an influence Skip had
on my life, both as a student and professionally. I'll never
forget my very first visit to I.C. in my
senior year
of high school - Skip was the first professor I was
introduced to on a tour of the Communications school
(then in the
basement of Dillingham).
Being a tech-head, we entered into a discussion
about High-Definition television (this is the 1980's, mind

you) and film. After listening to Skip for only
5 minutes, I was bound and determined to get
accepted to the Cinema program. The rest

is history, and it is because of him and his
networking influences that helped me get where I am today.
God Bless you, Skip... Our

deepest condolences go out to your family.

Russell Harnden III '90


It's a testament to Skip's legacy that we are all sharing our
thoughts together in remeberance of this great man.

I'll never forget the many memories -- my first
meeting when I was a high school senior, the list
of contacts he made me for my move to

Hollywood, the invaluable advice throughout my
four years at Ithaca, but most importantly and
in retrospect, his understanding of what was

REALLY important for students to learn while a
t Ithaca, and the tools he gave us all to navigate
the real world of show biz.

Miss you Skip...

J. Rupert Thompson
Iona Pictures

Skip Landen is most certainly the reason that I attended
Ithaca College. Weeks after applications were due, he
took my call (still a high school senior), and we struck
up a conversation about photography, film and the
visual arts. After a lengthy talk, he excepted my
offer to send him my "portfolio," along with my
late application, and promised he would follow up.
A week later he personally called and told me that
I had been excepted to the communications school...
At the time, the only way I could afford IC was to
be a work/study student, to most students this
would be a drag. However, in my case, Skip paved
the way for me to work within the communications
school (working the "cage" and maintaining the
dark rooms). For all intense and purposes, I reported
to him and the infamous Ken DeGraff, for my four
years at IC. This work environment gave me unique
access to Skip and all the other professor's and staff,
and was truly beneficial to me in my post IC years.
More than any other professor, Skip influenced my
direction from photography toward film. His advice,
teachings, fairness and "think on your feet" approach
have stayed with me to this day.
We will miss Skip, but he will not be forgotten.
My sincere condolences to his friends and family,
Bill Carraro
I'm forever indebted to Skip for his great tutelage and commitment to 
me actually getting a job in the film business. After I graduated
and moved to New York, it was pretty much only Skip's contacts who
gave me work. The "I.C. connection" is incredibly strong due to
him. And it was always thrilling to be included in one of his
newsletters, that's when you knew you'd made it! I remember even
after I pretty much left the business to pursue standup comedy, Skip
wrote that that career was "how Mike's paying the bills while he
looks for film work." Skip never gave up on that dream for us, and
now I'm glad to have come full circle.

Thanks, Skip. We'll miss you.

---Mike Royce

Ye Ol' Cine Prof. has always been a part of my professional life. I
think about him often. Just last week (seriously), I was conversing
with one of our avid editors who was working on a video...and we were
trying to avoid a dreadful jump-cut. I fondly related Skip's advice
from "Documentary Film class" in 1975 or so...."No need to worry about
that jump can always cut to the flag." The young editor and I
had a good chuckle about it. Nrk-nrk

My life would not be the same without Skip. After my admission
interview with him in '74...I, as several others have expressed, only
wanted to attend I.C. At summer orientation, I met my roommate and
longstanding business partner for 31 years, Joel Reitman. Skip (because
of the trusting person he was) allowed Joel and I borrow a the school
Ariflex and Nagra equipment for several weeks over the summer after our
junior year...traveling across Canada...and which equipment was
subsequently stolen from our rental car by thieves in Victoria, B.C.
(while Joel were sitting in a local Cinema munching popcorn and watching
the original "Stars Wars". It was a big joke at the school (at our
expense) for some time.

But, as a result of Skip's bigheartedness...we ultimately agreed upon
Canada as an opportune place to commence a career in the film industry.
Hence, Joel and I established our company MIJO, in Toronto...where we
have been operating the business continuously since 1978.

There would have been no Canada for me and my MIJO
Corporation for me or Joel, and no MIJO for our 100 or so employees. It
all came to pass because Skip believed in us, trusted us...and we
strived for his approval and blessing in return.

After all these years...I feel that I can safely entire
professional life was indelibly influenced by Skip...and it's a fact I
am proud to declare.

--michael goldberg

As a misdirected drama major who really always wanted to study film, I was
about ready to transfer to NYU or USC in the spring of, was it
1971?, when my guidance counselor and film professor beseeched me to
stay in Ithaca and become one of the first 3 film majors in a brand new
film department that was being started right there at IC. In great
part because I looked up to -- and sincerely liked - this professor, I
decided to stay at
Ithaca College and see where that led me. I have since
spent the better part of my life making films and videos in New York
and in many countries around the world… and I never forgot the man who had
faith in me, encouraged me, and put me on the path. He was knowledgeable, but
humble; full of good ideas and good humor; and always with a twinkle
in his eye. He was a selfless guy who helped and encouraged
-- not only me --- but so many others as well.
In fact, and with a tip of the hat to Winston Churchill, let me close
by saying: Never in the course of cinematic endeavour did so many film students
owe so much to… Skip Landen.

Stephen Schneider, '74

I have been amazed at how many of us had the exact same
interview experience with Skip. Rob Lieberman mentioned that Skip shared his
family with us, and one of my fondest memories is the backyard get-togethers
at his house. Like Bill Carraro, I put myself through college thanks to a
job "behind the cage" with Ken DeGraff. I will always remember my internship
at Columbia Pictures, the best experience ever.

Michael Goldberg's comments struck me the most, however, especially at this
time of year. I was reading through all the e-mails last night while "It's a
Wonderful Life was on TV. How many of us would have very different lives if
Skip had never been born? Skip will not be forgotten by a long shot.

My condolences and best wishes to Berry and all that knew or were touched by

Richard Smith '80