Written by Jordan Randall

A locally-produced documentary by Paige and Chase Wagner seeks to answer the question: “What role does a home play in the life and legacy of a city?”  The film is set to premiere on Oct. 1, 2021.

The story of Lakeland dates all the way back to 1885. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have called it home and walked its streets. Now, over a hundred years later with “The People Who Live There”, Paige and Chase Wagner from Paige Wagner Homes, alongside Connor O’Brien and Campbell Rice of The Collection Media, attempt to tell the story of the historic homes that hold the history of Lakeland within.

“I’ve hosted historic home tours for the last three years as part of my business as a Realtor,” shares Paige on how the idea of producing a documentary like this one came to life. “One of the goals of the tour is to enlighten people on Lakeland’s historic homes. I think it’s important for people to learn about them because they are such a huge part of the history of our city. Understanding a home’s value and having people grow in interest in them felt like it translated into people loving Lakeland more.”

That journey of enlightenment for Paige and her historic home tours was a popular one, but after a devastating pandemic that resulted in a lot of tough decisions, a space for new ideas was prevalent. “When the pandemic came around I had to cancel my 2020 home tour. And then coming into 2021, I felt it was too early to have hundreds of people walking through people’s homes but I didn’t want to keep making the pandemic an excuse to not move forward and create.”

This exciting new documentary, “The People Who Live There,” was born out of the desire to innovate and create. This same desire lives in abundance on the streets of Lakeland. And while the project may have begun as an idea for a creative way to showcase some of Lakeland’s stunning historic homes, the project swiftly elevated to new heights. In the creative film-making hands of Lakeland natives, Connor O’Brien and Campbell Rice, “The People Who Live There” serves as a complete love letter to Lakeland.

“No matter where Campbell and I’s projects took us, we always wanted to be able to continue to make interesting projects for Lakeland,” says O’Brien, the director of the film and one half of The Collection Media (the other half being Campbell Rice, who’s serving as cinematographer on the project). “Both of us were pretty much born and raised here, and I grew up thinking that I wanted to leave Lakeland because it was a small town and I wanted to see what else was out there. But once I got out of that experience and came back to Lakeland, it was kind of like wow, this place is actually really cool. And it’s getting all the things that I wished it had when I was younger. So it was really cool to get an opportunity to write this love letter to Lakeland alongside Paige and Chase.”

As fate would have it, a lot of new people are realizing that this place, Lakeland, is “actually really cool”. Buzzfeed recently put Lakeland at number 2 on their list of 15 cities people moved to during the pandemic, and a report by World Population Review said the Lakeland metro area saw 2.45% growth in 2020 and 2.39 so far in 2021.

“We started the project in January; throughout 2021, Lakeland has really become a city that people are moving to since the start of the pandemic,” Paige explains. “It’s having this sort of Renaissance, where everybody loves Lakeland, you know?  A lot of people are moving out of these major cities like New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and they’re moving to second-tier cities like Lakeland because of the quality of life you can have here post-pandemic.”

It’s true, there is a certain quality of life in Lakeland that its citizens have grown to adore. Lakeland is certainly having a moment, and people from other cities/states are starting to take notice. But no matter where you live or where you’re from, “The People Who Live There” is an invitation to breathe new life into your own story.

“I absolutely love Lakeland and this film, but we’ve tried to keep these themes as neutral as possible––that way people outside of Lakeland can connect with it too. There’s a real redemption factor to the film which I believe all people can relate to. Whether it’s taking something that’s old and broken, like a home, and giving it new life – I think we can apply that change to our lives too. We can all reinvent and remodel again.”

No matter where you are from or where you live, “The People Who Live There” is a film that you can connect with. But I do believe the people who live in Lakeland have a special advantage to their viewing. The film is full of quiet b-roll shots from all over the city at various times of day, giving tribute to the unique little corners that make Lakeland special. There are shots of swans swimming around the lake and the sun setting outside of Silver Moon.

In these quiet, intimate shots around the city, I was reminded of all of my own memories in Lakeland, and it made me happy. It was warm, and it was moving. It would be hard to watch “The People Who Live There” and not be convinced that the people who live here, in Lakeland, are absolutely in love with their city. There is a copious amount of admiration present in the documentary not just for the city but for the people.

The homes? Stunning.
The city? Beautiful.
But the people who live there? They might just be worth sticking around for.

The film is set to premiere this Friday, Oct.1 at the Polk Theatre.
Buy your tickets, here! Adult – $10 || Children 12 & under – $8