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Project Viewfinder is a Northwest Film Center outreach effort that teaches the tools of filmmaking to young adults from the houseless population in Portland, Oregon and beyond.  The project is part of the Film Center’s on-going effort to give voice to under-represented communities through opportunities to watch, learn and make film.

In 2013-2014, working with Film Center lead faculty member Bushra Azzouz and Film Production Certificate program students, a total of 14 young adults transitioning from homelessness to self-sufficiency (ages 19-26) created these 20 short films to help educate the community about the causes of, and possible solutions to, youth homelessness using their unique and powerful life experiences as a reference point.

The participants were referred to the project, and supported with vital support services during the project, by such social service partners as New Avenues for Youth, Outside In, p:ear, SMYRC, BCC-TV, Blanchet House and other community providers.

“Project Viewfinder gives youth a chance to draw out their individual talents. They are motivated to believe in themselves after so many others have given up on them.” – Sue Hays, New Avenues for Youth

The Part I – 2013 films introduce the participants, and their aspirations.  The Part II – 2014 films focus on five 2013 participants one year later, and reveal their inspiring progress on the long path to self-sufficiency and fulfillment.  After premiering at two free community celebrations in the Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium, the films have screened on the Film Center’s monthly cable television program and are being used as an educational resource in the community.

Our thanks to the Film Center members, individual donors and friends who made the project possible.

Participant Data (2013 and 2014)

  • 100% created a personal documentary film in 2013
  • 50% returned to create a second personal documentary film in 2014
  • 50% attended a follow-up Film Center workshop/class or scholarship
  • 10% served as a Film Center intern following the project

Live Audience Survey (2014)

  • 63% said that it is clear from the films that there are solutions to homelessness
  • 70% said that the films show that there are misconceptions about homeless
  • 84% said that projects like these are of great value to the community 

Watch Project Viewfinder – Part I

Watch Project Viewfinder – Part II

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.