Layton Drawn to Sarasota

Film

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY SEP 16, 2016

Efforts to invigorate the area film scene continue with a visit from celebrated comic book and graphic novel writer/artist turned media entrepreneur Bob Layton, who spoke at Ringling College of Art and Design last night to an auditorium full of local creatives, filmmakers and business people. With credits including multiple stints at both comic powerhouses—DC and Marvel, where he penned the seminal Iron Man story Demon in a Bottle—and co-founder of both Valiant and Future Comics, Layton’s second career in film brings him to Sarasota with actor/producer James C. Burns, plans for a film studio of his own and a host of projects looking for a home.

Organized by the Sarasota County Film and Entertainment Office (SCFEO), which hosts three to five such mixers with notable guest attendees each year, the purpose is two-fold and the street runs both ways, says SCFEO Director Jeanne Corcoran. While the night presents an opportunity to showcase facilities at Ringling College and area locations ripe for filming to people like Layton, it also serves to further connect local but disparate filmmakers and actors and producers into a cohesive community capable of creating a real film scene. “We’re educating our guests on the wonders of Sarasota County and the resources and the artists,” says Corcoran, “but we’re also educating our own production community to help them improve and grow and make more content to the best of their abilities.” And there have been tangible results—an upcoming pilot from Rashida Jones’ production company, Le Train Train, will film portions in Sarasota, and past guests such as producer Michael Uslan lead to new connections like Layton.

“We’re all working together to build a larger film presence here in Florida,” says Layton, who grew up down the road in Brandon before departing and eventually landing in Los Angeles. Part of the reason for his return to the area, he says, was the opportunity presented to him by Corcoran and Sarasota. “This is like heaven to me,” he says, gesturing to the walls of Ringling and making special mention of the incoming sound stage and post-production facility coming up fast on campus. “When I die,” he jokes, “I want my ghost to come here.” Though Layton can’t make any guarantees, he says it is “highly possible” that his horror-comedy film Shambler, a modern update of The Mummy, will come to Sarasota for at least portions of filming.

But for the students and aspiring filmmakers in attendance, there is no trick to success, according to Layton. Ringling College or even Layton himself could teach the skills required, but it ultimately comes down to being willing to do the work, “and actually be what you pretend to be,” he says. “If you’re going to be a filmmaker, a screenwriter, a cartoonist—nobody’s going to stop you.”

Pictured: James C. Burns and Bob Layton (right).

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