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Goal

The goal of this project was to create a three-part documentary based on Shiho Fukada's portrait series, Japan's Disposable Workers. The three sections are:

Overworked to Suicide

After the recession of the 1990s, Japan's white collar salarymen increasingly must work arduous hours for fear of losing their jobs. This often leads to depression and suicide.

Net Cafe Refugees

Internet cafes have existed in Japan for over a decade, but in the mid 2000's, customers began using these spaces as living quarters. Internet cafe refugees are mostly temporary employees, their salary too low to rent their own apartments.

Dumping Ground

Kamagasaki, Osaka, Japan used to be a thriving day laborer's town. Today, it is home to approximately 25,000 unemployed and elderly men, many of whom are also homeless.



Client: Pulitzer Center
Published: May 19, 2014
awards

2015
Emmy (Nominee)
New Approaches To News & Documentary Programming: Current News Coverage
The Challenge
There were three main challenges in producing this project. The first and most obvious was language. Shiho Fukada conducted more than a dozen interviews, all but one were in Japanese–a language no one in the company speaks. Further complicating the problem, the translations did not contain timecode so it was impossible for non-speakers to find specific clips.

The second issue concerned the length of the project. Shiho was extensive in collecting interviews. We needed to sift through all of the material to find the best bites. This challenge was intensified by the production’s time restraints.

Finally, Japan’s Disposable Workers was originally conceived as a portrait series. Much of the material, particularly the still photography, reflected that initial decision. We needed to find a way to translate the project into a video experience.


The Solution
To conquer the language barrier, Shiho translated all of interviews into English. This was done prior to the start of production so MediaStorm worked backwards from our normal workflow. Rather than obtaining timecode when creating the original transcript, the producer marked selects on text documents and then asked for timecode to the corresponding bites. Further, the producer created Premiere Pro subtitles so that Shiho, also working in Premiere Pro, could attach them to the proper bites for easier comprehension and usability.

MediaStorm and Shiho began a conversation at the start of production regarding which subjects were best suited for the documentary version of this project. This discussion continued through the production of each of the three chapters. Our decisions were based on several factors: reading and discussing transcripts to determine the most compelling subjects, how the characters played off of each other to illustrate different aspects of the story, and which video and photography assets were available for each interview.

Finally, because Japan’s Disposable Workers was originally created as a portrait series, many of the subjects were not documented with video, other than an interview. This enabled the MediaStorm team to think less literally about the project’s visuals. We utilized Shiho’s elegant video of salarymen and their travels to and from work to help offset a lack of specific imagery. This resulted in a more lyrical storytelling style.


Individual Films

After the recession of the 1990s, Japan's white collar salarymen increasingly must work arduous hours for fear of losing their jobs. This often leads to depression and suicide.

Internet cafes have existed in Japan for over a decade, but in the mid 2000's, customers began using these spaces as living quarters. Internet cafe refugees are mostly temporary employees, their salary too low to rent their own apartments.

Kamagasaki, Osaka, Japan used to be a thriving day laborer's town. Today, it is home to approximately 25,000 unemployed and elderly men, many of whom are also homeless.

About the Client
The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting is an innovative award-winning non-profit journalism organization dedicated to supporting the independent international journalism that U.S. media organizations are increasingly less able to undertake. The Center focuses on under-reported topics, promoting high-quality international reporting and creating platforms that reach broad and diverse audiences.
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