Lights, Camera, Action!

Robbery movie brings fun to 1st National Bank of Scotia along with a big boost to the local economy

By Michael Blankenheim

Robert Dieterich, chief financial officer of 1st National Bank of Scotia, N.Y., was not supposed to be in the movie about a bank robbery. But he was asked at the last moment—the film’s producers said they wanted someone to merely walk into the bank, the setting for a particular scene.

So Dieterich asked the movie’s staff what he was supposed to do after that. The response: “You’ll know what to do. You’re used to going into the bank.”

Filming began, and Dieterich dutifully played his part as asked. Suddenly, “bank robber” (star Ryan Gosling) was upon Dieterich. Gosling threw Dieterich up against the window and down on the ground and put a gun to his head. “It was like he was going to blow my head off,” Dieterich recalls. “I think they got the look of fear, or at least surprise, that they were looking for.”

The film crew ended up shooting about 20 takes of the scene with Dieterich.“It was a lot of fun, and it was great to see how a movie was made,” he says.

Dieterich was one of 11 employees at 1st National prominently featured in the crime drama, The Place Beyond the Pines (set in New York’s Schenectady area). But while Dieterich and his colleagues enjoyed their acting roles immensely, they say the $2 million the movie brought to the region’s economy was indeed serious business.

The Place Beyond the Pines, released nationally in April, is a gritty, emotionally intense tale about a motorcycle stuntman (Gosling) who begins robbing banks to support his lover and their infant child. The protagonist is pitted against a rising young police officer, and their ensuing conflicts trigger disastrous consequences for years to come.

For 1st National, the story began about two years ago when the movie’s honchos walked unannounced into the bank’s headquarters and asked to take pictures of teller lines. “As you can imagine, that made us a little nervous,” says John Buhrmaster, the bank’s president.

Buhrmaster, serving as ICBA’s chairman-elect, then met with the film’s director, Derek Cianfrance. At first, Buhrmaster was skeptical of the project, but Cianfrance won him over. “They were committed to portraying bank robbery in a realistic, accurate fashion, as a dire choice that has lifelong complications.”

Eventually, two 1st National branches were depicted in the movie as robbery scenes, and numerous bank employees assisted with the production in one fashion or another. Hundreds of other town members were involved, too, points out Buhrmaster, who rented out a local theater for a special premiere of the movie for bank employees. 1st National also received lots of positive local publicity, and, just as important, says Buhrmaster, the film’s staff shopped locally, generating significant economic activity.

Buhrmaster says of the experience, “If a movie crew comes into your town and what they are going to do doesn’t go too far from your character as a bank, it can be a great economic and motivating tool for your community.”

Michael Blankenheim is a writer in Bowie, Md.