home June 23, 2020

From Documentary Film to The Future of Storytelling

by Booker Sim / [email protected] / www.linkedin.com/in/bookersim/

For my portfolio: bookersim.com/selected-work

I’m a transdisciplinary storyteller and integrated producer with a passion for using social and technological innovation for research, strategy and education. In this era of convergence culture and accelerated change, forget spending 10,000 hours mastering one old-school métier. To tell stories of the future, we’re better off with 20,000 hours of experience – or rather 2000 hours spent on ten passionate pursuits each, including first-lived experiences, social causes, creative hobbies, continued education, career changes and transdisciplinary projects with tight budgets that are too new to have experts.

When I worked at digital studio Jam3 they called me the “swiss army knife” because of my broad skill set – something I disliked at the time but now embrace thanks to my recent research into MIT’s Co-Creation Studio. Gone are the days when careers and stories strictly go in straight lines, powered by massive budgets and led by a single “hero”, whether CEO, movie star, director or creative director. The future is non-linear and community-driven, reflected in co-created “assemblages” of meaning, utility and value for all stakeholders involved – using the mediums and methods best suited for the context, whether high tech or lo-fi, VR or immersive theater. Now swap “or” for “and” to create a transmedia assemblage, and you’re really cooking with gas! 

Grounded by an education in philosophy and training in documentary, my 20,000 hours include: 

• Field producing and everything-person for a forthcoming Netflix Original’s nature series filmed around the world. 

• Writing, directing and producing a 2023 brand doc series about Microsoft users on three continents. 

• Researching and producing global conflict documentaries for Canada’s premier current affairs programs The National and W-5

• Webby, Cannes Lion and Canadian Screen Award-winning interactive documentaries SONS OF GALLIPOLI, CHANGE GOUT and NUCLEAR DISSENT for digital studio Jam3. 

• User and fan-centered transmedia focused on innovation, like my BEYOND THE PELOTON pro-cycling series that paved the way for Netflix’s TOUR DE FRANCE: UNCHAINED and a founder’s education series for Canadian startup incubator MaRS.

• Early-adopter and product education content and strategy featuring artists such like Diplo and Pusha-T as CMO of my own MaRS-funded startup Legitmix.

• Integrated production for Makers.to on commercials, interactive XM, branded music videos, fashion shoots, content for nonprofits and startups, and live-streamed global product launches. 

• Studying and teaching the philosophy of technology and the future of non-fiction and transmedia storytelling at McGill University and Seneca College respectively. 

But what really sets me apart is experience working in and traveling to over 40 countries, including a half dozen conflict zones, where I learned to build trust with strangers with very different life experiences than mine, like influential hood artists, misunderstood startup innovators, world-class athletes, even traumatized child soldiers and blood-thirsty warlords – plus regular folks from the communities they draw meaning and power from. Human-centric qualitative research and solving production problems on the fly are now second nature to me. 

And thanks to methodology I learned from MIT’s Co-Creation Studio and Open Documentary Lab for my Seneca class, I’m ready and able to use all my swiss army tools as needed, including: philosophy (phenomenology and assemblage theory); i-doc and transmedia scholarship, R&D and production practices; and documentary research, interview and vérité filming techniques. I’m at my best when working on projects that call for lots of research, have limited resources, involve new technologies, conversations and relationships, and have me wearing many hats – as is this documentary way. 

All this in service of co-creating assemblages that balance stakeholder wants and needs, technological innovation and disruption, power, politics and market forces and their effects on our shared Anthropocene – the ultimate non-fiction transmedia storyworld on which we all depend. A scope and balance I haven’t yet achieved on a single project, but inspired by MIT’s Co-Creation Studio and with something close to a method I can now articulate, I have something to strive for – with those of you up to the challenge!

Selected Work

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