By Sabina Mollot
When the typical New Yorker spends the majority of his or her time just trying to earn enough to make the rent, how is it even possible to do what people actually come to this city for, like pursue a life in the arts and maybe even fall in love?
This is the question that dominates the story in a musical film being produced by a Stuyvesant Town resident and recent NYU graduate called “But Not for Me.” The resident, Jason Stefaniak, like the writer and director of the film, Ryan Carmichael, is an alum of New York University’s graduate film program and the two 27-year-olds are currently trying to shop the project for production in the spring of 2014. Described as a “philosophical hip hop musical love story” with a hard-to-miss message about the lack of local affordable housing, the story focuses on Will, a disillusioned millennial copywriter and his love for a neighbor, Hope.
“Twenty-somethings come here to pursue anything, especially creative endeavors, and then they’re struggling to eat and do basic things like pay the rent,” said Stefaniak.
For Stefaniak, who’s lived in Stuyvesant Town for two years, the story resonates on a personal level, since he’s not sure how much longer he can afford to live in the complex.
“I love Stuyvesant Town, but I don’t know if it’s going to be sustainable, anymore,” he said, following a recent rent hike.
Back in June, though not affected personally, Stefaniak attempted to protest the round of mid-lease increases issued to 1,100 of his neighbors by starting an online petition. Eventually, he got 450 signatures, and each time a new person signed, an alert would be sent to around 20 management email addresses.
Stefaniak said he “tried to make some racket about the situation as best I could.” However, he never got a response from CWCapital.
“I thought I’d at least get a terse email by someone asking me to remove their address, but I got nothing,” said Stefaniak.
For Carmichael, who lives in Astoria, the situation also hits pretty close to home, since he was recently
priced out of Manhattan.
“When you get there, it’s a constant struggle, and you wonder when you can start enjoying what the city has to offer,” said Carmichael. Still, he noted the movie is still an overall positive one with a focus on the musical score. “I don’t want people to think that I’m trying to do a soapbox stand on any issues.”
To make the feature-length film a reality, he and Stefaniak are currently pouring all their energy into a Kickstarter campaign that as of Monday, raised over $20,000 for its production. The goal however is much more ambitious at $100,000, with the partners hoping to raise an additional $25,000 through other means.
“After many years of making student films, we’re trying to do this is a more professional way,” said Stefaniak.
The pro budget is a gamble though considering that the way Kickstarter works, if the full goal isn’t met by a deadline of November 2, the partners don’t end up getting a dime of the pledged money.
If they’re successful, the money would go towards hiring crew, renting studio space for the recording of the music (also written by Carmichael), buying equipment and renting space to shoot at. As the “But Not for Me” team has already learned, such foresight is necessary, as they’ve already once experienced losing a place to shoot due to a property owner changing his mind at the last minute. Rather than waste the day though, since the crew and actors were already there, Stefaniak suggested filming the scene in front of his Stuy Town building instead. Not surprisingly, he and the crew were eventually told to scram by public safety officers, but, he noted, “They were really nice about it.”
Fortunately for the film, the scene was mostly shot anyway at that point, and the remaining bits were filmed by the East River.
Additionally, at this time, most of the casting is complete, and Stefaniak and Carmichael consider the inclusion of concert violinist Elena Urioste to be one of the highlights of the film. She’ll be making her acting debut as Hope in “But Not for Me.”
To learn more about the film, visit Stefaniak’s blog at jasonstefaniak.com. To contribute to the Kickstarter campaign, visit http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1157078283/but-not-for-me?ref=live.