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Panel Discusses Pathways to Creative Success

For students at Emerson College Los Angeles, attending a panel on the Pathways to Success: Creative Entrepreneurship makes sense. With less than a month to go until graduation, many students will soon enter a world where freelancing and innovation are the new reality.

“A lot of us at Emerson are interested in doing entrepreneurial work, but it’s scary,” said Genece Davis ’16. “We don’t know what kind of challenges we might face.”

Panelists Bayan Joonam, head of production at the media company SoulPancake (whose motto is “We make stuff that matters”), and Julian Higgins ’08, a director, writer, and ELA faculty member, sought to relieve some of Davis’s fears. During the panel, which was moderated by Kerri McManus, ELA's director of student transitional services and career advising, Joonam and Higgins discussed how artists create their own content, manage their brands, and monetize their work.

Bayan Joonam, left, told students that it's never too early for students to start building relationships in the industry during the Pathways to Success: Creative Entrepreneurship panel.

With students set to move from the structured environment of college into one where they might not necessarily be sitting at a desk or even working steadily, Joonam and Higgins offered advice on how to make a living and still be creative.

Joonam encouraged students to pursue gig work, which would enable them to learn about different jobs in the industry as well as build connections that might be useful in the future. Even working as a runner, Joonam said, is valuable because you can find someone you really respect on set and learn from them.

“We are not defined by our roles on set,” said Joonam. “We are defined by how good of a team member we can be.”

Higgins said there’s no right answer or conventional wisdom that applies to everybody when it comes to making it in the industry, but he told students to find work that doesn’t eat into their creative time and to have faith.

“Keep your eye on the ball,” said Higgins, who told students to just keep creating to open up doors. “It’s going to be hard, but if you stay in it, work will come.”

Julian Higgins, director of Winter Light, which was one of 10 films shortlisted for the Short Film Live Action Oscar this year, told students to be careful about comparing themselves to others.

Joonam advised students to enter competitions if they need structure and a deadline. He also encouraged students to get a job outside of the industry to help them determine if they really want to pursue their chosen careers.

“If you still feel the need to make something, if it still calls you, you’re on the right path,” said Joonam.

Higgins cautioned students to maintain mobility and not get stuck working a job that doesn’t help them reach their goals or get used to a lifestyle that obstructs opportunities. He said, in the end, all you can do is create work and get it out there.

“There is no path,” said Higgins. “Create your own path.” 

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