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Creative media-makers flock to Portland, embracing a unique creative ecosystem here that isn’t content to be contained. 

In addition to Portland-based cinematic artists like Kelly Reichart, Donal Moser & Michael Palmieri, Skye Fitzgerald, and Rose Bond who are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, major production companies, XR & gaming, branded content, experiential storytellers also live here.  LAIKA (Coraline) and Shadow Machine (Tuca and Bertie)  work with top artists and animators. Experiential, XR and multi-media branded opportunities are growing. With companies like Netflix and A24 currently in production –attracting talents such as Guillermo del Toro and Jordan Peele — and series from Top Chef to Shrill recently created here, Portland — and Northwest Film Center –continue to evolve the narrative about by whom, for whom and how cinematic stories are told. 

Why Now? 

Successfully making a cinematic art form is a feat in and of itself, but sustaining a career in the film and media industry continues to be difficult because of lack of access to mentors, industry leaders, tools, and strategies necessary in communities outside of major cities. This lab, a pilot program that uniquely prioritizes holistic career advancement and sustainability over singular project completion, will act as a catalyst not only for select artists but for our community and the ecosystem at large. 

Despite Portland’s unique and thriving creative scene, Northwest Film Center’s Sustainability Labs exist out of a deep need 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 this ever-changing landscape.  

How is it different? 

The program focuses on a more “cinema unbound” approach, embracing artists’ multiplicities and de-siloing modes of storytelling to provide greater opportunity and access. Serving six mid-career storytellers working in a variety of mediums (film, television, animation, artists working in XR, audio, new media or hybrid forms, etc.), the Lab is created to help those in search of guidance on the next steps of harnessing and expanding their creative and business talents across multiple platforms. 

This will include individual, bespoke support on business plans, project and personal financial planning, creative brand expansion, growth opportunities as well as small group sessions on mental health, balance, and personal sustainability. In order for the Labs to be a sustainable program for artists to participate, a $2,500 stipend will be provided, as well as travel and lodging in Portland for October. 

Ultimately, the Labs are focused on improving equity, creative diversity, and sustainability in cinematic storytelling in all its forms. In our ongoing commitment to inclusion in media arts, at least 50% of artists who participate in the Sustainability Labs will be representative of marginalized or underrepresented communities (Black, indigenous, artists of color, women artists, trans/nonbinary artists). We will also bring together both NW artists and (inter)national 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. To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit


The Northwest Film Center serves the community through Cinema Unbound exhibition programming, education, and artist services programs by questioning for whom, by whom, and how cinematic stories are told. With these programs, we aim for a future where cinema is unbound: where the original, the interconnected, and the unexpected are the new norm; where we strive to think bigger, try new things, and push forward and transform the field.


Established in 1971, the Northwest Film Center is a Portland, Oregon-based year-round organization and space where artists and audiences explore our region and the world through cinema and cinematic storytelling in all its forms.

Our mission is to expand the reach of cinema as an art form and challenge for whom, by whom, and how stories can be told. Through our screenings, events, guest speaker programs, classes, and workshops, audiences and artists form vital connections that bind our community and encourage a more vibrant, accessible, and diverse media-arts ecosystem.

 The Northwest Film Center acts as an advocate for pioneering filmmakers and artists, giving a platform to voices that might not otherwise be heard and serves as a catalyst for cultural appreciation, conversation, collaboration, and community-building around new ways of seeing locally and globally. For more information, visit

The seventh oldest museum in the United States, the Portland Art Museum is internationally recognized for its permanent collection and ambitious special exhibitions drawn from the Museum’s holdings and the world’s finest public and private collections. The Museum’s collection of more than 45,000 objects, displayed in 112,000 square feet of galleries, reflects the history of art from ancient times to today. The collection is distinguished for its holdings of arts of the native peoples of North America, English silver, and graphic arts. An active collecting institution dedicated to preserving great art for the enrichment of future generations, the Museum devotes 90 percent of its galleries to its permanent collection.

The Museum’s campus of landmark buildings, a cornerstone of Portland’s cultural district, includes the Jubitz Center for Modern and Contemporary Art, the Gilkey Center for Graphic Arts, the Schnitzer Center for Northwest Art, the Northwest Film Center, and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Center for Native American Art. With a membership of more than 22,000 households and serving more than 350,000 visitors annually, the Museum is a premier venue for education in the visual arts. For information on exhibitions and programs, call 503-226-2811 or visit

Who is the Lab for? 

U.S. Creators, artists, directors, and producers looking to change their personal model of creative financial and business sustainability. Mid-career artists and storytellers are preferred, with a minimum of one significant project completed in at least two disciplines or mediums; alternatively, if the applicant has completed work on a project and is now insignificant development in a new medium, form, or format, we will consider on a case-by-case basis. 

What is the timing? 

The Labs will take place in three sections: 

October (In-person or remote)

  • A one-week intensive, in which participants will work with professional mentors, life coaches, and guest presenters, to isolate professional needs, set goals, and strategize a sustainable path forward. 

November-January (Remote)

  • Personal one-to-one check-ins with a life coach to track progress and make adjustments as necessary. 

March (In-person or remote)

  • Present at 45th Portland International Film Festival and/or along with pitching a project for a select group of professionals. 

Do I need to have an active project(s) to focus on? 

Unlike other labs that focus on project-based development, this Lab is for career, creative and personal development. We will certainly talk about your projects, goals, and upcoming opportunities, but the focus will be squarely on you. 

How does it work? 

Working with professional mentors, life coaches, and guest presenters, participants will open doors to their own unique potentials and skills, establishing tangible short and long-term goals to ensure that their creative, financial, and personal sustainability is maintained. 

  • Individual goal setting and project management consulting for an existing project
  • Personal brand building & audience engagement strategy
  • Goal setting for career sustainability (i.e. expanded access to job opportunities, meetings with key industry leaders, pitching and key marketing materials, improved connectivity within the NW and introductions to global marketplace leadership, agency or gallery representation, etc.)
  • Financial forecasting & sustainability (career coaching, goal setting, setting up LLC/business plans, debt management, etc.). 


What if I choose to participate remotely? 

Participants will receive a stipend for participating which includes travel and lodging. If one is unable to attend in person the Northwest Film Center is making plans for inclusion regardless.

What is the timeline? When do I find out if I am selected? 

Participants for the 2021 labs will be selected no later than September 20th, 2021. The application will close on September 1st, 2021.

How much does it cost? 

There is an administrative $35 application fee. If you feel you are unable to pay this fee or have a significant hindrance from doing so, please reach out.

For questions please contact Ben Popp, Head of Artist Services,


Applications are currently closed.

The Northwest Film Center recognizes and honors the Indigenous peoples of this region on whose ancestral lands the museum now stands. These include the Willamette Tumwater, Clackamas, Kathlemet, Molalla, Multnomah and Watlala Chinook Peoples and the Tualatin Kalapuya who today are part of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and many other Native communities who made their homes along the Columbia River. We also want to recognize that Portland today is a community of many diverse Native peoples who continue to live and work here. We respectfully acknowledge and honor all Indigenous communities—past, present, future—and are grateful for their ongoing and vibrant presence.