It is one of those interviews you should go unprepared for. All it takes is patience until the next good line comes. Dr. Banks is like the cinematography he so much loves and praises; a slight change in angles provides a different flow of images.
For those unfamiliar with the Communication Arts Department, Dr. Banks is the longest-teaching member of the faculty on Manhattan’s campus.
For the last 35 years, he has been the media production professor at NYIT, and his career in cinematography both in Intra Muros and out in the real world is remarkable. How can he still be so passionate about his job at 73?
“I’ve always been fascinated by this,” he replies. “And this goes back very early. We got a TV set at home in 1947; it was a 4-by-7-inch set in a mahogany cabinet. It was, of course, black and white. I told my mom, ‘Look! Cowboys in a box!’ I knew this was going to be my life.”
He truly believes in his students. “At the end, what are graduate students? They’re junior colleagues of mine,” he says.
Among other things, he vividly recalls his past, he remembers that as an undergraduate student at Northwestern University, Illinois, he got kicked out of school his freshman year because he partied too much.
“I ended up at Michigan State where I had an epiphany. I guess I grew up when I was 19,” he says sarcastically, “and said to myself, ‘I’m not stupid. I won’t end up working in a factory. What am I going to do?’ So, I triple-majored in English, history and philosophy. I came back for my master’s and my Ph.D. at Northwestern.”
NYIT’s Master of Fine Arts in Communication Arts, makes him very proud. “It’s all about New York,” he keeps saying. “You put a compass point right down where NYIT is and you do a circle about a mile in diameter; there are almost 400,000 jobs in our industry. There is no place on earth anywhere near that concentration.”
The most impressive of all, Dr. Banks is never unprepared himself. When asked about a brand new term he has never heard of—“techliterate” journalist—he has an answer only seconds later: “A director of stage, Tyron Guthrie, actually said that 50 years ago. He put it in the best way: ‘An actor, a producer, needs to know the technology of what they are doing so that in moments of inspiration they have the ability to affect their dreams.’ What a line, isn’t it?” He smiles with amusement.
Quite evidently, there is a question about the future new president of NYIT. Dr. Banks hopes “we can get somebody who has done it before.”
He continues, “There is a lot you have to learn from the old. Dr. Guilliano learned a lot from Matthew Schur, who was the president I came in under and member of the family who started the school. Since Dr. Guilliano has been here, we have expanded quite a bit.”
Regardless of his numerous years in the field, Dr. Banks’ spark and humor have not faded at all. He still has a great lot to offer to his students.