601 W 26th St.
Since 1975, Marc Levin's loft on 26th Street has been known to an underground cadre as "Loftland." For a while it was an international crash pad and party central. In the early 1980's it became both a family home and a production studio. Al Levin, Marc's father, was his original partner, and then Daphne Pinkerson came aboard. By the late 80's Daphne had brought some order to the chaos.
In 1997, on the precipice of SLAM, and with two major documentary projects in the works - an HBO look at Texas Death Row, and a three-hour miniseries on the history of the CIA for the Discovery Network - it was clear that the filmmakers had outgrown their crib. It was time to make a move.
"For years, driving down the West Side Highway to 26th Street, I have marveled at the great beast of a building on the corner of 26th and the Hudson River," reminiscences Marc in the first chapter of Slam Diaries, "the Starrett-Lehigh building, a huge, ocean liner-like structure that takes up an entire city block, with glass windows looking out at the city and the river from all sides. A New York landmark."
When Marc and his colleagues Richard Stratton and Henri Kessler first entered the open space on the 17th floor it was an abandoned print shop with grease and grime all over. Since then it has organically developed into a vibrant creative community of independent filmmakers and artists. It has been home to a wide range of cultural influencers and award winning talent, from Alex Gibney and Susan Lacy, to Sonja Sohn and Bonz Malone.
"We climb through the debris to filthy windows looking west to the Hudson, north to the George Washington Bridge and east to the midtown power skyline," writes Marc of his first visit. "We make our way around the tapered mushroom columns, through the garbage to the northwest corner. There is something about the rounded corner and the curved bay windows that stops us. We're on point, almost like on a ship's bridge, looking out for whatever is coming next. It's the big sky, the big vista, the big picture. We know immediately: this is the spot."