What’s Good in the Hood?
Anders Lindwall and Ricky Staub, the creative minds and founding fathers of the NFCo.
Driven by a shared passion and an unusual idea, Ricky Staub and Anders Lindwall gave up their careers in the mainstream film industry to set up a production company that could make a difference: the Neighborhood Film Company. NFCo is a creative production company that mentors and employs adults recovering from homelessness and addiction, training them in the process of filmmaking.
Some of their commercial work for Nike:
The quality of their work has already attracted a string of high-profile clients, including Nike, Levi’s and Anthropologie. Magnify spoke to Ricky and Anders to find out more about the growth of their vision.
Having met in LA, their passion for film took them on separate pathways after college. Ricky spent his post-college years working as an assistant for the Hollywood producer Sam Mercer, known for his work on the latest M. Night Shyamalan films, The Happening and The Last Airbender, while Anders chose a more nomadic route, travelling the world as a freelance director.
The decision to leave all this behind wasn’t a sudden one. Their journeys brought them both to Philadelphia at the same time, where they became increasingly aware of Philly’s ‘obvious population of people in need.’ They were always reading about the way Jesus reached out to those in similar need, and were frustrated by the number of people they knew struggling with homelessness, mental illness, and addiction.
‘I remember having moments when I could no longer read the bible without it becoming alien,’ says Ricky. ‘I felt like it had become a story that I wasn’t part of.’
And that’s when they had the idea to set up NFCo.
Although they already had the experience of working in the film industry, they needed to find out more about tackling the problem of homelessness and addiction. They sought the advice of Sister Mary Scullion, ranked in 2009 as one of TIME magazine’s ‘Top 100 Most Influential People’ and co-founder of Project H.O.M.E, an organisation working to end homelessness in Philadelphia. They expected her to tell them their idea was crazy. But she encouraged them to step up to the challenge.
It was in one of the Project H.O.M.E facilities that they met Elliott, who has since become their first employee. From the outset, Ricky and Anders knew that NFCo could not simply function as a social programme that allowed people to pass through and end up forgotten. They were determined to work as a family.
Anders says, ‘From the day we met Elliott, he had a drive to see his life change. He is as responsible for his success as we are.’ The aim isn’t to teach Elliott how to live – they want to partner with him and work alongside him. ‘Because we’re a company, there have been times where I am as reliant on Elliott as he is reliant on me,’ agrees Ricky.
People matter to NFCo. Not yet affiliated to any particular church, they’ve nevertheless been touched by the community that has rallied around to support the organisation. Ricky says, ‘It feels very much like the church in a biblical sense, like a body of people living out the work of Christ.’
It is their faith that really drives the project, carrying them through when things get messy and difficult. Anders quotes Dostoyevsky’s famous contrast between ‘love in actions’ and ‘love in dreams’ to explain how difficult love in action really is: love in action doesn’t offer the ‘immediate gratification’ that love in dreams so readily provides.
Ricky says, ‘We don’t just get along here like any other company. Not everyone in the company is a Christian, but you still have to understand what it means to love like Christ because we are doing something almost impossible… It’s one of those things you can read about and theorise in the bible. Once it just looked like fiction; now it’s become concrete.’
With such an intense desire to base their work on strong, authentic relationships, there’s no doubt that the Neighborhood Film Company will make a major impact on culture and on individual lives.
To see their vision through their eyes, watch this video:
And to get an idea of what they’re up to, here is there global showreel:
Words by Yosola Olorunshola