Is there anything creative entrepreneur Jam Scott doesn’t do? A writer, filmmaker, curator, community organizer, and mentor, Scott has a passion for teaching youth and supporting social justice with the power of storytelling. We asked Scott how her creative work and social justice work inform and empower each other, and followed up with some questions about how she navigates gigs and finance for a successful creative career.
How does being a creative inform the social justice work you do in your community?
I deeply value and respect the power of a story. A story told with openness and authenticity can have an invaluable impact on changing hearts and building bridges. With my social justice work, there is often so much that is out of my control. I can’t single-handedly change policy, dole out justice, or reform systems, but I can bear witness to someone else’s story. I can validate experiences and support someone on their journey to share their truth.
I can use creativity and imagination to help create platforms and venues for change. I know that my creative-mindedness is only part of Tacoma’s collaborative efforts for change, but no one piece of the puzzle is unimportant. We all have something to bring to the table, and the resourcefulness of creatives is integral in connecting the diversity of tactics used in advancing equity efforts.
How do you use your writing and filmmaking skills to make a living? What kind of gigs do you work on, for example?
I feel like I have finally found my footing as a creative entrepreneur. I get excited by new ideas and opportunities and I often find myself wanting to try to do all of the things at once. Though remaining willing to grow is important, I wasn’t able to market myself because my “brand” was all over the place. I have many skills and passions, and at the root of them lie storytelling, working with youth, and public speaking.
Once I identified the foundation of my work, it became much easier for me to find creative gigs that allowed me the space to create and grow while earning money. It also made it easier for those with gigs to offer to find me. In the past year, I have been paid to: direct a film camp for youth, guest curate a local art show, teach an art & activism class, and moderate a film festival panel.
As little as two years ago, I thought I’d never figure it out. Organizing my skill set and understanding my most marketable strengths is key.
You have a history of working with youth in the arts. When teaching, do you talk to students about the ups and downs of having a career in a creative field? Why or why not?
I’ve definitely talked with youth about the realities of a creative career. Sometimes it can feel daunting to have the conversation. If you talk too much about the downsides, you could scare someone away from starting their creative journey. If you downplay them, you could be setting them up to be blindsided. I try to strike a balance that allows youth to understand creative work is work, and just like any other work there will be good and bad days.
I want them to know that there is freedom in creative careers, as well as a lot of personal responsibility. You won’t get every gig, grant, or award, and it can sometimes feel overwhelming or disappointing, but it’s important to keep focus and continue to create through the doubts and setbacks.
How do you manage your money? Any tips for freelancers on managing money, things you learned along the way, what you wish you had known, etc?
Money management has always given me anxiety, and a pandemic certainly hasn’t made it any easier. It’s important for me to keep organized to stay on top of things. For a few years now, I’ve kept a physical list of my monthly bills. Writing them out by hand each month helps me to prioritize my funds; and it’s satisfying to check them off once they’re paid.
It was also important to build a habit of saving. Whether it’s one dollar from each paycheck or ten or twenty, it adds up and will come in handy.
Last, the thing I learned most recently that I wish I knew when I was just getting started, is thinking further ahead when it comes to securing gigs. Having a few gigs lined up before the current one finishes affords me a sense of security and confidence and greatly reduces my stress.
What is the most important thing for someone to know before becoming a freelancer?
I have struggled with imposter syndrome and self-doubt more than I’d like to acknowledge. When things don’t work out right away, or when I’m experiencing creative stagnation, it’s easy to think I’m not worthy of artistic opportunities.
I just have to remind myself that I’ve put in the work and I deserve a seat at the table as much as anyone else. I think it’s important to believe in yourself, bet on yourself, and trust your gut. And when you can't, make sure you have people in your corner who do and are willing to remind you.
Where do you find inspiration in your community?
Along the road to where I am now, I have done stand-up comedy, public speaking, filmmaking, photography, event MCing, and community organizing.
In each of those corners of the creative community I have been welcomed. In these spaces I am nurtured, challenged, thought of, and valued. For all of its imperfections, Tacoma continues to teach me lessons and spark my imagination. I am inspired by the hustle and the heart of my fellow creatives, the passion they pour into their projects, and the change they bring to our city.