STARLA SPEAKS | The joys of being ambassador for elderly

Scott Jackman has a fertile imagination and a mind that moves like lightning. He’s an actor, composer, filmmaker and founder of his company, Jackman Films. And in the last three years, he has become a creative ambassador for the elderly.

“I was working with kids on movie projects and musical theater,” Jackman explained, “but I was looking to expand my business. And my therapist recommended that I look into retirement communities.”

After working at Columbia Lutheran Home in Phinney Ridge, he went to Foss Home & Village in Bitter Lake. For the last two years now, he’s been working at Bayview Retirement Community (11 W. Aloha St.) on Queen Anne.

Jackman and the Bayview residents work together to create films. He directs and edits, while the residents develop the storyline, write the script and act. If it’s a musical, they also write the lyrics and choose the musical tracks. Their latest endeavor is “The 13th Floor,” a sci-fi mystery with comedic elements — a bit like a lighthearted “Twilight Zone” episode.

Last year, Bayview residents developed the “Bayview Movie Musical (directed and edited by Jackman), which received an award at the Healthy Aging Partnership Film Short Festival.

Finding balance

Jackman’s credits include years of acting in community theater, a bachelor’s degree in theater from UCLA, followed by a degree from the Vancouver Film School in Canada. He then settled in Portland, Ore., where he did independent film work, plus a bit of acting. When some of Roger Corman’s producers formed their own company, they offered Jackman an editing job in Los Angeles.

“I was planning to go until I went to this party. Across the room, I heard a woman laugh. It was Katie [Gottlieb], and I fell in love on the spot.”

Scott and Katie married in March 1999.

Five years later, the Jackmans started a family. Then came a life-changing moment: Scott was laid off from his job, so he became a stay-at-home dad.

“Nothing has put my life into perspective more than being a father to those two wonderful boys,” Jackman said. “It taught me — forced me — to be patient, and I was never truly that patient before. Also, it taught me to put others first. Sometimes, it was overkill — I didn’t give myself enough in return. But, over time, I found a much better balance.”

In 2008, the Jackmans moved to Seattle. Now that his stay-at-home parenting is no longer a full-time effort, Jackman develops after-school programs, summer camps and works with retirement communities.

“I started out at a nursing home,” he said. “When I went there, I realized had to improvise. There were people who were 100 years old. Maybe one person was blind but was a really good writer, so she would articulate it to me. Another man couldn’t speak well, but he could write. A woman couldn’t hear, but she was a very good actress. A man had trouble moving around, but he could play the piano.”

Jackman composes the music for the films; no one was more surprised than he was when he realized he could write musicals.

“One day, I just started getting these tunes in my head — I didn’t know where they were coming from,” he said. “Now, whenever I hear a melody, I stop what I am doing and record it, then load it onto my computer. I must have 1,000-plus files of different tunes.”

Big dreams

Jackman’s heart remains with his elderly collaborators at Bayview. His experiences have brought great joy and changed him in so many ways.

“In hindsight, I was always scrambling to produce projects that I thought would be cutting edge, or cool, trying to impress my peers and make a name for myself in the filmmaking world,” Jackman said. “While I received a few awards and had some nice compliments from some important people, I was still restless and unfulfilled. Ultimately, it was really all about my ego, battling my own insecurities. I think if others were truly honest with themselves, they might say the same thing.

“When I was younger,” Jackman confessed, “I always looked at the aging population from the outside — their appearance, their tempo. I was always racing through life, pushing myself to get closer to my dream. And anyone that seemed to move slower or that might somehow slow me down and take up my time, was someone I probably shouldn’t make a top priority.”

In the immediate future, he hopes to expand his programs to more retirement communities and schools.

“Since I began working with seniors, I don’t look at them as people that will slow me down, but rather people I want to slow down for,” he said. “Once I sit down and truly engage, listen, share ideas, I experience their beauty, grace, wit, warmth, wonder and courage.”

He wants to encourage children to work with older people — two generations coming together as one. He would also like to see an intergenerational film festival as a part of SIFF. And he has been talking with special-education instructors about the possibility of working with young adults with autism.

Years from now, Jackman hopes to helm his own nonprofit organization to “enhance and promote creative, healthy aging, self-empowerment and racial integration for young people.”

Along the way, maybe he will slip in a few acting gigs. He would like his boys to see him onstage, just to show them — as well as himself — that he still has the right stuff.

“I know that’s a lot, but I dream big,” Jackman said, laughing. “I recently uncovered an old report card from my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Nelson. In it, she wrote something like, ‘Scott is a good student. He has big ideas. However, at times, his goals may be too big to achieve.’”

Memo to Mrs. Nelson: You were wrong.

“The 13th Floor” mystery movie will screen Wednesday, Nov. 12, at 6:30 p.m. at the Bayview Retirement Community on Lower Queen Anne. It’s open to residents and their special guests. A public screening has yet to be scheduled.

STARLA SMITH is a longtime Queen Anne resident. To suggest a Queen Anne/Magnolia resident to be featured in “Starla Speaks,” email

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