Former Stuy Town resident presents screenings of his hip-hop musical film

Jason Stefaniak and Ryan Carmichael

Jason Stefaniak and Ryan Carmichael

Previously, Town & Village reported on how a film being produced by Stuyvesant Town resident Jason Stefaniak was funded by a neighbor after she read about his crowd-sourcing effort for the project, “But Not for Me,” in this newspaper.

Since then the film, a hip-hop musical directed by his friend and fellow Tisch alum Ryan Carmicahel, has been gone to festivals where it’s won multiple awards.

“But Not for Me,” which focuses on the New York millennial struggle of making ends meet in the city while also trying to live a meaningful life and pursue creative ambitions, had its world premiere at the 2015 Brooklyn Film Festival in June. There it won both the Audience Choice and Best Score Awards. AM New York called the film a “must-see.” It went on to screen in Austin, TX, Bangor, ME, Sedona, AZ, and the prestigious Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville, VA.

The film will next be screened at the Queens World Film Festival on Saturday, March 19 at 3 p.m. and New Filmmakers New York on Wednesday March 23 at 8:45 p.m. Both screenings will be followed by Q&A with cast and filmmakers.

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ST ‘angel’ funds neighbor’s film

A scene from “But Not For Me,” produced by Stuyvesant Town resident Jason Stefaniak

A scene from “But Not For Me,” produced by Stuyvesant Town resident Jason Stefaniak

By Sabina Mollot

It was in October, 2013, when Jason Stefaniak, an NYU graduate and Stuyvesant Town resident made an appeal, through an article in this newspaper, to get neighbors interested in a musical film he was producing, or rather hoped to produce after raising the funds via Kickstarter.

The campaign for the film, titled “But Not for Me,” which was about the millennial experience of making the rent in New York while also pursuing happiness, wound up raising an impressive $30,000. However, since that amount was far short of Stefaniak and the film director Ryan Carmichael’s goal of $100,000, under Kickstarter’s policy, this meant they ended up with none of the cash.

Not long after the Kickstarter deadline ended, however, Stefaniak got an email from a neighbor, which, after skimming it, he saw mentioned that its author wanted to make a contribution. Since he was busy at the moment, he figured he’d get back to her later to let her know the deadline had passed.

Then, later, Stefaniak took a closer look at the email and what she was offering. The woman, who said she’d read about the project in Town & Village, “wanted to help us cross the finish line,” he said.

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Stuyvesant Town resident producing hip-hop musical film

Jason Stefaniak

Jason Stefaniak

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

Ryan Carmichael

Ryan Carmichael

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.