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Cougar Interview—Anders Lindwall ’08 and Ricky Staub ’06

by University Relations

When Anders Lindwall ’08, a cinema and broadcast arts major, and Ricky Staub ’06, a theater arts major, discovered a common goal—to transform the lives of the marginalized through the creative process —they established the Neighborhood Film Company (NFCo), a production company that uses filmmaking to fight homelessness, addiction, and poverty in Philadelphia. Today, NFCo enjoys a growing reputation for creating compelling commercials, Web advertisements, music videos, and narratives.

APU LIFE: What inspired you to start the Neighborhood Film Company?

LINDWALL: In 2010, we were both in Philadelphia and burned out from working and volunteering, and the poverty in the area began to weigh on our hearts. During several late-night conversations, we wondered if we could shoot films ourselves and hire our homeless friends to work with us. Films are such a communal process; we knew it could serve as both a medium of employment and a vehicle for restoration and hope.

APU LIFE: How do you partner with Project H.O.M.E.?

STAUB: Project H.O.M.E. (PH) is a nonprofit organization that addresses homelessness in Philadelphia through housing, employment, medical care, and education. We develop training for residents so they can work professionally on our productions as well as with other companies.

APU LIFE: What transformation have you seen in the lives of those you work with?

LINDWALL: The first resident to work with us was Elliott Harmon, whose skills have grown from learning to type to operating intricate sound equipment. We have employed him on more than eight productions to date. We caught him at a critical stage—living on government support without much hope. When we needed some transcripts, Elliott worked eight hours a day for two weeks on a typing tutorial, and went from typing 9 words per minute to 100. In addition to his work with us, he now takes classes at PH while working on his GED. He loves coming to work and has even found ways to help family and friends in his community.

STAUB: I think what’s amazed me more is how Anders and I have been transformed. I used to be impatient and short-tempered, but this journey has really mellowed me. I’m more faithful in moments of stress because my chips are all in. I’m committed to the point of failure, and that’s extremely freeing because I’ve escaped the pressure of “success.” I’ve also gained more empathy for individuals who come from brokenness. We try to eradicate the helper-helpee mentality and look more at how we can heal together.

APU LIFE: What makes NFCo different from other efforts to fight poverty?

STAUB: There’s a reason we are a for-profit company. We hold each other to high standards of excellence. If our product isn’t top-quality, then clients won’t hire us—plain and simple. Some nonprofits give people in need the false sense that they don’t have to work hard to succeed. But for us, if we don’t create good work as a team, we’re sunk. So everyone becomes very personally involved. I can’t afford for Elliott, or any other member for that matter, to be anything but the best. It’s incredible to see how pushing someone hard helps him or her rise to the occasion.

APU LIFE: What’s on the horizon for NFCo?

LINDWALL: We are developing a nonprofit side to NFCo that will focus on vocational training in filmmaking for adults in recovery. Beyond that, our goal from the beginning was to create a feature film—and we still want to do that. We aim to begin preproduction in 2014. Overall, we want to continue learning to be better storytellers for the sake of our clients and future “Elliotts.”

To learn more about the Neighborhood Film Company, visit www.neighborhoodfilmcompany.com.

Originally published in the Summer '12 issue of APU Life. Download the full issue (PDF).