Passing of a Friend

Before I ever dreamt of the Digital Bolex I moved to Downtown LA and discovered an unlikely little video store called Old Bank DVD. Unlikely, because at the time–2009–almost all of the big box video stores were already gone. But somehow, in this Netflix / Hulu world, Old Bank was thriving.

Old Bank is more than a video rental though, it’s part art gallery, part local hang out. The people that work there are the kind of people you could get into an hour long discussion with about Jodorowsky, or Kubrick, or Ghostbusters.

It’s the kind of video store that has sections dedicated to directors like Fellini and sections dedicated to categories like exploitation.

Films were shot there, like a scene in 500 Days of Summer.

 Or this short starring Michael C. Hall.

We even shot our Kickstarter video there.

Check out some of the Yelp reviews of this place, they tell a story all their own.

When I first moved to DTLA I didn’t have friends in the area and I was at Old Bank almost every night. One of the great treasures of Old Bank was Mark Schumacher, one of the owners of Old Bank and a fellow cinematographer / vintage camera enthusiast.

Mark and I spent hours recanting tales of film shoots gone horribly wrong and why the movie industry was in the sad(at least in our view) state it was in. It seemed like Mark had seen every movie worth watching and had an opinion I could always rely on.

One day I came into the store and asked Mark if he had a few minutes to talk to me about an idea I had for a camera. He stopped what he was doing and walked next door with me so he could focus on the conversation. I asked him if he had used a raw format motion picture camera like the Alexa or Red, because at the time I had not, and if he thought raw format digital cinema was the future of the industry. He was intrigued and said he did think that raw format digital cinema was not only the future of the industry but would expand the industry in amazing ways we can’t even dream of right now. He was always 10 steps ahead it seemed. I told him I was thinking about building a S16mm digital cinema camera kinda like what a Bolex would be if it was digital. He was clear and unwavering, he said “You have to do this”.

At the time very few people understood or supported this idea. DSLRs were in full swing and seemed like they would never go away (not that they have now), and raw format was something no one seemed to be talking about, at least on the independent film level. I did surveys to try and understand the market, some research said it would be a hit and other research said the market was too thin, but in the back of my head was Mark, the reliable opinion guy saying I have to do it. So in the end I decided to sell my half of a successful company I helped build in order to pursue this crazy camera dream. Mark was not the only voice in my head at the time, but he was a key one.

His passing was sudden. We had heard a few weeks ago that he had been diagnosed with cancer, and was in a hospital in Seattle, but that he was doing OK. We made plans to visit him and bring a camera to show him.

I’ll let his business partner and long time friend Erik tell you the rest. This is his eulogy.

Good afternoon everyone, It is with a heavy heart that I’m here to say a few words about our dear friend and brother Mark Deitrich Schumacher. Thanx to everyone who showed up today. The fact that so many of you are here is a testament to his kind soul, and I’m sure if he were able to witness this gathering he’d be very touched, it might even garner a ‘God Bless” in classic Schumacher form. Anywho, as you may know, Mark was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago after going to the hospital for what he thought were kidney stones. It wasn’t kidney stones. And the prognosis was bleak.

A few years ago while talking about my pipe dream sandwich shop, I retold to Mark the story of Warren Zevon’s last appearance on David Letterman where he was asked if he had any insight to life – having outlived the short timeframe he was given for his terminal cancer. His answer was, “ Eh, not so much, other than just enjoy every sandwich” And that was the text Mark sent from the hospital right after he found out. Enjoy every sandwich. And it just floored me ‘cause I knew what he meant. In the end, it wasn’t the cancer that felled Mark, but rather an actual fall on the walk home from getting some food nearby. Don’t know for sure, but I like to think it was a sandwich. Maybe it was a burger, but whatever. Turns out the spill caused some internal bleeding and Mark passed quietly later that evening on April 4th, in bed, watching a movie, with his dog Biscuit by his side. With potentially more bad days than good in store for him, it may have been, well, obviously not for the best, but maybe as painless as one could’ve hoped for, considering.

But enough of that, Mark and I met about 14 years ago at Scholl Canyon Golf Course, after I walked on as a single and joined his group. It is was also there that we played his last round the day before he left to Seattle for treatment. I got my first hole in one later that first day – a harbinger of good times ahead perhaps. So that’s where my history with Mark begins. As far I know, Mark was born a fully formed adult in Naperville Illinois in 1959 and started racontuering from day one. Or something like that. Actually, he was the oldest of 4, and excelled in school, hockey (which he played left handed, but when he took up golf – played right handed??? That may explain a few of the quirks in his swing that I never could really fix, he was a bit stubborn that way, but I digress) and gymnastics. The latter of which got him a full scholarship at Southern Illinois university. He would later move to Chicago and was part of the vibrant arts and punk rock scene in the late 70’s and 80’s. After a bit of traveling, that led him to parts unknown, he landed in Los Angeles to continue his photography and later cinematography career. He eventually settled in DTLA on Wall st. almost 20 years ago when it was like the wild west, or more accurately, a scene out of Charlton Heston’s Omega Man. (available for rent at Old Bank DVD BTW).

For those first 10 years or so, downtown was kind of a rough place to call home, but it was the pioneering spirit of Mark and other kindred souls that provided the spark that would eventually ignite the flames of what downtown has since become. I remember the first time he told me about Pete’s Cafe 10 years ago now – “Hey dude, this really nice bar just opened around the corner – good food and drinks, cute bartenders and all” (and as you know, that was right in Marks wheelhouse – an epicurean at heart, if you will) And I was all like, “Really, why in the hell would someone do that? On skid row?” Well they did, and much more too. (thanks to Tom and Pete and everyone else next door) but that was just the start of the rebirth. After reading through condolences written on Marks facebook page, many of the comments were from people saying he was the first person they met downtown (usually on the patio over there), and that it was he who showed them how to navigate the area and provided the example of what the community could be. That is but just a small part of his legacy, even if unintentionally so. As it was just a result of his good nature that flowed through him and inspired others.

Many of you here met or know Mark through our Video Store where he and I held court. It was he who casually suggested to me – on the way home from one of our many epic rounds of golf where we’d play until it was too dark to see the ball anymore, that somebody should open a video rental store DT as he was tired of driving to Silver Lake and it was looking like DT was about to blow up. But it would have to be a really cool one, like Facets in Chicago where he used to rent, or Scarecrow in SeattIe that we would eventually model the store after. That simmered in my head for about a year or so until the combination of stories about the rise of The Old Bank District and dissatisfaction with my job led me to ask Mark whaddya think about that video store again, it could work? Cut to a two shot of Mark on the patio at Pete’s talking to Tom, who may, or may not have been couple of Martini’s into his evening at that point, and the store was born. Toms one caveat was that it had to be cool. But of course, we got this, what’s the worst that could happen? While we may have had mixed results in actually, ya know, earning a living, (but the store is going to be OK, despite rumors of our demise) we were always on the same page about spreading the love of film and expanding the collective unconscious, ya know, that Jungian thing. In the many conversations I’ve had with Mark since he left for Seattle, he was always proud of what we were able accomplish, the legacy that will be left behind with the store. And that a couple of slackers kinda, sorta got away with our Quixotic folly for the past 7+ years. I, and on Marks behalf, thank everyone for your support over the years. It’s been fun. Mostly, naw it’s been fun.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank a few people who have been important to Mark’s life, and surely I will miss a few but, to all the folks at the store past and present, but most importantly Brie (who couldn’t be here today on account of her walkabout that now finds her quite appropriately in Australia). We couldn’t have done without our little roller girl and she sends her condolences. And there’s been a few women who loved, but mainly just tolerated his sorry ass. Phoebe, who helped build out his loft on Wall St. and was also a pivotal influence on Mark. Maureen Lantz, who supported him for many years while we and the store needed it, and who has also taken care of his cats – Moe and her sister Larry, since he left. Rebecca O’learly, who was dearly loved by mark, spent months in Seattle helping to take care of him, procured many sandwiches along the way, and was instrumental in organizing this memorial. Also thanx to Monica and Kristen from Banquette (who Mark kinda of inspired them to open the Nickel after his sunday night dinners) and now of the Nickel Diner who fed, watered and well, caffeinated and beered us for years at our old spaces, as well as maple bacon doughnuting us at our new space. Quick story, Kristen and Monica gave me a nice bottle of bourbon for my birthday probably 5/6 years ago that I left in our office. At some point, I noticed it had been opened – not by me, and was getting nipped at. Wanting to at least try some of it, I decided to hide it somewhere in the store. And somewhere where Mark wouldn’t find it. In a bit of a genius move on my part, if I do say so myself, I found the last place he would ever look – the box of his crap I had been asking him to go through or throw out for the last few months. Anyway, I got a call from him a few months later asking if that bottle was still around and perhaps if he could share a drink with Paul Johnson, surf guitar legend, father of Anne Johnson, DT OG and once Marks fiancee until she wasn’t. So I told him where was and we both almost died laughing.

That being said, Mark was not without his flaws. Lazy at times, and averse to certain chores at the store, (you dick), prone to drink too much, a Casanova of sorts (hands up from all the girls who made out with him in the house), egotistical, confrontational, Surly at times – or just didn’t suffer fools gladly – which is a positive in my book. I could go on. And on. But let’s not dwell on that because it was all eclipsed by his finer qualities. He’d laugh if I had to rattle those off right now, you magnificent bastard, knowing how much it pains me to get all sappy, but there will be a few people to speak after I’m done who can add their thoughts on the subject. I’ll not ramble on much longer, so as to leave a few things for others to talk about, and will just add this one last thing in closing. Despite Mark’s penchant for saying things like, “God bless” and “from your lips to Gods ears”, I don’t think he was an overly religious sort. Quite the opposite to be honest. But if the quality of positive thoughts instilled in those left behind and lives improved and/or inspired by the recently passed is truly the kingdom of heaven (allegorically speaking of course), then Mark is in it. God bless. You’ll be missed. There’s some sandwiches over there being served. Please enjoy them.

Mark was an inspiration to me on a profoundly personal level. The greatest regret I will have about this project is that I never got to put the camera he helped inspire in his hands before he passed.

Thanks for your guidance Mark you will be very sorely missed.

This is 4th and Main, a few yards away from Old Bank DVD.

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About joerubinstein

Joe Rubinstein is one of the founders and CEO of Digital Bolex. At Polite in Public, a photo marketing company he also co-founded, Joe was the Chief Technology Officer who worked with electronics developers and software developers to create the Polite in Public Photobooth which helped define modern photo marketing services.

6 thoughts on “Passing of a Friend

  1. It is very sad news to discover about Mark no longer being with us. I first encountered Mark when I lived in Chicago, at a video store there on Belmont, and he was always a friendly person to deal with, knowledgeable in the world of film. After moving to Los Angeles, and discovering his great video store here, he and I shared excitement we were both here, and we both shared admiration- he for my magazine, ‘subnormal,’ and I, for his great store and great taste in film and music. We discussed doing some projects together- including some film and music events, and even though those projects didn’t have time to materialize, I always enjoyed Mark’s kindness, his enthusiasm for life, for the arts, for film, for music, and for bringing great entertainment and the spirit of the arts to others. His kind spirit was reflected in all
    who worked at the Old Bank DVD Store itself, which is the best video store Los Angeles has got – I do hope it stays open. Mark was an amazingly cool guy, who I will truly miss. – Bruce Edwin, The Hollywood Sentinel, Subnormal Magazine

    • Hey Bruce,

      I was just there last night picking up a zombie movie, as I often do, and I heard they are indeed closing their doors this month.
      There is hope that the collection will live on in a nearby space so the downtown community can still access it, but the people that made this store the best video store ever are all going to move on to other things.

      An extremely sad day indeed. Thanks for sharing your story, Joe

  2. Hi Joe, many of us chose fllm black & white with our vintage cameras for an artistic choice. CCD sensors are monochromatic before filters bayer. I believe there are many technical advantages when you do not have the filters bayer, beyond the artistic choice. You are considering creating a version of the Bolex Digital Monochrome? Thanks, Felipe.

  3. I only got to hang with Shumacher for the three weeks we shot his last feature film, but they were three great weeks. Loved working with that guy, and constantly bumming his ciggerettes. The last time I saw the dude was a few months later during some pick up stuff for the film in Tiahuana Mexico. When we were done shooting I gave him a ride back to LA. I wasn’t that close to Mark having only known the dude for a few months but in that short time I was with him in his element and it was fucking awesome to see him work. Almost infinite patience….almost. ” I DON’T EAT FUCKING Tuna Fish! ” Marc Shumacher after shooting three hours past lunch…the only time I ever saw the guy snap, and I snapped every day on that film. Love you man. Manu

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