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Sustainability Labs Support U.S. Multi-Media Storytellers

The Northwest Film Center and Portland Art Museum announce selected 2021 Fellows working at the intersection of art and cinematic storytelling

The Northwest Film Center (NWFC) and Portland Art Museum are pleased to announce the 2021 Fellows for their inaugural Sustainability Labs. Beginning October 18, 2021, the six-month program is designed to ensure that talented, multidisciplinary media storytellers receive the support, resources, and connections to a variety of professional opportunities necessary to thrive creatively, financially, and personally in an ever-changing landscape. The Labs are a pilot program that is people-centered, uniquely prioritizing holistic career advancement and sustainability over project development.

The Labs include individual, bespoke support on creative, business, and personal sustainability as well as small group sessions on mental health, balance, and life/career coaching. Each Fellow will also receive a $2,500 grant to jump-start their sustainability needs. The five selected participants are Angela Washko—Gaming/Film/Installation (Pittsburgh, Penn.); Elyse Kelly—Animation/ Branded Content (Washington, D.C.); Jesse Blanchard—Film/Puppetry Arts (Portland, Ore.); Masami Kawai—Film/Television (Portland, Ore.); Keith McQuirter—Non-Fiction Storytelling /Branded Content (Brooklyn, NY).

“Creative media-makers flock to Portland, embracing a unique ecosystem that isn’t content to be contained,” says NWFC Director Amy Dotson. “No one fusses when a painter decides to sculpt, and as a part of the Portland Art Museum, we take that inspiration seriously. Using that ethos, we hope to guide today’s media storytellers to a more inclusive and sustainable multi-disciplinary tomorrow. With our mission of changing by whom, for whom, and how cinematic stories are told, it is now more important than ever to help media artists embrace their vision across multiple mediums and give them the individualized support they need to sustain creatively, financially, and most importantly, as incredibly creative humans.” 

To enable the participants to get the most out of the Labs, the Northwest Film Center has enlisted a mix of immensely talented mentors, guest speakers, and coaches to help them throughout the week. Kisha Imani Cameron, an experienced media executive and successful producer for films such as Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, is the program’s life and career coach. Mentors include Emmy-nominated producer Janice Williams; Patty Brebner, the former director of the widely successful W+K Studios, Wieden + Kennedy’s experiential development and production studio; Lance Weiler, a pioneering multi-disciplinary storyteller and technologist; and Aimee Lynn Barneburg, a film and branded content producer for Nike. 

Guest Speakers include renowned creatives and business leaders in Portland and beyond:

  • Kasey Adler, Executive, Dark Horse Comics (The Umbrella Academy)
  • Catherine Blanksby, Investor and Entrepreneur in Technologies and Innovations
  • Nate Bolotin, Co-Founder and Film Producer, XYZ Films (Mandy, She Dies Tomorrow)
  • Rose Bond, Interdisciplinary artist; Head of Animated Arts and the Crossing Boundaries Institute, Pacific Northwest College of Art
  • Iyabo Boyd, Founder, Brown Girls Doc Mafia; Documentary feature filmmaker and producer (For Akeem)
  • Alex Bulkley, Co-founder of Shadow Machine and Producer (Bojack Horseman)
  • Liz Cook-Mowe, Senior Director of Film, Kickstarter
  • Mic Crenshaw, Portland-based hip hop artist, teacher, and audio story artist (It Did Happen Here)
  • Rebecca Day, Founder and Therapist for Film in Mind, an organization advocating for better mental health in the film industry
  • Amy Dotson, Director, Northwest Film Center/Curator, Film & New Media, Portland Art Museum; Producer (Socks on Fire)
  • Nicholas Fearn, Senior Director, Global NBHD, Nike
  • Brian Ferriso, Director and Chief Curator, Portland Art Museum
  • Mona Panchal, Executive Producer for documentary films and television series (Mucho Mucho Amor: the Legend of Walter Mercado)
  • René Pinnell, Founder and CEO of Kaleidoscope, Founder and Designer of Artizen
  • Angela Lee, Senior Manager of Artist Development, Film Independent; Producer (Songs My Brother Taught Me)
  • Ben Popp, Head of Artist Development, Northwest Film Center
  • Jon Raymond, Novelist and screenwriter (First Cow)
  • Jennifer Reeder, Director (Knives and Skin)
  • Michel Reilhac, Artist and Co-Curator of Virtual Reality, Venice Film Festival
  • Skylight Collective, Independent brand experience studio (Electronic Arts, XBox)

A group of panelists including award-winning film director/producer and curator Shrihari Sathe (New York), Managing Director of Artists Repertory Theatre and storyteller Kisha Jarrett (Oregon), and Parkway Artistic Director Christy LeMaster (Maryland) worked with the Northwest Film Center’s Director Amy Dotson and Head of Artist Services Ben Popp to select five candidates from a robust list of applicants all working in multiple disciplines from around the country.  

“I just finished my first film; it took six years, and the process was unsustainable. What’s so exciting about the Sustainability Labs is the focus is not on the craft—I know that part. What I don’t know is everything else, and that’s just as important if you want to build a career.” 

Labs participant Jesse Blanchard

“I can’t tell you how invaluable it is to have an organization and mentors who understand you both as a creative and as an entrepreneur. Sustainability Labs is rare because it recognizes the unique challenges of the filmmaker.”

Labs participant Keith McQuirter

Ultimately, the Labs are focused on improving equity, creative diversity, and sustainability in cinematic storytelling in all its forms. In the Film Center’s ongoing commitment to inclusion, a minimum of half of the participants in the Sustainability Labs are artists who identify as Black, indigenous, artists of color, LGBTQIA+, female identifying, trans/nonbinary, and/or disabled artists. The Labs also bring together both Northwest artists and international artists, uplifting the region’s talent to a global scale and creating long-lasting interconnected cohorts that can support one another now and into the future.

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts and generous contributions from Joan Cirillo, Roger Cooke, and the Reil Foundation for Arts & Creativity.