ABOUT THE DIRECTOR
ABOUT PHOENIX HOUSE
LEAF MATTHEWS is fast becoming another statistic. Growing up in a troubled home, sleeping with a knife under the pillow has become the norm. At seven years old, he witnesses his mentally ill mother KARI stab his stepfather in the back. After several tumultuous years of neverending violence, Leaf finds escape through the use of drugs and alcohol at the young age of twelve. By sixteen, he is out-of-control and dangerously close to losing his life.
After an accidental overdose, Leaf gets a second chance. With the love and compassion of his Grandmother LILLIAN – his surrogate mother and the one person who hasn’t given up on him – Leaf reluctantly agrees to enter America’s House, a residential rehab facility for at-risk teens.
At America’s House, Leaf meets other adolescents who understand his volatile home life. The difference is that his peers, with troubled pasts of their own, are now sober, back in school, employed, or enrolling in college. Leaf vehemently rebels, battling the other residents, resisting the help of the staff, all while secretly plotting to get kicked out.
When Leaf’s grandmother unexpectedly dies, it shakes his world. Leaf now has nowhere to go after treatment. Feeling alone and vulnerable, Leaf befriends JASON, an older, respected resident who helps Leaf grieve his loss.
Leaf slowly opens up and begins to explore his once stifled creative side by keeping a private journal. He refuses to share his writings with anyone until one day he sneaks away with MIRANDA, an older resident and new secret crush. Leaf shares a story from his journal about an elevator, an analogy for living, how you can either fight or accept that life goes up and down. Leaf confesses to Miranda that he wants to stay clean, but doesn't know if he can. The two kiss.
It’s a bittersweet moment when Leaf’s friend and mentor, Jason, graduates and leaves the program. This allows Leaf to step up and become a Big Brother to younger teens in treatment. He is assigned a new resident who quickly challenges Leaf with the same hostility he once displayed.
Leaf struggles with his growing responsibilities, complicated by the increasingly contentious family therapy sessions he must endure with his toxic mother. To make matters worse, an overly aggressive boy also develops affection for Miranda. With Miranda fearing their relationship is distracting Leaf, she decides to ends things, pushing Leaf to the edge.
The breaking point for Leaf is when he learns the devastating news that Jason relapsed and murdered someone while using drugs. With his life in complete turmoil, Leaf runs away from America’s House and returns to his old drug spot. The memory of the overdose that nearly claimed his life quickly resurfaces. Out of despair and with nowhere else to turn, Leaf calls America’s House seeking to return “home.” He now knows with certainty that he cannot return to that old way of life.
The staff welcome him back with open arms and determine that Leaf is ready for the final phase of treatment. They prepare him for the “Marathon,” a rigorous intensive therapy where Leaf must confront the pain and demons that haunt him. Through this process, Leaf faces his own destructive behavior and finds forgiveness for his mother but more importantly, for himself. Leaf graduates from the program with a firm commitment to stay clean. Leaf is welcomed into the home of another family with a son in treatment, but he will always consider America’s House his home.
Leaf’s written elevator story comes to life in the epilogue. Leaf enters an elevator where Miranda is waiting for him. They hold hands and smile as the doors close and the elevator goes up.
THE ELEVATOR is a coming of age story about a troubled, idiosyncratic teen addict, who finds love,
hope and redemption at an equally unconventional recovery program.
Sky Soleil is a southern California native and a graduate of the American Conservatory Theater MFA program (Class of 2002). Sky is perhaps best known for his music video "Homeless Man Under Pressure" which he both directed and starred in. The inspiring video went viral within days of posting, collecting over two million views on Yahoo and YouTube, after which CNN, CBS, New York Magazine and the Huffington Post interviewed Sky to discuss the video’s unique social message. His television acting credits include NCIS, RIZZOLI & ISLES and CRIMINAL MINDS, to name a few and you can catch him in the upcoming feature film BLACKBIRD due out in theaters this fall. Sky also wrote and directed the award-winning Halloween themed family film HOW MY DAD KILLED DRACULA. The short screened at over 30 film festivals worldwide and garnered Sky two “Best Family Film” awards, a “Best of Fest” award, and several “Audience Favorite” awards.
Twenty years ago I was quickly becoming another statistic. No father at home, high school drop
out, drugs, in and out of juvenile hall; the future did not look bright. Thankfully at 16, I went to
Phoenix House – the largest non-profit drug & alcohol rehabilitation program in the country and
the stats quickly changed. I completed the program, graduated high school, went on to college,
received my masters and I'm currently celebrating my 20th year of sobriety. One thing is crystal
clear; it was a treatment center that elevated me out of my old life, not a cell. Yet, we continue to
imprison thousands of non-violent drug offenders each year, entirely ignoring the health issues
associated with drug misuse and addiction. That’s why I wrote The Elevator – the true story of
how Phoenix House helped me get back on track. It shows alternatives exist and work. Everyday,
more and more people agree the drug war has failed, that simply building cells is not the answer.
I want to elevate that discussion.
– Sky Soleil
Phoenix House is committed to protecting and supporting individuals, families, and communities affected by substance abuse and dependency. We realize our mission through: A focus on the distinct needs of every person; A holistic approach that seeks to address mental, physical, and social health; The innovation of best-in-class prevention, treatment, and recovery programs; and the promotion of greater understanding of addiction.
For more information visit PhoenixHouse.org
Copyright ©2014 Elevator Film
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