Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | Support Asian American filmmakers by donating through website
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Support Asian American filmmakers by donating through website

I’ve known about, the fundraising site for creative startups and projects in a variety of categories including film, art, dance, technology, design, journalism, comedy and others, but I’d never really looked into it. This week, though, I’ve come across several very cool films by Asian Americans that are using Kickstarter to ask for donations.

Here’s how it works:

Kickstarter is a new way to fund creative ideas and ambitious endeavors.

We believe that…

• A good idea, communicated well, can spread fast and wide.
• A large group of people can be a tremendous source of money and encouragement.

Kickstarter is powered by a unique all-or-nothing funding method where projects must be fully-funded or no money changes hands.

Each project must set an amount needed and a deadline by which that amount must be raised. If you don’t get enough donations to reach the amount, you get none of the money that’s already been pledged. Each project offers different levels of thank-you gifts and rewards for donors, and donors can pledge as little as one dollar.

The submissions include a video pitch asking for donations, as well as written descriptions for the project. It’s a great way to generate crowd-sourced funding.

The three films I wrote about on my Posterous blog this week are all short films by Asian American filmmakers, and they’re all interesting ideas that I think are worth supporting. Here’s a little information about them, starting with the video at the top of this post, for “The Potential Wives of Norman Mao.”

Derek Nguyen is trying to raise $6,000 by January 5 for “The Potential Wives of Norman Mao” and he’s more than halfway there.

The film is about a nerdy, overweight man from Hong Kong whose parents are desperate to find him a wife, and end a globe-hopping trip with Norman in New York, where the threesome interview the final three potential wives. George Takei, whose velvety voice is instantly recognizable, is executive producer and serves as narrator for the film.

The filming is actually already complete and Nguyen and his crew are in post-production, and need the finds to finish the project.

“The Potential Wives of Norman Mao” stars Ed Lin (“A Waiter Tomorrow” and renowned writer), Tina Chen (“Three Days of the Condor,” “Face”), Ron Nakahara (“Hawaii Five-O”), Cindy Cheung (“Lady in the Water,” “Children of Invention”), Michelle Ang (“Xena,” “The Tribe”), Soomi Kim (“Law & Order”), and Wai Ching Ho (“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” “Flight of the Conchords”). It was shot by Sam Chase (“Moonlight Sonata,” “Two Mothers,” “Almost Perfect”), and written and directed by Sundance Screenwriters Lab alum Derek Nguyen, and produced by Blake Ashman-Kipervaser (“Prince of Broadway,” “The Lottery,” “Greg the Bunny”) and Shannon McCoy Cohn (“Sea Nation”).

It looks like a very cool, warm and funny movie. Help ’em out and give anything from $1 up — every donation on “The Potential Wives of Norman Mao”‘s page moves the project closer to completion.

Filmmaker Steve Nguyen‘s short documentary about one woman’s recollections of August 6, 1945 in Hiroshima, when she was 18 years old, is going to be told in animation. Yes, you read it right: animation. Anime. A cartoon.

Before you scoff, you should know that one of the most powerful movies about the bombing of Hiroshima is “Barefoot Gen,” a 1983 anime based on a manga (comic book) series of the same name, which was made for Japanese audiences.

Nguyen’s animated project will a short take on that day told by Kaz Suyeishi, a hibakusha, or atomic bomb survivor, who happens to be Japanese American. Like a lot of young JAs back then, she had been sent back to Japan for part of her education, and she was in Hiroshima when the lone B-29 bomber dropped its nuclear payload. She was 18 at the time.

The film is aptly titled “Hibakusha” because of the unique horror of the survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which was bombed three days later, on Aug. 9.

The Japanese, in their infinite eloquence, created a word that applies only to survivors of the atomic bombings, because the experience marked them as a special class, for better or worse, and for the rest of their lives.

Nguyen (“Fast and the Furious 3: Tokyo Drift,” “Jarhead”) and Daisuke Suzuki (“The Hills,” “American Dad!”) will direct the film and acclaimed animator & music video director Choz Belen (Far East Movement’s “I Party” and Deep Foundation’s “Sleep”) has signed on to animate the film. The team hopes to finish it in time for the 66th anniversary of the bombings, to celebrate Kaz Suyeishi and other hibakushas’ post-war lives. To meet this deadline, they’re trying to raise $2,000 through to pay for the production expenses. They’ve raised $700 toward their goal after just a couple of days, with almost three months left (the fundraising drive ends March 15).

You can read more about the project on the “Hibakusha” Kickstarter profile page.

Jason Lee’s “Doughboy” tackles a lighter topic than “Hibakusha.”

The storyline is unconventional, to say the least: The film is about Felix, a young man whose Korean father dreamed of bringing funnel cakes — yes, funnel cakes — to the masses instead of people only finding them at state fairs, festivals and carnivals. Inspired by his hero, the inventive Asian American kid Data from the movie “Goonies,” Felix decides to achieve his late father’s dream by creating a suit that he can wear to make and sell funnel cakes while he’s walking around Little Tokyo in Los Angeles.

Sounds like a sweet, and a little silly, but inspirational story for Asian Americans who often have few heroes and role models to emulate in American pop culture.

Lee, who’s majoring in Asian American Film and Media at University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne, is hoping to raise $2,250 by noon January 2 to produce the 10-minute film.

You can read about “Doughboy” on Kickstarter, and see the gifts Lee’s offering for various levels of donations.

For $25, for instance, I’ll get a a DVD and stickers. Lee is already more than halfway to his goal; he has almost $1,500 pledged. But all donations have to be made before noon January 2. Help Lee start his new year off with good news about his project.

BTW: Jonathan Ke Quan, the kid who played Data in “Goonies,” might be more familiar to some of you a Harrison Ford’s smartass sidekick in the second (and not very good, and racially insensitive) Indiana Jones movie, “Temple of Doom.” He was later a regular on the TV series “Head of the Class.”