Passionate Screenwriter Battles Obstacles to Bring George Washington and Alexander Hamilton’s Story to the Big Screen

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Matthew Ryan has spent the past decade working on a feature film project that explores the complicated relationship between Founding Fathers George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. Despite facing numerous challenges, Ryan remains committed to his script titled “Aegis for Dreams.” The goal is to raise $30 million for the film, which he believes has the potential to resonate with a wide audience.

The 58-year-old lawyer and former banker has no prior experience in the film industry, which he readily acknowledges. However, he is determined to bring this untold story to the big screen. Ryan compares his quest to scaling Mount Everest – a daunting but entirely possible feat.

Inspired by extensive reading on the Revolutionary War period, Ryan noticed that the narrative of Hamilton and Washington’s relationship had not been fully explored, with the exception of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical “Hamilton.” Intrigued by their intertwined stories, Ryan saw the potential for a two-hour feature film that could captivate and educate audiences.

While some have suggested that the story would be better suited for a documentary or TV mini-series, Ryan firmly believes that a feature film would have the most impact. He points to previous films like “The Patriot” and “Revolution” as examples of Hollywood’s tendency to distort historical events for entertainment purposes. In contrast, Ryan’s script draws heavily from Hamilton and Washington’s own words, utilizing their letters, speeches, and historical documents.

Titled “Aegis for Dreams,” Ryan’s script delves into themes of republicanism and opposition to tyranny, drawing parallels to ancient Rome and Washington’s admiration for Roman Senator Marcus Porcius Cato. The word “aegis,” meaning a shield that protects soldiers, holds significance throughout the story. Hamilton even referred to Washington as his “aegis” throughout their careers.

Beyond its historical value, Ryan sees “Aegis for Dreams” as an educational corrective to recent events, including the January 6 insurrection and the threat to democracy posed by former President Donald Trump. Ryan believes that the lives of Hamilton and Washington contain lessons that resonate with our present time.

To bring his vision to life, Ryan created the Aegis for Dreams Foundation, which holds the licensing rights to the film project. Despite facing initial challenges in obtaining tax-exempt status from the IRS, Ryan succeeded in a lawsuit against the agency. Now, all profits from the film will go to soldier charities and not-for-profit youth organizations.

So far, Ryan has sent numerous pitch letters to film industry executives seeking financial backing, but he has yet to secure funding for the project. Undeterred, he continues to refine his script and reach out to potential supporters. Ryan believes that determination and perseverance will ultimately lead to success.

While recognizing the difficulties ahead, Ryan remains committed to his mission. Only time will tell if his efforts will be celebrated or mourned, but he is unwavering in his belief in the importance of sharing the untold story of Hamilton and Washington. With the potential for cultural relevance and a focus on patriotism, “Aegis for Dreams” has the power to captivate audiences and provide a unique perspective on American history.

Paul Grondahl is the Opalka Endowed Director of the New York State Writers Institute at the University at Albany and a former Times Union reporter. He can be reached at [email protected].