Post Production

Page 7

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The Editing Page

Spider Gets Busted



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Curtis Smith, Jr. is a young African American man who worked on Cherry as a production assistant.  What distinguishes Curtis from most New York production assistants is his quiet and obsequious manner.  Curtis spent most days in principal holding with the actors, passing on information from the first AD to the make-up, hair and wardrobe departments, ensuring that the actors were ready when needed on the set.

The only time I recall Curtis working as a set PA was one day when we were filming on the street in Hoboken.  The scene took place directly in front of our location on Bloomfield Avenue and traffic was beginning to stack up at the stop sign.  I turned to Curtis and asked him to wave traffic through the sign.  His style was so unlike the typical PA; rather than waving frenetically and hollering at the cars, he stood in the street and meekly gestured at the traffic.   I made a mental note at the time that he was probably the least jaded and street smart of the varied production assistants that worked for us.

Imagine my surprise, then, when eight FBI agents came to our office shortly after production ended and led Curtis away in handcuffs.  The FBI agents would not tell us what Curtis had done; they only hinted that it was something very bad.  As they left, we heard them call Curtis "Spider."  How on earth did sweet Curtis, who doesn’t even pepper his conversation with the usual production jargon and cusswords, end up committing some unspecified heinous crime (with a cool alias, no less)?

After contacting the FBI and getting the anticipated bureaucratic runaround, we finally pried the following information from them: Curtis was alleged to have been in Detroit on the morning of February 2nd.  They claim he was driving a late model red Pontiac, which he drove to a suburban bank, robbing it of in excess of $100,000.  The FBI had in their possession a videotape of the robbery from the bank’s security camera which they claim contained footage of a man closely resembling Curtis committing the crime.  Furthermore, Curtis’ parents live a few blocks from the bank in question, and Curtis had a car registered in his name fitting the description of the getaway vehicle.

The FBI’s case was looking pretty good -- except for one small detail: on the morning of February 2nd, Curtis was in Hoboken, New Jersey, doing his usual fine job of getting Shalom & co. through make up and hair.   With 70-odd witnesses to his whereabouts.

Well, we all had a good laugh at the FBI’s incompetence.  How could they possibly conduct an investigation without doing the rudimentary legwork required to make an indictment: check a suspect’s alibi?   Isn’t that police procedure 101?  How could this massive Federal agency, with high-tech forensic labs, helicopters, DNA testing facilities and gobs of taxpayer money at their disposal not make a telephone call to Curtis’ employer of record and ascertain his whereabouts on the day in question?  I suppose it was easier for them to ship a bunch of Detroit agents to New York and make a flashy arrest.

Cypress showed up in full force at Curtis’ arraignment and presented overwhelming evidence to support his alibi: more than twenty of his friends and colleagues (all of whom saw him in Hoboken that day) were there and the daily actor logs, which Curtis had filled out in his hand (as he was required to do every day of production), were submitted.  Even in the face of the evidence, the FBI hinted that we were all somehow complicit in Curtis’ crime, that we had faked the evidence for a cut of the cash.  Let’s see, $100,000 divided by 70 comes to almost $1,500! Count me in!

Curtis was eventually freed and the charges were dropped, but not before he was humiliated in front of his co-workers and not before he had to spend several nights in jail and not before his parents had their home ransacked and not before Cypress spent several thousand dollars for him to be fairly represented at his arraignment.  On the plus side,  Curtis has a great story to tell and the added bonus of being called "Spider" by all of us at Cypress from now on.

- Joseph Pierson
 
4/07/99

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