Neighborhood Film Company aims to help those in need by teaching filmmaking.
Due west of Temple and just before the Schuylkill River, a nondescript warehouse sits at the end of a one-way street. The second floor houses several studios and offices rented by creative types – one of these belongs to Neighborhood Film Company.
Founded eight months ago, members of NFCo are working to establish themselves as a film production company in Philadelphia. NFCo, is different from other professional production companies in that they are attempting to use the process of filmmaking to fight the cycles of poverty.
Unlike other charitable organizations, NFCo founders Ricky Staub and Anders Lindwall said they hope to provide a “direct response to the issue [of poverty] rather than just highlighting it.”
The idea for NFCo began with late-night brainstorming, after establishing that they wanted to combine what they knew how to do – filmmaking and helping people. Living in South Philadelphia, they said they witnessed poverty firsthand.
“I always thought it was weird that these kids would sit outside on their stoops every day after school, not doing anything – or their parents not doing anything – sitting on their stoops when the kids were at school,” Staub said. “What would it look like if I offered them something else to do with their time?”
“I could actually teach [film] to someone,” Staub added. “What if we took these people that we knew and taught them how to shoot a feature film?”
Partnered with Project H.O.M.E., NFCo took the skill sets of its founders and decided to teach film skills to citizens in Philadelphia recovering from homelessness and addiction.
Their ultimate goal as a production company is to one day make feature films. Currently, they’re working on several commercial projects, and mentoring their first student, Elliot, as necessary. He is being trained on audio for two hours a day in preparation for upcoming shoots.
So far, many of their clients have been local, and they have shot a video for Anthropologie. That job lead to working on four projects for Longwood Gardens, who hired them without knowing about the unique aspects of NFCo.
“They’re super great to work with because they trust us and we come up with crazy ideas,” Staub said.
They’ve also had a couple of weeks shooting behind the scenes material for an M. Night Shyamalan movie starring Will Smith. Lindwall described the experience as “weird” because they went from “hanging out with Will Smith” to being back in the office.
“Commercial practice, it pays bills and keeps us employed,” Lindwall said. “Basically, every job that we are contracted to do there is a mentorship to do.”
“If you work with us, you mentor too,” he added. “As more individuals such as Elliot come on if you want to work with us, you have to teach. Every job is a training vehicle to shoot features.”
A current project in the works is a non-governmental organization, in the form of a nonprofit film school, geared specifically toward employment for adults living with mental illness or recovering from homelessness and addiction. Lindwall said that the school, which is still being conceptualized, would have three stages, all of them geared toward eventual employment.
“I think it’s good practice in the realm of professionalism, working with clients,” Staub said. “It’s real life stakes – the biggest thing is to be professional.”
“We want to be just as good as every other company out there and still do it this way,” he added.
The first stage would teach basic life skills, including helping people earn their GED, typing and working with Mac computers. The second stage would be a general overview of the film process. The third and final stage would allow those at the school to specialize in something they could see themselves doing as a career.
From there, students would be paired with a professional in their desired field for further mentoring. Eventually the training would prepare them to be an employee at NFCo. Ideally though, the process does not stop there.
“The imagination is not just us hiring [the students] but also other professionals in the industry,” Staub said.
As a company with only six employees, they are currently working on eight separate projects, all in different stages. While the projects are smaller, for the most part, each of them provides a valuable opportunity not only for teaching, but also to establish NFCo as a production company.
In keeping with their goal of being a direct response to the issue of poverty, Staub said while it is not completely ruled out, the idea of making a documentary about homelessness or addictions is not a priority.
Current brainstorming efforts revolve around ideas for short films, in order to branch out from their roots in commercial videos. While commercial videos provide good practice for film skills, shooting short films with a small team would allow NFCo to establish themselves as storytellers. Working on short films would also put them a step closer to working on feature-length films.
Lindwall said that NFCo’s motto is “here to be together.”
So while it is still important for NFCo to put out the best product possible, doing well on jobs ultimately means that they can continue to work together in the same capacity and grow as a company.
Meghan White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.