After landing dream jobs in their early 20s, filmmakers Ricky Staub and Anders Lindwall decided to move instead to the rougher side of Philadelphia and make films with the city’s homeless population. Staub was working for Hollywood producer Sam Mercer(The Sixth Sense). Lindwall was traveling all over the globe covering stories about fellow graduates from their alma matter, Azuza Pacific University, who were doing meaningful work with their degrees. But the two Midwesterners felt compelled to help others find meaningful work instead.
“It feels like Philly picked us most days,” says Ricky, who convinced himself and Anders to move to the new city after working on a feature film there with Mercer. Staub and Lindwall met with Sister Mary Scullion, one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, to discuss some “deep unanswerable questions” they had. The guys ended up telling Sister Mary about an idea: to produce a film with a crew of their homeless friends. She loved it and gave them a place to stay. Ricky and Anders ended up living in one of Sister Mary’s non-profit residences in the city and befriended a number of amazing men on their way out of homelessness.
One of these men is Elliott. Elliott has been in and out of prison since he was 19 years old. He had no high-school education, no work skills, and no support system. Staub and Lindwall quickly befriended Elliott and invited him on a photo shoot. Elliott “kicked ass” Staub says, so they hired him for a big commercial shoot they were producing for Anthropologie. “I’m telling you, he was incredible,” Staub smiles. “It was like unveiling a gift that had been hidden.”
Staub says Elliott is changing his life too. “He’s literally blowing people’s minds with what he’s able to accomplish. The guy never touched a computer in the 40 years of his life and within one year he’s apprenticing as an editor,” Staub explains. And a significant editor at that. Stuab and Lindwall’s new production company, Neighborhood Film Company, is working on commercials for huge companies such as Nike (they recently directed and edited a project for the brand).
Their overall goal is to empower creative commerce in their marginalized community and they’ve even launched a non-profit, Working Film Establishment, which will use “the training ground of filmmaking to prepare adults in recovery for thriving employment.”. “We plan to shoot the first feature film with a crew of men and women in recovery,” says Staub.
They may have left dream jobs, but they’ve found a bigger dream.