Six months ago I met a woman who ran an incredible social enterprise teaching prisoners to be graphic artists. She and her business partner were training up these hardened men from scratch so they would have a useful skill for when they finally left prison.
I needed an animation job done and while I was a little sceptical, I was also intrigued. Society had all but written these men off and I loved that these two women were giving them an opportunity for redemption. I feel everybody deserves a second chance and seeing as we are a certified social enterprise ourselves and I will do almost anything to support other social enterprises, I decided to go and take a closer look.
The whole process to 'go inside' was as intense as you would expect. Initial security checks needed to be done and then the prison itself was a series of xray machines and heavily guarded doors. Eventually I made it into the room where these women trained the men. By this stage I had butterflies in my stomach. I didn't know what to expect.
The room was large and filled in equal parts with computers and huge men with tattoos covering much of their bodies. These weren't the colourful kinds of tattoos adorning the arms of cool millennials, they were roughly done prison tats covering almost every square inch of skin. Like most men do, I occasionally fantasize about how I might go if push ever came to shove. My daydream involves sticking up for someone who can't stick up for themselves, and in it I do remarkably well. That day in that room has soured this fantasy forever.
The men were so engrossed in their work that they barely acknowledged my presence. I was grateful for that. It was so intimidating that I found it difficult to make eye contact with them as I was lead around the room and shown the different projects in development.
A couple of things stood out for me above all others. The first was the sheer diversity and beauty of their work. Many had drawn pictures in their cells the night before and were bringing them to life in Photoshop and Illustrator. Some were creating stunning 2D animations of objects moving through space and some were building complex 3D animations. I watched an interactive 2D training video for pulling an engine apart and putting it back back together, and I watched a mind-blowing interactive 3D health and safety video. I got to put on a special pair of goggles and identify all of the strategically placed dangers as I walked through a working business.
The second thing that stood out to me was how brave these two women were and the huge respect these men had for them. These were scary looking men. At least to me they were. To the two women they were simply students keen to learn. And the work they were producing was incredible. I think it's important to note here that no man who was in that jail for violence against women could participate in the program.
I came away confident that they could make me an ad even better than I could have hoped for, and they didn't let me down. We now have three more ads in the pipeline and I believe we have found a partnership that will last for many years to come.
These two amazing women run a social enterprise called Green Fox Studio. They are working with both Government agencies and the private sector and their rates are unbelievably good. I highly recommend their work for both the quality and the purpose behind it, but you can be the judge by clicking on our new video. We love it :)