Since 1975, Marc Levin's loft on 26th Street has been known to an underground global cadre as "the situation loft" or "loftland." For almost a decade it was an international crash pad and party central; for over twenty years it was Marc's office and production studio. His father Al was his original partner, and then Daphne Pinkerson came aboard. By the late 80's, Daphne had brought some order to the chaos, but it was still a homegrown, family film-and-TV production company. In 1997, on the precipice of Slam, and with two major documentary projects in the works – an HBO show on Texas Death Row, and a three-hour miniseries for the Discovery network, CIA: America's Secret Warriors – it was becoming 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."
The open space on the 17th floor, – inherited from a print shop, with grease and grime all over, – that Marc had originally rented with two of collaborators Henri Kessler, and Richard Stratton – over the years has organically developed into a vibrant community of independent filmmakers and artists, attracting creative talent from all over the city. From the office's inception in 1997 to the present day, countless film and television companies, independent writers, directors, musicians, and performers have gone through 601 studios. Without any advertising, solely through the word of mouth and friends' referrals, the space on the 17th floor has been home to a wide range of award-winning renowned figures from Louis C.K. to Danny Clinch, from Alex Gibney to Susan Lacy.
601 Studios has offered much more than just a physically shared space, however; harboring all this creative potential under the single roof, it has become the catalyst for powerful lifelong collaborations. Most of the current tenants – Alex Gibney's Jigsaw Productions, Ken Sirulnick's and Steve Pequignot’s Glue Editing and Design, Susan Lacy's Pentimento Studios, Mike Downey’s and Christen Lewis’ Hero Content, Marc Levin’s and Mark Benjamin's Brick City TV – share with Blowback not only the address, but a myriad of projects, ranging from feature films to television series and specials.
"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."