Once the centre of the New York bohemia, Greenwich Village is now home to lux restaurants, and buzzer door clothing stores catering to the nouveau riche.  But one shop in the heart of the Village remains resilient to the encroaching gentrification: Carmine Street Guitars.

There, custom guitar maker Rick Kelly and his young apprentice Cindy Hulej, build handcrafted guitars out of reclaimed wood from old hotels, bars, churches and other local buildings. Nothing looks or sounds quite like a Rick Kelly guitar, which is the reason they are embraced by the likes of Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Jim Jarmusch, just to name a few.

Featuring a cast of prominent musicians and artists, the film captures five days in the life of Carmine Street Guitars, while examining an all-too-quickly vanishing way of life.



Long Island native Rick Kelly took his fascination toward trees one step further to break boundaries as a guitar builder. Growing up, Kelly had always idolized his grandfather as a woodworker. While in college studying sculpture, Kelly began collecting and working with ancient woods, noticing that the tones they conjured on the electric guitars he was building held deeper, resonant tones than those built on factory assembly lines. He eventually made his way to Greenwich Village where he opened up for business in the late 1970s before moving to the present storefront for Carmine Street Guitars in 1990.

A chance meeting with filmmaker Jim Jarmusch (who gave Kelly some wood from his loft to build him a guitar) led to Kelly’s discovery of New York timber: pine that had been lumbered in the Adirondacks’ virgin forests nearly two centuries ago for the construction of the neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan, the Village, Bowery, and what would become Soho and Tribeca. Reclaiming these “bones of the city,” Kelly commenced building electric guitars primarily modeled on Leo Fender’s classic Telecaster design.



Rick Kelly took his love of woodworking one step further when creating guitars out of them. His handmade custom Telecasters have become the stuff of legend since he opened his store and workshop in Greenwich Village in the late1970’s, belying an industrious, gentle and earthy artisan with an eye for what an electric guitar should be and an ear for its enchanting sounds.

A native of Queens, New York, Cindy Hulej has always loved both music and art. She walked into Carmine Street Guitars five years ago and asked Rick for a job, and much to her surprise was hired on the spot.

The 93-year-old matriarch of Carmine Street Guitars, Rick’s mother, Dorothy, has been crunching the numbers, keeping the books, and maintaining the shop. Mrs. Kelly’s role could not be filled by anyone else. 


Singer-songwriter Eszter Balint is also an actress who made her cinematic debut in Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise.

Guitar and lap steel player, Christine Bougie is both a solo recording artist and guitarist in the indie band Bahamas.

Nels Cline is best known for his role as guitarist in the alternative rock band Wilco, as well as leading his own avant-garde jazz group.

“Captain” Kirk Douglas  is the lead guitarist for the Hip Hop/Soul/Rock/Funk outfit The Roots, which performs as the house band for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

Singer-songwriter Eleanor Friedberger is also known for being half of the indie rock duo the Fiery Furnaces.

A true innovator on his instrument, Bill Frisell is considered one of the world’s great jazz guitarists.

As well as prolific recording artists for The Sadies, the band also has backed the likes of Neko Case, Andre Williams and Neil Young.

Writer, DJ and stand-up comedian, Dave Hill is a member of the groups Valley Lodge and Painted Doll.

Guitarist extraordinaire for indie rock duo The Kills, Jamie Hince lost the use of his middle finger in a freak accident, but that didn’t stop him from playing.

Long time guitar tech and friend of musician Lou Reed, Stuart Hurwood (in collaboration with Laurie Anderson) conceptualized the sonic installation Drones using Lou Reed’s amps and guitars.

Film director, actor, and guitarist for his NYC band SQÜRL, Jim Jarmusch has been a guiding force of independent cinema since his breakout Stranger Than Paradise.

Lenny Kaye is best known as Patti Smith’s guitarist from her debut to the present day. Possessed with an encyclopedic knowledge of music, history and culture, Lenny Kaye compiled the classic garage rock LP anthology Nuggets.

Guitar virtuoso Marc Ribot has explored free rock/jazz guitar as a solo artist as well as collaborator with Tom Waits, Elvis Costello and Marianne Faithful among others.

Longstanding guitarist for Bob Dylan, Charlie Sexton is also an actor featured in the award-winning films Boyhood and Blaze.



Sphinx Productions is a documentary film and television production company, based in Toronto, Canada, that has been producing award-winning films since 1976. Recent productions include Ron Mann's Altman, a feature-length documentary about iconoclastic film director Robert Altman.



"The most enjoyable music documentary I’ve watched all year." - Switch

“‘Carmine Street Guitars’ Has Great Vibe - Director Ron Mann’s Endearing Tribute to Guitar Makers” - Santa Barbara Independent

“a tribute to a dying breed of musicians and music enthusiasts who can tell the difference between something made by machine and something created by hand with passion. I adore this film.” - Third Coast Review

“an affectionate, somewhat elegiac glimpse into a master and a craft that, like so much of the surrounding neighborhood, is steadily being corporately gentrified.” - Austin Chronicle

★★★★★ “It’s thrilling to see a movie that celebrates how much love, care, and devotion can go into a manual task.“ - Book and Film Globe

“Carmine Street Guitars is, essentially, about pure love. A pure love of a craft. A pure love of the music, and a pure love a city. A pure love of creation. And a pure love of an era long past whose history continues to be erased before our eyes.” - Film Jerk

“Carmine Street Guitars is akin to a meditative experience. It breezes along effortlessly, giving viewers time to take it all in and appreciate the shop and it’s dedication to preserving pieces of the city’s history.” - The Gate

“Portrait of a West Village guitar shop as a boho oasis is a love letter to downtown musicians — and an absolutely essential documentary about the importance of community” - Rolling Stone

Critic’s Pick! “warm and affectionate” - NY Times

“a Beautiful Portrait of an Everyday Paradise” - Slant

Ron Mann joins WNYC to talk about his new documentary, “Carmine Street Guitars,”. He is joined by Rick Kelly, the guitar-maker and the film’s main subject. (Audio Interview) - WNYC

“the beauty of “Carmine Street Guitars,” as directed by the documentary veteran Ron Mann, is what a stubbornly off-the-beat concoction it is. If Jim Jarmusch ever made a documentary, it might look exactly like this one. Actually, Jarmusch has made a documentary, the 2016 Iggy Pop and the Stooges profile “Gimme Danger” (a solid film, though surprisingly conventional), but I’m talking about if Jarmusch ever made a documentary as delectable and eccentric in its minimalist vibe as his fiction features. In “Carmine Street Guitars,” the characters are characters, the way they were in Errol Morris’s “Gates of Heaven.” You react to them as if they’d stepped out of a folk fable, and that’s the film’s quiet intoxication.“ - Variety

“Why Carmine Street's Rick Kelly handcrafts guitars using 'the bones from old New York” - Interview with Rick Kelly by CBC Q’s Tom Power - CBC Radio Q

Karen Gordon talks about Carmine Street Guitars on CBC Metro Morning with Matt Galloway - CBC Metro Morning

“Mann is the hipster fly on the wall, just happy to be there and drink it all in — and to share the joy of the experience with us.” - Toronto Star

“The buildings of old New York resonate in Carmine Street Guitars” - Georgia Straight

“Sawdust and music hang in the air of the cramped workshop at the heart of Carmine Street Guitars, the latest documentary feature by Toronto-based director Ron Mann, opening Friday” - Georgia Straight (Feature)

”Carmine Street Guitars is a portrait of a master craftsman at work, it’s also a bittersweet ode to people who are trying to keep a little bit of the past alive in a rapidly changing world.” - One Movie Our Views

“Carmine Street Guitars creates its own wonderful soundtrack” - National Post

“Every tool has a story. Rick Kelly would be happy to tell you all about them if you ask, and since most of us won’t be able to make the trek down to the shop, Mann’s film is the next best thing.” - The Gate

“The documentary is shot in a very poetic way… The artists are in a position that one rarely gets to see, trying new instruments. It makes their musical game even more authentic, as it happens on the spot.” - Beatroute

“Ron Mann’s new Carmine Street Guitars is a treat for music fans” - That’s What She Said

“Carmine Street Guitars is one of my all time favorite documentaries - full stop… While in New York, not only did I have the opportunity to visit Carmine Street Guitars, but I also had the privilege of rapping with some of the film's coolest customers. Have a listen” - Screen Anarchy

“the most unassuming, sneakily beautiful, goddamn treat of a film I have ever seen” - Screen Anarchy

“A highlight of the Spotlight on Documentary program is “Carmine Street Guitars”, a portrait of the Greenwich Village guitar shop that represents a vanishing New York in more ways than one: Not only has the store resisted gentrification, its owner builds guitars out of wood salvaged from city buildings.” - New York Times

“one of the truly superlative discoveries of this year’s New York Film Festival.” - Criterion Cast

“a Breezy Look at One of the Last True Craftsman of Greenwich Village” - The Young Folks

“Kelly says he always wanted to make things that would outlive him. And now he does: Musical instruments have their own life -- once they leave you, they make music long after you're gone, even guitars with 300-year-old wood.” - Video Interview - NY1

“utterly delightful and unique… an absolute treat” - This Week in New York

“I love this film. This is just good time with great people talking about something thay have a deep passion for, while playing some occasional bit of music. This was manna from heaven for me, a man who loves great conversation.” - Unseen Films

"A gentle, warm, immensely satisfying portrait of a West Village institution" - Rolling Stone

“Ron Mann affectionately observes the last of a dying breed” - POV Magazine

"watching this film becomes like spending a pleasant day at the office — at a dream job — where moments of intense focus are broken up by idle chitchat" - The Week

4.5 out of 5! "Carmine Street Guitars is highly nostalgic but it doesn’t suffer from a kind of ennui. Instead, it’s a celebration, a welcoming and warm introduction to this oasis where the expression is king, and the accoutrements are all there to bring about greatness in the right hands. Mann manages to lift this place into near mythic ways without ever overplaying his hand, showing for uninitiated or longtime patron alike the magic not only of Kelly’s shop, but all that it represents." - High Def Digest

"Mann’s simple ode to Kelly and CARMINE STREET GUITARS makes a case for creativity, community and the magic of old ways." - Globe and Mail

"Mann’s simple ode to Kelly and CARMINE STREET GUITARS makes a case for creativity, community and the magic of old ways." - Globe and MailAhead of its premiere, CBC Music spoke to Kelly about some of his biggest run-ins with musicians and some clients he has become friends with over the years. Scroll down to read stories about David Bowie, Bob Dylan and more. - CBC Music

"“What I wanted to do with Carmine Street Guitars is to capture the place before it all slips away,” Mann says. “It’s an oasis of beauty and honesty, and when you’re there the rest of the world is shut out. It’s like going back in time.”" - Globe and Mail

" a sweet, enlightening and inspiring documentary that pays homage to the way things were done before mass production. It’s a miracle that such a place still exists, so it’s only fitting that Kelly’s business get this loving tribute." - Austin 360

"a great afternoon hang" - Moveable Fest

(Audio Interview) FRED has the pleasure to talk to Ron Mann and Cindy Hulej about their experience during the filming of Carmine Street Guitars. Mr. Mann’s Carmine Street Guitars has captured the life and the music within Rick Kelly’s custom guitar shop in Greenwich village, while keeping a keen eye on the future of Kelly’s inspirational work, embobdied by Ms. Hulej’s skillful and artistic craft. - Fred FM

CARMINE STREET GUITARS "a love letter — to NYC, to the bohemians and musicians who call the place home... to taking pride in your work and to finding a place for freaks and misfits to call home." - Rolling Stone  

"a mostly quiet celebration of the work of an artisan whose days on Carmine Street could be numbered... Tender without sentimentality, the doc by Ron Mann is as absorbing as it is understated." - Screen Daily

"There's so much noise in movies and this is quiet. There's a guitar movie called It Might Get Loud; this is It Might Get Soft." - The Whole Note (Interview with filmmaker Ron Mann)

"Ron Mann finds perfect metaphors for North America's culture wars.  In Carmine Street Guitars, Mann finds the ideal emblem for the fight against gentrification. It’s a beautiful and uniquely emotional piece about fighting the cash nexus and trying to preserve history in the most immediate manner. And it's about guitars!" - Steve Gravestock, Programmer. TIFF

"Carmine Street Guitars is a New York story about standing tall in the face of commerce-driven
gentrification. It’s also a meditation on the magic of wood and of music, and the interaction of people."- Variety

"The vibe is always deep and the groove is always sweet in Ron Mann’s lovely portrait of a week in the  life of luthier Rick Kelly’s eponymous ground floor shop." - Kent Jones, Director, NY Film Festival 

"Carmine Street Guitars is as warm as the tone of those guitars." - Jason Gorber, Film Critic

"The intense pleasure I find in Carmine Street Guitars, speaking as someone who tends to avoid electric guitars as if they were dentists' drills, is the intense pleasure I witness in building, decorating, and playing them. I guess that makes me a convert." - Jonathan Rosenbaum, Film Critic