I was 34 years old. I had been out of film school for three years and I was standing online at a Citibank ATM. I had been doing gaffer and grip jobs on low-budget movies, and while I was waiting to get paid from the last one where I had been a film loader, I was waiting to take some cash out of the bank. In those days, you didn’t swipe the card. You put the card into the slot, did your transaction, and then hopefully the card was returned to you. It was one of the early mistakes in the ATM design because sometimes the machine would swallow your card.
But this time was different. My card was swallowed and there was a message flashing on the CRT saying that I needed to see the bank manager and to mention code number something or other.
Frightened since I was down to my last ten dollars, I approached the bank manager who looked up my account and told me that I my bank loan with Citibank had gone into default and that my assets (less than $100) had been frozen; and no, I couldn’t have my card back, and that it wouldn’t work anyway.
It shouldn’t have come as a big surprise since Citibank had been sending me letters for a few years asking for payment for my grad school loans; but I simply didn’t have the money and couldn’t figure out anywhere to get it from. Since leaving film school I had been doing menial film jobs. The first job was carrying sandbags for a low-budget comedy (look my name up in the imdb.com and you’ll see two film credits). This was the Outdoorsters, and my job along with one other 30-year old was to carry sandbags in the New Jersey summer heat so that light stands and various stuff didn’t tip over in the wind. For three years I had been working my way up the technical film ladder, but it was a carnival sort of existence.
As I walked out of Citibank, I thought, now I am truly penniless. How had things gone so wrong since that glorious day when I had been accepted into film school?
It hadn’t been that long ago, that I had dashed down sixth street to a phone booth, after an interview with the head of the school, Lazlo Benedek himself – director of Marlon Brando in the Wild One – and shook his hand and been accepted into one of the top graduate film schools in the country. I had crossed Broadway and there was a phone booth near Cooper Union. I remember as I dashed across Broadway feeling that with such a good thing on one side of the ledger, something horrible would happen to me soon. I called my sister and my parents and gave them the unbelievable news.
The head of NYU Grad School had read, or at least weighed the 450 page screenplay that I’d written with my friend Lester, (yes, the same Les that chimes in here sometimes), and Lazlo had said that the screenplay was completely unproducible, but that anyone that could write such a long screenplay, and I also had brought photographs that I had taken in my teens, and a 16mm film that I did that was shown once on channel 13 – and somehow – I was in.
And that was the start of probably the best year-and-a-half of my life. I walked into the lobby of film school on sixth street off of first avenue – and for the first time in my life – I felt at home.
[Faux Editor: Dave seems to be attempting a memoir, although the chronology so far is as jumbled as his path at the time. Right now it has a jigsaw feeling to it. Maybe it will become clearer if he goes on with it.]