Documentary Screening: When Gentrification Was a Good Thing?

NOTICE: Venue has changed for Nov 17 show. Screening will be at Billy Webb Elk's Lodge, 7 North Tillamook, 97212. 

Was there ever a time when some Portlanders thought gentrification was a good idea, when neighborhoods said there was too much affordable housing? 

The film NorthEast Passage documented life in North/Northeast Portland in the late 1990s when crime and abandoned buildings were the neighborhood's number one concern. Rising home prices and outside investors were welcomed by many. A lot has changed for the better and a lot of mistakes were made for the worse.

Come to a screening of NorthEast Passage: The Inner City and the American Dream and participate in a panel discussion about what the lessons learned in North/Northeast Portland can teach the rest of the city. 

Screenings of NorthEast Passage are part of a drive to raise funds to complete its sequel, Priced Out: Gentrification Beyond Black and White.

For the last six months Priced Out producers have been grinding hundreds of hours of footage into 65-minute rough draft. Once editing is complete, producers hope to take the project into finishing, where audio and color are refined into a production that's ready for primetime.

“Our first film, NorthEast Passage, was very successful locally but never made it to the finishing phase,” said producer Cornelius Swart. “Taking Priced Out into finishing will allow us to get into festivals and reach a much larger audience.”

The film launched successful Kickstarter last summer that funded the start of production. Producers hope to raise new funds through a series of micro-screenings of NorthEast Passage held on the first three Thursdays in November. The event is co-sponsored by Northwest Documentary and Ignorant/Reflections's Gentrification Is Weird project.

Nikki Williams is featured in both NorthEast Passage and Priced Out.

Nikki Williams is featured in both NorthEast Passage and Priced Out.

NorthEast Passage documents gentrification long before the issue became a household word in Portland. The documentary was released in 2002 at a time when much of North/Northeast Portland was plagued by crime and abandoned buildings. Some saw the influx of new white residents and businesses as a boon for the neighborhood while others cautioned that residents could get displaced as the area's revitalization turned into gentrification.

Since that time, the black population in the core of North/Northeast has fallen by 60 percent and gentrification has swept across the city, prompting Portland’s City Hall to declare a “housing state of emergency” in the fall of 2015.

Screenings of NorthEast Passage will be followed by a panel discussion on gentrification with producers, advocates and individuals featured in the film

Proceeds from Ignorant/Reflections and Priced Out items will go to fund the completion of project.

Proceeds from Ignorant/Reflections and Priced Out items will go to fund the completion of project.

Refreshments will be on sale along with Priced Out and Gentrification Is Weird collectible items. Other donations to the project are encouraged.

“We’re considerably behind schedule,” said Swart. “But the idea that we might be able to raise money to make the project something that will really shine will make it all worthwhile.”

Priced Out, the follow-up to NorthEast Passage, began production in September of 2015 and its subject has become increasingly relevant. Producers anticipate release of the film in the winter of 2016/17.

Doors open at 6:15 pm, discussion at 8pm. Seating capacity is limited to 60 per showing; advanced ticket purchase is encouraged.

Thursday Nov 3 tickets
Thursday Nov 10 tickets
Thursday Nov 17 tickets- Change of venue: Billy Webb Elk's Lodge 7 North Tillamook St, 97212,  across the street from Northwest Doc.

Tickets $10-$20 sliding scale. Screenings at Northwest Documentary, 6 NE Tillamook St., Portland, 97212. For more information, email

Priced Out Screens Work-in-Progress for Elemental Technologies

Producer Cornelius Swart and Liz Scott right before screening Priced Out to approximately 150 employees of Elemental Technologies.

Producer Cornelius Swart and Liz Scott right before screening Priced Out to approximately 150 employees of Elemental Technologies.

I presented a portion of Priced Out for a lunch time gathering of about 150 employees of Elemental Technologies in downtown Portland today, Friday Sept. 29th.

I was there at the invitation of Liz Scott, an Elemental Technologies executive assistant and former intern at the newspaper, The Sentinel, that I ran in North Portland back in the day.

Scott said she was impressed with the turn out. 

“We usually don’t see so many people come out for serious social topics like this,” she said. Scott is in charge of arranging lunch time presentations for employees that can range from professional to social issues

The audience was definitely engaged. The group threw out question after question on the issue of gentrification and the housing crisis in a 15-minute question and answer session.

“I feel like I’m a part of this story,” one viewer said. “I’m glad someone is talking about this.”

It was good news for the production, in that it’s the first market test for the film and it appears that there is an audience of concerned citizens out there that want to see a film on this topic.

The painful process of storyboarding/assemble editing is now complete.

The painful process of storyboarding/assemble editing is now complete.

Elemental Technologies builds video streaming software. The company has grown from a small Portland start up to an operation with offices in eight countries. In 2012 Forbe’s ranked it among the most promising companies in America. Last year, Amazon acquired the company for almost $300 million. They continue to grow and next year they will move into the Oregonian’s old office building on Southwest Broadway.

I was impressed with how socially conscious and astute the employees were.  Not everyone can make it through a project in its rough form.

The work-in-progress was a 20-minute sample of Priced Out’s assemble edit.  The assemble edit is a raw form of a film, in which clips are assembled into the basic story shape of the project.

The assemble edit was just completed yesterday. We’ll be doing a lot more test screenings in the coming weeks as the rough cut, the next phase of editing, begins to take shape.

Paid Internship Position: Assistant Producer/Reporter

Documentary production seeks rigorous producer/reporter candidate for paid internship.

Priced Out is a documentary production about gentrification in Portland, Ore. The film is a sequel to the 2002 film NorthEast Passage: The Inner City and the American Dream.

Producers are seeking a strong candidate with documentary or journalism training to do in-depth research that includes public records requests and searches.  The position will also work closely with senior producers to manage multiple simultaneous projects, while helping to line up interviews, hunt down and acquire archival material, secure rights and other production and post production tasks.

Ideal candidate will have strong research skills and a history that demonstrates rigor, attention to detail, the capacity to work independently and the ability to drive projects to completion despite obstacles.

Term starts in early June and last through the end of August.  Full time position with a $3,000 stipend. Those earning college credit are preferred.  This internship is offered through Priced Out, in partnership with Northwest Documentary Arts & Media, a 501c3 corporation.

Contact Cornelius Swart with resume, links to past work and cover letter at

Portland Activist Demand Higher Pay, Lower Rents, Amid Minimum Wage Vote

Cornelius Swart, producer- Protesters from Portland Tenants United, #BlackLivesMatter and other groups disrupted the Oregon Legislature on Thursday and demanded a higher minimum wage and more protections against no cause evictions and rent hikes.

After the short interruption, the Oregon House of Representatives resumed it's discussion and pasted Senate Bill 1532. The bill will raise the state minimum wage to $14.75 an hour by the year 2022, according to The Oregonian. SB 1532 now heads to the Governor Kate Brown's desk for her signature.

Protestors blocked the entrance to the Governor Kate Brown's office during demonstration at the state capitol Thursday.  The legislators voted hours later on a historic hike in the state's minimum wage. 

Protestors blocked the entrance to the Governor Kate Brown's office during demonstration at the state capitol Thursday.  The legislators voted hours later on a historic hike in the state's minimum wage. 

The legislature is still wrestling with a new set of proposals that advocates say would protect renters and provide more affordable housing in Portland and other parts of the state.

A new bill would forbid rent hikes for the first year of month-to-month leases and require a 90-day notice for rent hikes after that.  The bill would also repeal the state’s ban on Inclusionary Zoning. Such zoning would allow Portland and other cities to require developers to include affordable units in new housing developments.

The legislature has tried to repeal the state's ban on Inclusionary Zoning several times in the past and some advocates worry that the bill will be gutted to make it more acceptable to landlords and lobbyists. One proposed amendment currently circulating would significantly change how the word "affordable" is defined. 

The legislature is not expected to vote on the housing bill for at least another week. 

Video above produced by Cornelius Swart and Parker Shoaff


Priced Out launches IndieGoGo Campaign

"Fabled corner of North Russell Street and Williams Avenue when it was heart of a thriving black community"

We’ve launched a new IndieGoGo fundraising account for people who want to continue to contribute to "Priced Out: Gentrification Beyond Black and White."

After a successful Kickstarter campaign we’ve had multiple people reach out wanting to know how they can contribute or continue contributing to our project. 

As we’ve said before, our Kickstarter campaign was not designed to fund the entire project.  On a community-based project like this everyone is working for free or below scale. Our Kickstarter was meant to just cover some of our hard costs, equipment purchases or rentals, travel, office space, web and promotion and field-producing expenses, etc.  We continue to look for grants and we do a lot of partnering with organizations like Northwest Documentary and HackOregon to help acquire in-kind donations and other assets.

While costs continue to mount, we are trucking along just fine.  But we wanted the ability to direct people to a bucketwhere they could make a contribution now that the Kickstarter campaign is done.

We’ve set up a campaign with IndieGoGo here. You can also get it from our homepage. The IndieGoGo campaign lasts 30 days, but if we don’t reach the goal, we can still keep the funds that have been raised, unlike Kickstarter.  After that, the campaign will just turn into a bucket for contributions with no time constraints at all.

"Mississippi Avenue circa 1999, before high end shops and condos filled the street."

"Mississippi Avenue circa 1999, before high end shops and condos filled the street."

We understand this conversation on gentrification impacts large parts of our community and we want to provide a platform for those stories to be heard. All contributions go strictly toward project-related costs.  Producers Spencer Wolf and Cornelius Swart continue to donate their time to the project at no cost.

The North Portland that I Used to Know

The North Portland that I Used to Know

Recently, we were approached by a young man who grew up in North Portland's St. Johns neighborhood and wanted to tell his story. He had an interested point of view on gentrification and we wanted to include some of his experience in the project. Since he now lives in Los Angeles, he was good enough to write some thoughts down so that we could post them on this site. We've left the story in his voice and we think it deserves a read. -- Cornelius Swart, producer.

My name is Zach Garman. I am 21 years old and reside in the Los Angeles area. However I grew up in Portland, Oregon during a very definitive time.

The year is 1999. I am only 5 years old at this time but I can remember everything as if it were yesterday. The small street I lived on was comprised of mostly older and run down bungalows, craftsman, and two small apartment complexes. It was extremely noisy where I lived. There was always someone yelling or sirens flying past the end of the block on the street perpendicular to mine. My family lived in a partially renovated 1905 farmhouse previously occupied as a crack house. There were a few other families on the block as well. Our neighbors, the Jacksons, lived on the corner. They’re a large family of Old English drinking, lifted truck driving, rednecks from Arkansas. They have grit and attitude like most of the families in the neighborhood. They play music all night through the summers on subs loud enough for literally the next three blocks over to hear. The rest of our street is just as eclectic. There are a few black families, an old white lady, and some recluses that never seem to leave their homes.

Priced Out Reaches Fundraising Goal

We did it! 

Priced Out hit its goal of raising $10,000 just a few hours before our Kickstarter campaign closed Thursday morning. 

Phew! It came right down to the wire. 

Over 100 people, with pledges ranging from $5 to $2,000, came together and made a commitment to seeing our project become a reality. 

To all of those who made a contribution, Thank You! 

I think I speak for producer Spencer Wolf as well, when I say it’s an honor to have so many people support this effort. It shows how many care about this community and how many trust that Spencer and I to do a good job of reporting on the important topic of gentrification and affordable housing. 

So what’s next? Well, Spencer and I are now accountable to 119 “Big Shot Hollywood Producers” so we better get to work. 

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be sending out official Thank You postcards. Other Kickstarter rewards like the production T-shirt, Gentrification Spotter’s Manual and other items will be delivered as they become available towards the end of the year.

Our next goal is to have a test screening of the rough cut of the film by late fall. The screening will include our 17 new Associate and Executive Producers and a select group of folks from the community. We’ll take the feedback we get from that screening into the editing room for the final cut of the film. 

Spencer and I hope to release the documentary by the end of the year or by January of next year. I’ll continue to post updates and new reporting on the site blog at, on Kickstarter and on Facebook

Please follow along with this exciting project made for and paid for by the community. 

Cornelius Swart

Last Day of Priced Out Kickstarter Campaign

It’s the final day of our Kickstarter campaign, so please spread the word and if you haven’t already contributed, please do it now.

On Wednesday our campaign received its 100th pledge. That’s an impressive show of community support.

But there’s still a funding gap left to fill. It’s going to go right down to the wire, so please consider making a contribution to this important project right away.

Priced Out Kickstarter Campaign: HERE

Priced Out is a documentary about the complexities and contradictions of gentrification as one woman grapples with life after "the Ghetto."

Gentrification, once a phenomenon that only occurred in big cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco is now cropping up in cities from San Antonio to St. Louis to Portland, Maine.

Why is this happening? What does it mean for Portland, Ore. and what does it mean for those people who have never experienced such dramatic change in their community?

Learn More About the Project: HERE

3 Days Left- New Rewards: Gentrification Spotter’s Manual, Tattoo

There’s only three days left in the Priced Out, Kickstarter campaign and the producers have added some new rewards to encourage people to help this important project.

Over the weekend, Priced Out was selected as a staff pick on Kickstarter. We set out to get selected by the staff and we did it. But the campaign still has a ways to go.  These last three days will be crucial so the producers have added some new rewards to the Kickstarter mix. 

$20 Pledge

Gentrification Spotter's Manual [PDF of eBook Cover]

How do you know gentrification is coming to your avant-garde enclave or sleepy working class neighborhood? What's the difference between a historic preservationist, a speculator, a gentrifier and an incumbent?

This eBook download written by producer Cornelius Swart is a handy, insightful and at times irreverent guide to the terms, characters and memes that make up the gentrification "movement."

$125 Pledge

Free Tattoo

Yes, strange, but a free tattoo has been donated to anyone who gives a pledge of $125, care of artist Peter Bagdanov from The Truth salon in Pacifica, Calif. Get the tattoo drawn and completed in Oct. at the Portland Tattoo Expo

These rewards join our existing ones, such as

$60 Pledge

“They Gentrified My Neighborhood And All I Got Was This Lousy T-shirt” T-shirt.

$120 Pledge

One of our more popular rewards is a ticket to a test screening and filmmaker discussion. This event promises to be one of the most pivotal in the project’s timeline, as the audience will have opportunity to give feed back on the film BEFORE it’s finalized.

Please share and contribute to our campaign today

Kickstarter Campaign: HERE

More about Priced Out: HERE