Las Positas College. San Francisco State University. Columbia University.
What do these three schools have in common? Julian Lim attended all three.
The college behind Costco sure seems to have some fine produce. Lim is an example of the gems these halls produce. He started his path at LPC, cultivated his talents and birthed his dreams on this Livermore hill. And now he is an Ivy League graduate already with an Emmy nomination in his pocket.
His journey, his hustle, the guidance has produced the kind of story Las Positas College prides itself on cultivating.
Lim was the editor-in-chief of both student-run publications on the LPC campus: The Express and Naked Magazine. During his time on these publication, he mostly wrote pieces about the board meetings, the way we consume media and big business mergers. He was also the page designer.
During his time at LPC, he bought a flip camera and would make videos everyday, or as we now would call it, “vlogging.” When he was making videos, YouTube was just starting out– he was one of the first to get on the trend.
Lim then took a mass communications class for video journalism to learn how to edit and make his videos with higher quality. Lim took the class with Jin Tsbota who, at the time, was an instructor for the Mass Communications program and is now the Tutorial Center Director.
“His work ethic reminded me of someone who should be in graduate school,” Tsbota said looking back on Lim’s time at LPC.
Lim transferred from LPC with an Associate’s Degree in Mass Communications and Photography to SF State.
At SF State, Lim did the same thing he did at LPC: wrote and did page design. He wrote pieces on culture, screen printing and old versions of media becoming trendy.
It wasn’t until his last semester of SF State that he took another video class and found his passion for video journalism. But by then, it was too late. He couldn’t change his major to video production.
Lim graduated from SF State in 2014 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Print/Online Journalism with a minor in Asian-American studies.
He applied for an internship at the Dow Jones News Firm and got through the very selective process. Out of 600 applicants, he was 1 of 92 to get selected. He then got placed at Gatehouse Media for page design.
According to an article published in May 2015, the DJNF trained and sent, “undergraduate and graduate students to work this summer as business reporters, digital journalists, news and sports copy editors in paid internships at 56 of the nation’s leading news organizations.”
From there, he moved on to the Philadelphia Inquirer as a Sports Page Designer. Lim’s plan was to move laterally to the multimedia team however, the Philadelphia Inquirer was very “old school” in their thinking and business model.
Lim says that The Inquirer relied on old journalistic ways rather than new upcoming ways of consuming news. “Videos don’t get page views,” he said.
After working their for a few months, Lim was laid off. He then realized that graphic design wasn’t where his passion was: he found himself in Philadelphia with no job and nothing keeping there.
At that time, he could have moved back home to the Bay Area or go to New York and attend Columbia and “make a dream happen.” Lim had a friend who was in grad school making documentary films and that is what he wanted to do, so he applied.
Because he went to LPC and SF State, he was in a good place financially and didn’t have any student loans. Although he’s now in debt, he is, “happier now, than I was at the Inquirer.”
After graduating from Columbia, Lim got a fellowship with McClatchy Video Fellow. He was then sent to St. Louis.
Through an online video series called “Then I Knew.” Lim and Cara Anthony, his partner for the project, went around St. Louis and Southern Illinois and asked black people when is the moment they realized they were black.
Lim said he wanted to show what it was like to be black in America. He didn’t want to show the police brutality part of being black, but the budget cuts, the racial tensions and the subtle nuances.
Lim and his counterpart worked on this documentary until the last day of the fellowship.
“Then I Knew” was nominated for a Mid-America Emmy in 2018. Although they lost, the two of them never aimed to get recognition or accolades for it– they just wanted to tell a compelling story.
Creators at BuzzFeed don’t have a lot of creative freedom in terms of ownership. The company owns the statements and creations of their employees even after they leave. Lim didn’t want this. He wanted his work to be his own, so in 2018, Lim co-founded 511C Productions.
“511C Productions does a mix of corporate, social impact and journalism videos and the prime goal is to make our own documentary passion films,” Lim said.
With filmmaking, there is a power behind holding the camera. Hunting for the best shot. Watching scenes happen before you. Lim’s favorite part is shooting the film or editing. He compared it to gardening, taking care of the plants that have grown in a prepared environment in order to watch the results flourish.
“Sitting behind a desk,” he said, “you can create something powerful.”