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.

 

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Letters to the Editor, July 18

You gotta have a scandal

To the Editor:
Well, now that Eliot Spitzer has joined Anthony Weiner in running, or rather dancing with the stars, in the elections this November, the other candidates for office will have to do something to make the Mad Men who create the virtual reality that is our world sit up and take notes. After all, name and face recognition is more important than qualifications when running for office.
Bill de Blasio might make a great mayor but he doesn’t have the Kardashian kitsch so essential for success, much more important than competence.  But if Mr. de Blasio wore hot pink short shorts and high heels to the next photo op, admittedly no match for the orange pants worn by the internet star Weiner at a recent gay event, he might give the former Congressman a tussle for the gay vote. But what about the straight vote?
Candidate Quinn could enlist her buddy Bloomberg to take her on a bicycle-built-for-two to the beach at Coney Island where they could perform the steamy Burt Lancaster/ Deborah Kerr scene in “From Here to Eternity.” Since all publicity is good, this would make great headlines, not to mention hot photos: The Mayor and Speaker Quinn, both wearing a bikini, though not necessarily the same one, making out on a bright red blanket! Wow! And how about Bill Thompson, smelling smoke and a photo op, showing up in a fireman’s uniform with a long hose to put out the fire. Why, the paparazzi would be so overjoyed they’d all have heart attacks. But, not to worry, the firemen’s union would be on hand to administer CPR and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Double wow! This scene would be so hot that maybe even Sarah Palin would show up for a photo op and pitch in, her pitch, that is, for the presidential nomination with the headline: For Whom the Belle Toils!
For the office of comptroller, the very capable Scott Stringer will have to run against former Governor Eliot Spitzer. He will need the best shoes Nike makes because Spitzer is a tough campaigner with remarkable name and face recognition. (Weiner has the name recognition, but it’s not his face that people think of when they think of Weiner.)
Spitzer dodged criminal charges when he hired working girls, but these “employees” became damsels in distress when they were found guilty of working for Spitzer and dragged off to prison. It not only created buzz for the former governor but an opportunity for him to repent and beg forgiveness from voters who are ready to believe anything, including a talking snake named Satan and an ambitious boat builder named Noah.
Perhaps Stringer should create a scandal, preferably of a sexual nature so he’s in the same ballpark with Spitzer, which could bring him to his knees as well as the TV cameras where he could apologize and beg forgiveness for his alleged sin. And by simply omitting the word “not,” he could put a unique spin on that famous line “I did have sex with that woman.”  That’s sure to get him elected.
We just love born-again politicians, but not boring-again ones. So, come on, candidates, make your campaign sexy with a little scandal and then sit down to a healthy serving of humble pie. You have nothing to lose and much to gain, especially if you’re from New Jersey. But let’s not go there. Why would anyone want to go to New Jersey? We New Yorkers have our own fat cats here at home. And they can buy elections.
John Cappelletti, ST

Security keeps residents safe without guns

I live in Manhattan’s Stuyesant Town, a middle class project. We have uniformed security guards who carry handcuffs, clubs, and walkie-talkies – but no guns.
I’ve called them about loud college kids’ parties and they respond promptly.
A few times, the same security guards told me to dismount my bicycle in pedestrian areas, and I was the one who had to comply.
They’ve warned dog owners to clean up after their pets. They’ve been called to local stores renting from Stuyvesant Town to handle unruly shoppers and sometimes deal with shoplifters.
But what about real crime? These unarmed security guards have apprehended burglars and rapists in my 110-building community. They’ve received awards from the local NYPD precinct commander for doing so.
Are these guards “wannabe cops?” Maybe some of them are. But they’ve proven their effectiveness in keeping my community safe – all without guns!
The NRA is wrong! Guns DO kill people. Had Zimmerman not been armed, Trayvon Martin would still be alive today.
Had Zimmerman not been armed, he probably wouldn’t have ever left the safety of his car. He would have merely phoned in a report to the real cops, as he was advised to do.
Knowing he was armed emboldened Zimmerman to leave his car, even after being told by the police “You don’t need to do that.”
It was the gun that gave Zimmerman the “courage” to physically confront Trayvon Martin. When Mr. Martin defended himself, Zimmerman killed him.
Apparently, Florida law only gives armed people the right to self-defense. Unarmed people, such as Mr. Martin, do not have the right to defend themselves against armed attackers.
Elliot Markson, ST

 

Security cracking down on dog policies

A couple of pooches make themselves at home on a Stuy Town bench on a recent greenmarket Sunday.
Photo by Jonathan Wells

Who let the dogs in?

Not the public safety officers in Stuyvesant Town, at least not for the past month, according to ST/PCV Security Chief Bill McClellan.

A number of local dog owners, both resident and non-resident, noted they’ve been getting stopped lately with officers asking if they’re residents of the property and if their pooches are registered. If they’re non-residents, they may have been asked to leave.

According to McClellan, the rules about no outside dogs have always been there, but they’re just now beginning to be enforced.

While ST/PCV is private property, there has always been public access, making the place a natural destination for dog owners. One dog owner however told T&V she thought the new rule was unfair because it cuts off access to the East River if one is with their dog.

McClellan however said the rules are here to stay and part of the reason people are being stopped is to let residents know that they need to get their pets registered. Once pets are registered, the owners are given information about the related policies, including a 50-pound weight limit. Under Tishman Speyer, the policy allowed for one or two dogs with a weight limit of 80 pounds.

“It’s been four years since this dog policy, and we’re trying to keep the property for the enjoyment of our residents and not just people walking through,” said McClellan.

 Sabina Mollot