I’ll Be Honest, I Thought Robbing Banks Would Be Easier
After sinking my savings and identity into a USC film degree, I was eager to make my first blockbuster. But the one thing they don’t teach you in film school is that making movies that win you Oscars costs money. I was flat broke.
Fortunately, film school did teach me that if you watch enough heist movies, you’ll know exactly how to rob a bank. Cha-ching. My first Oscar winning film was going to be executive produced by Chase. They just didn’t know it yet.
But I’m not a criminal. I’m an artist. I wasn’t going to simply rob a bank, I was going to direct a picture-perfect burglary. Also, I don’t understand how Ponzi schemes work so this was my next best option. But I’ll be honest with you, pulling off a true-to-film bank heist proved more onerous than anticipated.
To rob a bank, you don’t need a gun. You need heart. You also need an accomplice, a getaway driver, and nuns’ costumes like in The Town, from critically-acclaimed director Ben Affleck. I recruited my buddy Robby to be my getaway driver. If you were drunk he kind of looked like Ryan Gosling in Drive.
I spent weeks casing my target: a Chase Bank in Columbus, Ohio. It was around the block from my parents’ house. Super convenient. I tried to diagram all the camera locations, but it was hard so I gave up. Best to assume I’d be filmed in great detail from every angle. Banks have great cinematography. We took a page out of Baby Driver’s book and made a heist playlist, filled with bank-robbing classics like “Take the Money and Run,” “Robbers,” and “I’m Every Woman” by Chaka Khan. Inspired by Now You See Me, I recruited the guy who did card tricks next to the local open mic as my accomplice.
We were ready to rob a bank.
You know what they say about films and also bank robberies: make sure everyone’s watching. We hit the road at 5 p.m., immediately getting stuck in rush hour traffic. I turned to the magician to commiserate over how itchy these damn nun outfits were, but somewhere along the route he’d disappeared. He was a damn good magician.
But as Spielberg says, “If you want something done right, dress up as a beautiful woman in a fur coat and do it yourself.” It worked for the Ocean’s 8, so why not for me? I threw a mink coat over my habit and put in some earplugs.
I watched a YouTube clip of Dog Day Afternoon – huge Pacino fan. So I knew it was important for me to light a fire outside the bank before I began. I had failed to acquire an explosives expert – turns out you kind of have to already know a guy who dabbles in small scale C-4 operations. Thankfully, I’d seen enough fire-starting challenges on old seasons of Survivor to know how to vigorously stroke rocks until a spark lights up some old McDonald’s bags doused in lighter fuel.
With an inferno engulfing the alley, I tried to get into the bank from the vents like that guy in the Ocean’s 11 movie. I could not find any opening bigger than 3 inches. Not sure how he figured it out. So I just went through the front door.
“This is a bank robbery,” I yelled, but my voice caught when I saw the beautiful set design. It looked exactly like a bank. I insisted they hand over money, but instead the teller asked where I got my coat while on hold with the police. Turns out, every unit had been called to a hostage situation across town, so the teller just handed me a lolli-pop and asked me to leave. Then, they evacuated the bank due to the raging alleyway fire.
I didn’t pull off a successful heist, but I did find a $20 on the ground on my way out of the bank. I decided then and there to quit the film business altogether. I took that $20 to the slots, and turned it into $60. I bet that $60 on a horse, and made $8,000. I developed a crippling gambling addiction, got clean, and enrolled in the Wharton School of Business.
But years later, looking out over Central Park from my corner office at Chase Bank, I realized I’d been watching all the wrong heist films. The only one with any real-world application is The Wolf of Wall Street. It IS easy to rob a bank – you just have to serve on its executive board.
Madeline is a writer based in New York with her collie, Oskar.