First Step Staffing Group

First Step Staffing Group

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By Vivien Yoon-Seo Yang [Documentary Group]

Artist: Melissa Alexander

Organization: First Step Staffing

Atlanta based photographer, videographer, and filmmaker Melissa Alexander is also the founder of Phyllis.Iller, a content creating company that “celebrates the individual”. Melissa stresses the importance of “learning about oneself” and her work is steeped in “growth, vulnerability, and love”. Her company, Phyllis.Iller aims to celebrate originality and all the uniqueness that makes an individual human. Her talents are used for community outreach and authentic self-expression to teach the world to understand the importance of “loving yourself above what society deems worthy”.


Melissa collaborated with Emory students, Isabella Wu, Morgane Bensadoun, Edward Hernandez, Carly Besser, and Megen Chey to create a promotional video for First Step Staffing. Founded in 2007 in Atlanta, First Step Staffing is a non-profit staffing agency for social change and they specialize in military veterans, individuals experiencing homelessness and unemployment and those transitioning as a returning citizen. First Step has an ethos of “people are people” and provide opportunities for their “trained, high-quality, supported, dedicated, and talented” clients with businesses.

Not only does First Step Staffing provide their clients rides to and from work, train them for their jobs, but they also help their clients to maintain their jobs. 100% of their profits are re-invested into transportation, extensive job and life coaching, and housing placement assistance for their clients. Additionally, it is the only staffing agency to provide additional resources at “no extra cost”. Within less than 10 years, First Step has provided 15 hours per full-time employment, 5,000 rides per month and changed a total of over 7,500 lives. First Step Staffing’s goal with their promotional video is to “reach a wider range of private and public funders”.


On March 8th, 2018 the Emory students met with First Step’s Community Outreach Operations Director and Vice President of Development and Community Relations, Naomi Maisel and Amelia Nickerson. They discussed and planned out the layout of the promotional film. First Step Staffing did not provide much direction in the way they wanted the finished outcome to look like, which allowed the students with more flexibility and creativity. The collaboration was originally supposed to be “a day in the life of one First Step client”, to show viewers the typical day of a First Step client and how First Step Staffing transformed their life for the better. This concept was intended to highlight the client’s experience and evolving relationship with First Step Staffing. However, this initial concept was challenging because of obtaining approval from clients to be filmed within their homes and private space and time constraints.


The students met with artist Melissa Alexander on March 20th at Emory’s campus to tackle and adapt the overall setup of the promotional video. After much brainstorming, they concluded that the promotional video must not only be something the company can advertise but also be something that “accurately represents the work that First Step” does on a daily basis. Melissa and the Emory students chose to feature and interview First Step’s Founder and Board Chair Greg Block, Lead Employment Specialist and Job coach Eric Clayton, Transportation Manager Mike Simmons, Clinical Case Manager Michael B. Jordan, and First Step client Dale Moore.

Melissa and the Emory students went to both First Step Staffing’s office and Emory’s campus to meet with the staff and film b-roll for the promotional video. Melissa Alexander, “aka mentor extraordinaire”, wanted to give the students more of a hands-on experience with the making of the promotional video. She patiently mentored and guided the students to film their own segments of the interviews.


At first, the students were hesitant with the handling with the camera, but they later became more comfortable with filming. Melissa’s coaching “opened doors for creativity” for the students and the b roll clips were later edited by the Emory students post-production. The final promotional video focuses on the recruiting, training, and orientation process, to provide an authentic look into the inner works of First Step Staffing.

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