You might know Lisa Katayama from her articles on Popular Science, Wired and Fast Company - or perhaps she taught you "everything you ever wanted to know about the birth city of Godzilla, Gundam, all-you-can-eat shabu shabu and panty vending machines" on her blog TokyoMango. It's clear that Katayama has a true passion for Japan, where she spent the first 18 years of her life, so when disaster hit the country last March, she knew she couldn't just stand idly by. Her desire to do something led her to create We Are All Radioactive, an online episodic documentary series that follows the lives of surfers and fishermen as they work to rebuild small coastal towns that were affected by the tsunami. The series, produced with TED film director Jason Wishnow, is entirely crowdfunded, meaning that it's up to you to keep new episodes rolling out. We recently spoke to Lisa about why she decided to start We Are All Radioactive, what we can expect to see in the latest episode, and how funders can actually influence what is shown in coming episodes - choose-your-own-adventure-style. Read on to learn more!
INHABITAT: What made you decide to start the We Are All Radioactive series?
Lisa: I grew up in Japan, and my family and friends still live there — so the earthquake was really shocking to me. My first instinct was to fly back and “help” somehow — then I realized that the best way I could contribute to post-earthquake Japan was to tell the human stories behind the disaster. A friend of me and Jason’s told us about Motoyoshi, so we went out there last June to meet everyone. We didn’t really have a story or agenda in mind, but we brought a camera and a voice recorder and started to shoot interviews as we got to know the residents.
INHABITAT: One of the aspects that makes We Are All Radioactive unique is the fact that the “crowd” (followers and funders) has the ability to influence the next video. Could you tell us a little more about that?
Lisa: One of the perks on our IndieGoGo campaign is “choose your own adventure” — for $500, you get to propose ideas to the directors about what direction a future episode should go in, or what questions you want answered through the film.
INHABITAT: Episode 3 will be about a team hired by Architecture for Humanity to build a beer garden in a Japanese town. Without giving too much of the story away (people will have to wait to check it out themselves), could you tell us a little bit about the design of the beer garden and any recycled or reclaimed materials were used?
Lisa: When we went, the carpenters were salvaging shingles from the roof of a house that had been destroyed by the tsunami. It was kind of an anomaly because all of the houses on the ocean side of the street were fine in this one section of town – just this one house was hit badly. It was like the wave jumped over all the other houses and just landed here. It was a classic tiled Japanese roof and the residents had intel that it was going to be torn down and taken to the dumpsters within a week. They were reclaiming the roof tiles to use on the roof of the beer garden.
The AfH team also used 100 year old wood beams, timber, and tiles also salvaged from the rubble to make the outdoor deck.
INHABITAT: What has the series taught you about Japan that you didn’t know before?
Lisa: I spent the first 18 years of my life in Japan, but never ever had the chance to hang out with Japanese fishermen. They are amazingly resilient and funny. I was also reminded of how genuine and caring Japanese people really are. There’s a real selfless compassion there that you don’t see as pervasively in the US.
INHABITAT: How can people get involved and show their support for the series?
Lisa: We are actively fundraising online so we can release the next few episodes and finish our first season! Please visit our IndieGoGo campaign page to donate. We’ll also be posting additional photos and footage on our Facebook page.
If you want to see (and influence) how the story unfolds, don’t forget to visit IndieGogo to get your donation in.