A Face in the Crowd: Ryan Carmichael Gives Voice to a Generation with the Hip Hop Musical
“But Not For Me”

On a hip hop musical that's sure to put a bounce in your step....Read More
Ryan Carmichael's "But Not For Me"

As a filmmaker who won a Directors Guild of America Student Film Award for his short “Everything’s New in Lost Time,” Ryan Carmichael knows the biggest things can often start with something small. But there was a time when he might not have been so sure.

While attending school at the University of Michigan, Carmichael would spend his nights tending to the box office for the University Musical Society. As classical programs would play inside, he and his co-worker would talk about future plans and though Carmichael was confident he’d make use of his film degree, his co-worker was less sure of what she’d do with her environmental science major, slightly rattling Carmichael when she lamented, “Lately, I feel like if it’s not saving the world, it’s not worth it.”

Carmichael may not quite accomplish saving the world with “But Not For Me,” his first feature that is now currently raising funds on Kickstarter before a November 2nd deadline. But he certainly will create one all his own. Taking its title from the George Gershwin song of a the same name, the film aims to reimagine the New York familiar to Carmichael, who went on to continue his education at NYU Film School, and so many others who scramble to make ends meet as they pursue their professional dreams into a place bursting with opportunity — for musical numbers, as well as perhaps a shot at making a difference.

“When I decided that I wanted to pursue filmmaking as a career, I instinctually saw it was an opportunity to pursue my musical ambitions as well,” says Carmichael, whose passion for hip-hop music extends to when he used to record raps over the instrumentals on cassette singles dating back to the sixth grade. “While lacking in musical abilities, I knew that I could use my grasp on storytelling and the historical use of music in films to try new things.”

As a result, “But Not for Me” will bring to life the story of a copywriter who finds a kindred spirit in a concert violinist with vibrant song-and-dance sequences as the two search for purpose in the big city. Ranging from the stripped-down moments of intimacy akin to “Once” to elaborate, synchronized numbers that are unlike anything audiences are currently accustomed to, Carmichael plans to embrace the energy of the city streets as well as the challenges they might bring.

Notes Carmichael, who aims to shoot the film in the spring of 2014, “I’ve always been greatly inspired by Jean-Luc Godard’s ‘Breathless’ and his complete lack of concern with passersbys looking directly into the camera when he shot the street scenes.”

Such an approach will allow Carmichael be concerned less with the practical aspects of making the film than its metaphysical import, delving deep into the issues that face the Millennial generation, disillusioned with a world governed by corporations allowing little space for individual voices to break through. Promising on its Kickstarter page to mix existentialist philosophy with smile-inducing showstoppers, the film was partially inspired by Carmichael’s experience of working at an ad agency where his own idealism as an artist clashed with using his abilities for less than artistic projects.

“The most eye-opening aspect of it was my encounter with so many outrageously talented people who gave every inch of their creative muscle to advertising, to selling things,” recalls Carmichael. “Most of these brilliant people were completely content with persuading consumers for a living and I totally got it. Being able to use your creative talents for anything in this life is a gift.”

It wasn’t long before Carmichael chose to use his gifts for something more personally meaningful, a decision that led him to New York where he met Elena Urioste, a violinist he had seen performing in Detroit and reconnected with when he made a short documentary on a musician for a class assignment. Soon enough, Urioste agreed to appear as the central character of Hope in “But Not For Me,” as well his Michigan classmate Maria Vermeulen who will also star in the film.

All one needs to do is take a gander at the look book Carmichael has put together for the film to understand why they committed to the project and why you should as well. “But Not For Me” may have originated as a bittersweet melody, but with the crew Carmichael’s assembled, the film aims to make some beautiful music should it come together.

To back this project and see the filmmaker’s pitch video, click here. And follow the film’s progress through the director’s official site, Facebook and Twitter.

Stephen Saito is an L.A.-based writer whose work has been published in The L.A. Times, Premiere, and IFC.com.
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