PAM CUT, or Portland Art Museum Center for an Untold Tomorrow, promises to do more than show movies and rent cameras.
The Portland Art Museum has renamed the Northwest Film Center. It is now called PAM CUT Center For an Untold Tomorrow. The new name reflects that moving picture storytelling is about more than celluloid; it includes virtual reality and other media. The name was revealed at the annual Cinema Unbound Awards, which honors envelope-pushing filmmakers from not just Portland but around the world.
The winners and celebrity presenters appeared in a mix of gleeful personal appearances and apologetic remote videos.
Reinaldo Marcus Green (“Monsters & Men,” “Top Boy”), director of the movie about Venus and Serena Williams and their father, “King Richard,” gave a passionate speech about not taking no for an answer. He was introduced by his leading man, Will Smith, in a taped segment which showed genuine, non-Hollywood affection.
Roger Ross Williams, the first African American director to win an Academy Award, was video-introduced by writer Ibram X. Kendi. Williams is the type of multi-talented artist PAM CUT wants to promote. He works in a variety of screen sizes and has already made a VR documentary for Oculus called “Traveling While Black,” based on the “Green Book.”
Jeff Goldblum introduced local heroine Carrie Brownstein, his rival as “The Pull-Out King” from Portlandia. That show may be herstory now, but Brownstein said she still lives here and is still working on new projects. (She said she was recently so stressed in a pitch meeting she called her project “irrelevant” instead of “irreverent”).
Brownstein was flattered to be called a polymath, although she complained that polyamorous people have ruined that prefix. She joked that she wished they would stop trying to convert her, but was curious to see their Google Calendars.
She then read a speech about her need to be bound to certain good things and people.
“I don’t mean limitations or restraints. I mean being bound to place or to people, bound to ideals or faith or even bound to restlessness and risk-taking, bound to process and to discipline,” Brownstein said. “It’s actually disconnect that leads to flimsiness and brokenness, and to those things are anathema to art.”
Isabella Rossellini explained how the script for Iranian-born artist and filmmaker Shirin Neshat’s “Land of Dreams” was a work of art in itself, incorporating poetry, calligraphy and video.
In-the-flesh animators Phil Lord and Chris Miller (“Spider-Man: Into the SpiderVerse,” “The Lego Movie” “The Mitchells vs. the Machines”) were lauded by Peter Lord, one of the Wallace and Grommet guys from Aardman Studios in rainy Bristol, UK, who flew over to rainy Portland on a jolly. And art collector and talent agent Arthur Lewis was dubbed a “Tastemaking Trailblazer” for his work promoting and bolstering Black artists at UTA Artist Space by a very live and in-person Tasha Smith.
The museum is keeping its film building open at Southwest 10th Avenue and Salmon Street. The Whitsell Auditorium, long known as the place you can catch a Kurosawa or some Czech animation on a wet Thursday evening, recently reopened with a Tilda Swinton season.
When the museum’s new entrance, the Rothko Pavilion, is being built in a few years’ time, they will temporarily relocate screenings elsewhere, but will continue to show movies. (See sidebar).
PAM CUT’s new identity points beyond the film center. It is intended to be welcoming to folks interested in other storytelling, such as video games, comic books and contemporary art.
“PAM CUT is a place, a space and a state of mind that welcomes those who aren’t content to be contained,” Amy Dotson said in a release. The center was founded in 1971 as the Northwest Film Study Center. Dotson took over the Northwest Film Center just as COVID-19 hit two years ago and has been working on survival, plus a ground-up redo, ever since.
“Thinking more extensively about how to serve the unbound multidisciplinary artists and storyteller community locally and globally — and the daring audiences and supporters who make it all possible — fuels our reinvention,” she said.
Dotson is curator of film and new media for the Portland Art Museum, as well as director of PAM CUT. She works with the other curators and wants to collaborate with them. There’s a type of crossover event which Dotson has championed already and which she would like more of. One was a Bollywood movie series at which viewers could learn that style of dancing afterwards. Another was the “A Thousand Thoughts”, a live documentary film about the Kronos Quartet. She isn’t sure if it was for the filmmaker Sam Green or Kronos Quartet, but she was impressed that nine hundred people showed up on a Monday night.
“You had folks that quite literally have never been into the museum, and it just kind of sounded cool, and interesting and different. I think that that really is the future, that mindset of like, ‘let’s try something new, let’s smash some things up.'”
Since film making summer schools are abundant in Portland, Dotson is changing tack and offering classes in “how to do podcasts about animals, stop motion animation work, fashion and film classes, gaming and world-building. I have a 12-year-old and there’s a lot of energy around storytelling within gaming worlds as well.”
Dotson added of PAM CUT, “it’s a work in progress. But I think that everything post pandemic is a work in progress. And that’s the exciting part.”
She’s all about making the museum more accessible, and fun.
“I had 22 years in New York, but my whole family is from Wilberton, Oklahoma. As much as I will go and sit right next to you at (Derek Jarman’s) ‘Caravaggio’, I’ll also sit right beside you at ‘Dirty Dancing’, and if there’s a singalong or a dance portion, I’m there for that.”
Local creative agency Skylight Collective came up with the name PAM CUT. Skylight executive creative director David Cipriano told the Portland Tribune he expects users to shorten the name to The CUT once they have associated it with the museum and movies. He said it might remain one of those acronyms no one knows the words to, and maybe even function as a logo, instantly recognizable everywhere from websites to event signage to merch.
“The Center for an Untold Tomorrow is about going to this workplace and creating a space to be inclusive, to tell lots of different stories that are maybe not always getting to the forefront,” said Cipriano. The name hinges on the two meanings of untold, as in “great” and “unspoken.”
“And ‘Tomorrow’ gives us a little bit of optimism, thinking about what’s next, really inventing culture an art institution framing culture,” Cipriano said.
Dotson brings a splash of glamour to the museum known as PAM. Her queer- and BIPOC-friendly awards ceremony, hosted by Isaiah Tillman and Johnny Nurie (stage name “Izonny”), was a break with tradition. With her industry contacts, jargon and big personality, Dotson is very different from Bill Foster, who ran the institution for three decades. Cipriano said Skylight wanted to make the brand of PAM CUT colorful, inviting and celebratory, and not use the usual red and black of museum design.
“My kid is a Gen Z and this is an identity that, in a few years, would resonate with the next batch of our viewers,” he said.
Skylight works a lot with the gaming, entertainment and online communities. “That space is wildly inclusive … so many communities are happening in an online space where people are welcome of all kinds. You get to just show up and connect with others. And I think we’re trying to bring that same sense of building a community and being a part of this experience.”
Visitors to PAM Center for an Untold Tomorrow can expect programming similar to programs offered recently, as well as new and different offerings in the future, such as:
• Immersive, experiential and interactive film screenings
• “Live” cinematic experiences like podcasts, marathon series screenings, and mixed media performances
• Gaming, story world building and participation based programming
• Virtual, Augmented, Mixed and Immersive Reality offerings
• Projection mapping installations (think of mobile projection units, the outdoor Epic Ephemera series and projections around Venice VR Expanded 2020 and 2021)
• VR-to-go programming: new series coming in April 2022
• Open-air and drive-in screening events
• Partnership presentations like Friends of Chamber Music and Kronos Quartet (Sam Green’s “live documentary” film A Thousand Thoughts with Kronos Quartet was presented here in February)
• PAM CUT Co: Laboratory continues the learning mission; in-person camps and classes will restart in May.
• PAM CUT’s Artist Services continue the mission of supporting independent filmmakers and creatives, including Sustainability Labs, whose first cohort of Fellows presented their work in the Whitsell Auditorium last weekend.
• Summer series screenings and experiences will begin in July.
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