What does a fictional mystical Indian guru named Kumaré have to do with Lamorinda?
Lafayette’s own Bryan Carmel is a producer of the recent documentary Kumaré, which details the story of Vikram Gandhi, originally from New Jersey, who creates his own religion and gathers a following as an Indian guru in Phoenix, Arizona. Kumaré is now playing in select theaters across the country.
Carmel, 33, attended Springhill Elementary School, Stanley Middle School and graduated from College Preparatory School in Oakland.
He went on to Columbia University in New York, where he first met Vikram Gandhi, the director and main character of the film. The two studied religion together.
One of two producers of the film, Carmel made sure everything went smoothly during filming, a responsibility which included making sure everyone involved had the proper release forms and ensuring that no one caught on to the "prank" aspect of the film until the end.
In the film, Kumaré eventually reveals himself to be a fake prophet, as the documentary explores the authenticity of gurus and the idea that the real guru is inside of everyone.
Kumarés production team was unsure how people would react to the film, which has garnered a positive review from the New York Times and won the Audience Award for feature documentary at the SXSW Film Festival this year.
Carmel said that the deception captured within the film was one of the hardest parts of making the movie, as he formed real relationships with the "followers" they were filming.
“I think the biggest challenge was sort of navigating my own emotions having to do with my relationship with these people and the fact that we weren’t necessarily 100 percent forward with who we were,” he said.
Carmel is a founding partner of the production company Disposable Television, along with Vikram Gandhi and Kumaré producer Brendan Colthurst. Since Kumaré, Carmel has produced two documentaries for the History Channel, “The Stoned Ages,” an exploration of society’s relationship to drugs and “I-Swear,” a look into the history of swear words. He also served as executive producer and wrote a pilot for a History Channel project titled “Back In My Day.”
Carmel is currently working on developing a few new films, and looking to incorporate what he learned from Kumaré in his new projects.
Making his home in New York, he hopes to eventually move back to California. His parents, Richard and Jori Carmel, still live in Lafayette. Bryan, who enjoys walking the Lafayette Reservoir and hiking Briones Regional Park, said Lafayette was a great place to grow up.
So what advice does the local-born producer have for aspiring film producers in Lamorinda?
“Everybody looks at the world a little bit differently, so figure out what is the unique way that you look at the world and figure out how to say that in a succinct and compelling way that’s going to interest other people,” he said.
“Just start doing it,” said Carmel. “Don’t wait.”
Kumaré is being shown in select theaters around the country, and is set to come to the Bay Area this fall. For more information, visit Kumaremovie.com.