Came From Nothing:
An Interactive Documentary
Came From Nothing is an interactive documentary that chronicles the incredible life story of Benjamin "BigMouthBen" Graham, an entrepreneur and motivational entertainer in Atlanta's Historic Sweet Auburn community. Big Mouth Ben overcame 17 years of addiction and homelessness on Auburn Avenue to open, together with his wife Tanya, a convenience store just two blocks from the same bridge under which he once slept. In the spring of 2017, as part of a design and social justice project studio course taught by Professor Nassim JafariNaimi titled "Sweet Auburn, Birthplace of Ideas," I and another student set out to capture Ben and Tanya's story in the narrative form of a feature-length documentary film. The film project was successful, premiering to over 100 people from the Sweet Auburn community on May 4th, 2017, at The APEX Museum, and more recently inspiring hundreds of other people through subsequent screenings at Fulton County Drug Court.
With this project, I aim to deepen and expand the narrative’s potential to sustainably advance social justice through the theoretical concept of storytelling by designing an interactive version of the documentary. The resulting digital application creates a new experience for the narrative’s audiences, affording them agency in their interactions with it, educating them about its issues, and providing them tools to take action in response to it. By engaging these audiences with multimedia forms of its content and employing the capabilities of the digital medium to enhance the effectiveness of that engagement, the interactive documentary highlights the nuances of the narrative and enriches their understanding of its complexities. Additionally, a physical installation of the digital application in Ben and Tanya’s store serves as a lasting, beneficial reference piece and content source to accompany their ongoing verbal representations of their story.