(WNN) Toronto, CANADA: In addition to writing commentary for WNN – Women News Network, I’m a Canadian born Chinese filmmaker. My name is Tiffany Hsiung. For over three and a half years I’ve been working on a human rights documentary called “Within Every Woman” a film that explores the forgotten history of the ‘Comfort Women,’ a term used to describe over 200,000 girls, some as young as nine years old, who were forced into sexual slavery during World War II in Asia.
Now reaching the last part of their life, in their 80s and 90s, the survivors are still struggling to be heard and still waiting for justice.
I had the opportunity to document these remarkable women and their stories over the last 3 years, which took me on a journey to the Philippines, China and Korea.
As most independent filmmakers have experienced, getting the resources to make a documentary is its own journey. The reality is that thousands of incredible documentaries that expose and share issues all around the world rarely ever get seen or even made. The process of getting funding is extraordinarily challenging, and it is often a decision a group of elite individuals make to determine whether the story fits their mandate. Nonetheless, traditional forms of funding are slowly changing, and filmmakers now have an opportunity to seek other avenues to realize their vision and share critical stories that shape this world.
After filming some preliminary footage, I decided along with the ‘Within Every Woman’ team to do an online crowd-funding campaign using the online crowdfunding platform called Kickstarter. The goal was to raise $50,000 to get us back to Asia and film principal footage for the film. When we officially launched the campaign we had a little over 30 days to raise the target amount, otherwise all the money raised would be returned to the donors. This was following the ‘all or nothing’ guidelines by Kickstarter.
Just about everyone came out in support of the film. Though initially, it was our family and close friends that got the wheel turning and helped us spread the word and when all the social media and press hit a critical mass, the campaign just took off over night. Individuals, groups, organizations all started to support us throughout the campaign.
Majority of the supporters on Kickstarter were complete strangers who read about us through blogs, Facebook, the Press, Twitter, and our own events. The extent of how fast social media allows information to be spread was contagious.
Donations came from all around the world, and we made our goal 2 days before the deadline. Once the campaign was officially over we had reached a total of $56,525.
The online campaign not only supported our film to continue filming, but it also insured me that people did want to see this film being made. The public too saw the value in documenting the survivors incredible story of resilience and courage.
The power of people determined what they wanted us to create, and they came together to ensure they got what they wanted. This action of love and support was undoubtedly the most valuable outcome in the campaign as it brought people from all over the world together to make the change.
There are millions of stories out there that need to be told and shared with the rest of the world. I am thrilled to see the direction all of us are going as a global community who can help create the possibilities for more documentaries to be made.
WNN Chinese Canadian social justice commentator Tiffany Hsiung is a Toronto based filmmaker who has worked to improve kids lives through Schools Without Borders a youth led organization that seeks to improve lives through education. Her award winning 2007 documentary film, “Binding Borders,” about diversity in Toronto that speaks in 5 different languages was voted the Best Toronto Focus Film in the People’s Choice Award at the 2007 16th annual Cabbage Town Film Festival. “Binding Borders” also received the Grand Jury prize for R.C.I/Canadian Broadcasting Channel, Digital Diversity competition, as well as receiving the Norman Jewison Film production award in 2007. Working with the CBC and Radio Canada International documenting Beijing, China during the 2008 Olympic Games, Hsiung is now finalizing her new documentary film “Within Every Woman” that shows one-on-one interview testimonies of the now aging Comfort Women: women from China, Philippines and Korea who were kidnapped and forced as teenagers to work in Japan’s military brothels during World War II. “I want to expose, educate and promote societal change through my medium,” says Tiffany.
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