Scappoose resident teams up with artists, writers for life documentation project

by: PHOTO SUBMITTED BY THREE MZ - Alvin Adams (left), one of Three Mzs' founders, stands with Hyunju Kim, another founder of the business and a portrait artist. Adams had Three Mz profile his own life before the business opened. He holds his portrait painted by Kim. In the background is a portrait of Adams Grandfather. Scappoose resident, filmmaker and sometimes politician, Joel Haugen, has been collaborating with local artists and writers to launch a business focused on preserving the stories of people’s lives.

The business, Three Mz, officially launched this month. Three Mz provides the talents of artists, writers and a video-geographer to tell the life stories of its clients through seven-minute films.

Clients will tell their life stories to an interviewer during a two-hour session while an artist begins their portrait. Stories are then condensed to be readable in about seven minutes. Three Mz then films its clients reading their stories, and edits in photos from their lives.

Haugen said clients — who must be older than 64 — can choose music to go along with their story and can opt to have a graphic of their travels around the world. As far as he knows, Haugen said no other service like this exists.

“I think we all have a different perspective on this enterprise,” Haugen wrote in an email to the Spotlight regarding the Three Mz team. “For me, collaborative art is intriguing and stimulates outcomes that are unexpected and exciting. Combining the talents of a writer, artists and a geographer/videographer to create defined individual histories is a unique process that is both fun and rewarding for all of the participants.”

Haugen said he was inspired to form the business by a number of factors. Haugen said he met Alvin Adams, a retired U.S. ambassador and writer, at a Thirsters meeting. Thirsters is a group of retirees that occasionally meets over drinks at a McMenamins restaurant in Portland. He said the business was partially sparked by Adams, who was tasked with writing a “life in 700 words” for the 50th reunion of his graduating class at Yale University.

“He shared his story with me and after we discussed it over a brew, we concluded that this is an excellent way to portray a life story and not get bogged down on too much detail,” Haugen told The Spotlight. “My wife Judy mentioned how much she would like to be able to hear her father’s voice and wished that she had recorded him telling a story before he passed away. After she mentioned this, we started thinking that many people would value such an archive.”

Haugen said another force driving the creation of the business was Hyunju Kim, a Portland-based portrait artist. Haugen met Kim while he was on assignment to film her paint a portrait of a couple, one of whom survived a slave-labor prison located in a jungle in the southeast Asian country of Laos for seven years. Kim is now one of Three Mz’s three portrait artists.

“We started forming the Three Mz enterprise last November as a partnership between [Adams], [Kim] and me, along with a supporting cast of artists,” Haugen said.

Costs for Three Mz services vary depending on the artists each client selects for his or her portrait. Packages begin at $2,400 for one portrait, a seven-minute story and video with photos and graphics. An 8 percent administrative fee is included in the cost.

More details can be found at

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