ON PORTLAND: BERNADETTE SPEAR
Portlandia characters included, we've been hearing amazing things about Portland for years. Besides Wieden+Kennedy ruling the town, there are pockets of creative action - and craftsmen of all kinds - throughout the city. As a producer, WNW Member #3283 Bernadette Spear makes it her job to find all those creative hubs. With work-life balance a priority, Bernadette tells us that networking is done a bit differently in Portland, "There are no agents, reps, or go-betweens; you get to the creative people just by talking to them at a bar or floating down the river with them."
Tell us a bit about yourself, what you're currently loving...
I grew up in Juneau, Alaska and spent 15 years living in Portland. I am currently in NYC and working in Chicago/NY for Havas Worldwide. There is a terrific group of creatives in Chicago, it has been a great start to a new year.
As for what I'm currently loving, there's a podcast called Adjust Your Tracking that's my favorite! It's two film savvy guys reviewing films and interviewing notable filmmakers. Be forewarned, there is a fair amount of colorful language. And on the internet, I’m obsessed with Instagram as usual.
Why did you move to Portland?
I moved to Portland to finish college. It was 1/4 of the price tag of the school in Boston and some of my friends from high school rented a house in the woods for us. I figured I would finish school and end up back on the East Coast, but Portland turned out to be a terrific place to establish a career in filmmaking so I stayed, and stayed and 15 years went by and I bought a house….
How does the city inspire you?
Pretty much anything you can imagine can be achieved in Portland. It is a reasonably inexpensive place to live well and there are pockets of talented people all around willing and eager to collaborate.
You wouldn't know it at first glance that the guy at the end of the bar who looks like a regular guy wrote the screenplay to your favorite film.... In Portland, people who do cool things are just your buddies and neighbors, not people that are idolized and hidden away.
Describe Portland's creative scene.
I find Portland's creative scene to be unlike any other city's. There are all these hidden creative people and gems of talent: craftsmen, people with a weird, random skill that is very Portlandia-esque. Portland is a really cool place because its affordable to live in, which is necessary as a creative to have resources at your disposal. People don’t have to work 80 hours a week to get by or spend that on their car like in LA. In Portland, they’re either at work or playing. There's more time to meet and interact. If I need someone who can build a structure, a motorcycle, robot, you can find those people and you don’t have to dig that deep. There are no agents, reps, or go-betweens; you get to the creative people just by talking to them at a bar or floating down the river with them.
What are your favorite things about living there? What are some challenges?
Some of my favorite things: Having a house, a yard and being surrounded by creative people who work to live..... Oh, then there are the epic summers dedicated to backyard BBQ’s and floating the river.
The biggest challenge with living in Portland from a creative perspective is limited choices if you want to collaborate at a really high level. There are a ton of creative people but a finite number of places to work. There are times when there’s not a lot of work so you have to have your own side projects and be self-motivated and make those things like your other job.
What are some neighborhood spots that you love?
I love Montavilla. I moved there in 2008 and I wouldn't change that choice for anything. It's a ten minute drive to downtown and a ten minute walk to Mt Tabor where you can get lost for hours in the trees and lovely vistas. One block from my front door is The Portland Garment Factory.
Una for shopping, Heart for Coffee and the Red Flag is hands down my favorite neighborhood dive bar. Beech Street Parlor for a civilized night of delicious food/cocktails and a likely impromptu dance party.
Any WNW members whose work you admire?
I'm a big fan of Alexander Barrett. We have worked together a few times over the years and aside from being a stellar copywriter, I mostly stalk his illustrations/ PSA's on Instagram Tuff Stuf. The daily posts of 2015 from Benji Brucker's wannahump.me also put me in a good mood.