Micro-documentaries to tell Japan's rebuilding story on digital networks

June 1, 2011 by Dave Haynes

Neil van Wouw is an ex-patriate Canadian who has lived and worked for many years in Japan, and was in Tokyo the day the massive earthquale struick and then the tsunami washed into the coastal towns to the north.

The event and its aftermath has prompted him to start an organization that will use digital screens to keep the story alive, long after the foreign news crews and even local news have moved on.

Called the Ganbatte 365 Project, the intent is to shoot and produce micro-documentaries that tell the story of places and people trying to rebuild.

“It’s going ahead by leaps and bounds,” says van Wouw, as we started talking recently via Skype. It was morning for me and evening for him. In a weird twist that says alot about technology and global culture, he was outside at a Tokyo park, speaking via Skype on his iPhone, while attending an Octoberfest … in May. Wow. And hmmm.

“This was like 9-11 for us. A tragic event, but beyond that, it injured the soul of the country.”

Even though the nuclear danger has lessened, the country is in a bad way, he says. The economy was forecast to grow by 1% this year, but it is down 3% instead. Japan is back in a recession. Tourism is non-existent. The crippled reactors around the country mean there will be rolling power outages through a hot summer. The screen networks that have come back on may, or will, go off again.

Van Wouw runs a media company that works directly in digital signage and digital OOH, so he is directly affected by this all. Rather than sit back and watch and wait for things to get better, he was inspired to put together what will be a one year project that tells stories in 15 second increments, and makes those videos available to screen networks in Japan and, if there is interest, globally.

Initial funding has already been secured and a crew is being sent to the north to start capturing stories. Van Wouw hopes  to be able to use local media people as the project progresses, as these people could use the work.

Japanese people and businesses, because of their tendency to be reserved, are terrible at PR, says van Wouw, who has been in Japan for 25 years. Ganbatte 365, he says, is important to get the word out.

Ganbatte is a popular Japanese term, almost like a rally cry.  It translates to Do Your Best. He thinks it’s the right handle for the project, and hopes it will be part of making a difference.

Efforts elsewhere in the world to help Japan were certainly noticed. Van Wouw told Japanese friends and colleagues about the DOOH4relief effort, and they were amazed by that outpouring of help from so far away, he says. “It really touched them.”

As the project progresses, we’ll stay in touch and the intention is to get the videos, or at least a link and reference, on DOOHgood.



Leave a comment