Crowdfunding tapped for antinuclear movie

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The Japan Times | by Kyoko Hasegawa | Nov 29, 2013

Takafumi OtaFilm director Takafumi Ota had a problem.

He needed studio financing for a film that was harshly critical of the nuclear power industry after Fukushima disaster started, but no one was interested in funding his project the traditional way.

Large sections of Japan’s movie industry wanted nothing to do with it, and he was told that influential sponsors did not want to be associated with anything that criticized the powerful atomic sector.

“It wasn’t only major film distribution companies but also DVD companies — which usually get interested in investing in films to share copyrights — that showed no interest in my plan,” said the 52-year-old Ota.

His previous works include the critically acclaimed 2006 film “Strawberry Fields,” which received a showing at the Cannes International Film Festival in France.

“A senior film director told me ‘Don’t do this. You’ll never be able to make commercial films,’ ” Ota said.

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With few standard options available, but with a groundswell of anti-nuclear feeling pulsing due to Fukushima, Ota turned to the public to get his film made in another example of how the concept of crowdfunding is changing the face of traditional financing.

The practice sees individuals or firms solicit small donations from people over the Internet. While still small, the market is growing, with companies such as the pioneering KickStarter offering donation-based funding for creative projects.

Globally, the crowdfunding market grew 81 percent last year and is on track to raise $5.1 billion this year, with investments in everything from business startups and philanthropic projects to films and music, according to research firm Massolution.

For Ota, raising money through his blog from a public suspicious of the nuclear industry got him the crucial ¥10 million that he needed to make “Asahi No Ataru Ie” (“The House of Rising Sun”), about a family pulled apart by a nuclear crisis.

Each donor was offered the chance to see their name in the credits.

“The ¥10 million budget is extremely low for a feature-length film, but actors and other staff got onboard despite low salaries,” Ota said.

Among them was 39-year-old Taro Yamamoto, a household name thanks to his appearances in movies, TV dramas and variety shows.

Yamamoto, who became an outspoken lawmaker following last year’s national election, began campaigning against nuclear power weeks after the nuclear crisis erupted in March 2011, hoping he could use his fame to bring further attention to the issue.

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