If you are keeping track of all of the talented storytellers out there who are quickly filling the niche to produce visual content for non-profit organizations, you need to add one more name to your list. Simon Sticker is a Danish multimedia producer who is clearly passionate about multimedia storytelling. Instead of trying to speak on his behalf, I want to direct you to his short personal statement that he produced, aptly named “Why I do what I do:”
A) For me the story comes first, so what I actually produce afterwards is driven by that. It is not only the decision of a certain form of storytelling or innovative new approaches but before that is also the decision if I use photography, multimedia or video. I use personal projects normally also as a chance to try out ideas and be innovative. This is the playground to experiment. But sometimes I can find this freedom in assignments too, even when I always try to focus on the story first, less on the tools. But when it helps the story, everything is allowed. Sometimes it is also that i first go for a safe version of capturing the story and when i feel i have it in the box, i try out new ideas.
Q) What piece in your portfolio are you most proud of and why?
A) That is hard to say and always changes, also because I feel that I’m improving with every piece and it is still a very long journey of learning (and hopefully always will be). There are some pieces that have personal meaning to me, like “The Laos Diaries,” a simple film about a journey through Laos. Others are important to me because of the story behind it and how it was produced like the story of Ancille that is part of a bigger project for an NGO about prostitution in Rwanda and one of their projects. Most of the time the technical part is less important to me, that is something what I want to improve as far as I can, but mainly to tell the story in better ways.
Q) Please provide a brief educational and professional history.
A) I got interested in photography when I was maybe 16 years old but even when I got really obsessed with it, I decided to study geography. During my studies I put a focus on the perception, atmospheres and aesthetics of spaces. It is all about how we see the world and how that influences us. In the meanwhile I started working as a freelance photographer/ videographer. During the time with a lot of travels (also because of my career as a professional rockclimber) the focus of my work changed more and more on social issues and humanitarian crisis and problems, so that most of my work in the last years comes from there. It is my true passion to tell those stories that I think are so important to tell. I back that up with commercial clients from time to time and that is where I find myself right now, with a combination of both.
Q) Where do you believe multimedia fits into today’s society and how will that role change over time?
A) For me multimedia is just a modern way to tell stories. We were used to newspapers or television, but the changes that came with the internet also changed the way how we consume this content. I love projects like Prison Valley because of the interactivity. For the first time we are not limited to produce a product to consume, but we actually can make people interact with the content. Leaving comments, deciding which part of the stories are interesting to watch. One of the important things that came with the internet and why I think it is so important is the ability to engage people more. I truly believe that in the moment where you get someone activated to think of what he is seeing than just consuming it, we make people way more engaged to the story they look at. We are right now in the planning for a big project about Climate Change and one of our key concepts is to find ways to make people interact in every step with what they consume.
At the same time, coming back to ‘classical’ multimedia, for us that come first from photography, it allows a new medium to tell stories. Audio is maybe the part where I work on the most in my skillset right now as there is so much power in it. And while video allows the user get directed to a certain point, photography allows the user to wander around in the picture and find his own way. I think to use especially this combination could help to tell extraordinaire powerful stories in ways we haven’t seen so far. There is a lot of potential still in the whole multimedia thing and I pretty excited about how it will develop in the next years.
Q) Whose work do you admire?
A) Some of my main influences for my work are photojournalism masters like James Nachtwey or Marcus Bleasdale. Their ability to tell stories in single frames is just astonishing, even when I sometimes wish for some different, broader approaches. For multimedia there are right now some production companies in the journalism field that push it forward and their work is always a good inspiration to me. This would be the likes at Mediastorm, Bombay FC or Duckrabbit right now. But I also love to look at the work of many individuals who experiment in that field and bring in new fresh ideas.
Q) Where do you find inspiration for your ideas?
A) The inspiration for my work comes most of the time from the people I work with and their stories. I try do do my research before of course, but also try to stay as much open as possible for the situations and stories that come up. I seldom have a very clear concept in the beginning, only the use of media most of the time. But I create storylines on the fly or most of the times in the postproduction. It is always great to see a story developing not because of an idea you had in your mind, but because of the subjects of the story.
Q) What specific resources do you recommend for beginners, novices and experts to improve their skills in documentary storytelling?
A) I think in general it is always good to stay open for new ideas. Watch the work of others and analyze how they tell a story is one of my greatest resources for improving my own storytelling skills. Why is a story engaging you, why not? How do they build the story? How do they use audio or visual media to tell it? And the internet is an unlimited source of extraordinary work to learn from. I can’t really recommend one specific source, but as I said before, to look at the work of the likes at Mediastorm, Bombay Fc or Duckrabbit is for sure a good start, no matter how experienced you are in that.
Q) What is one thing on your “To-Do” list?
A) Right now, the thing number one is packing my bag to get to Istanbul tomorrow for an assignment. On the longer run it is a lot about our Climate Change project for what we are planning, searching for sponsors and media partners, doing research and so on right now to start it finally in february next year. The basic idea is to create new ways to make it more understandable what climate change actually means on a personal level for people around the world as we think a lot of the discussion is way to abstract for the public to get interested in it and therefore engage with it. So we want to close some gaps with this project and combine different point of views with also using different ways to deliver it to the public. In general I’m looking forward to improve in my storytelling and push that as far as I can.
Want to nominate a deserving colleague, friend or inspirational figure to be highlighted in this series? Confidential nominations can be emailed to email@example.com on an ongoing basis. Self nominations are also welcome. A person will be featured every Friday, so look for the next “innovative individual” Friday, July 2nd!