Sometimes, the most unique discoveries lie not in the wilderness but right next door.
That’s the idea behind Loftwork and Discovery Channel Japan’s latest venture: the Discovery Awards, a competition for original Japanese documentaries on the most interesting species of all – the homo sapien. The theme ‘Discovery! The superhuman next door’, invited video creators and filmmakers to discover and celebrate the oddballs who dare to be bold and different.
About Discovery Channel
One of the largest networks in the world, broadcasting to over 220 countries and regions. It showcases new discoveries, and covers a wide range of subjects in popular science and lifestyle entertainment.
Unique discoveries, à la Discovery Channel
The project was born out of a desire to showcase content that is both unique to Japan and in the same stylistic vein as the Discovery Channel’s well-established programming – and in particular, its focus on ‘discoveries’.
The network may have long enticed viewers with discoveries from our vast, extraordinary world, but now, armed with the award theme,‘Discovery! The superhuman next door’, it set out to find the discoveries yet to be made in our own neighborhoods.
Not only was the Discovery Awards able to give a voice to these unusual and colorful local characters, it provided a channel for emerging Japanese storytellers to tell the tale. (In quite the literal sense, too, with the winning work prized with Discovery Channel Japan airtime.)
This ‘uniquely Japanese’ lens was further extended elsewhere. Illustrator Tooru Morooka’s Showa-era manga designs were used as a basis for the visual identity of the award, to communicate a ‘hyper-Japanese’ aesthetic. The Showa-era look is not only synonymous with the visual culture of Japan, but currently undergoing a revival in popularity.
Meet the Ambassadors: Youtubers, filmmakers, and contemporary artists
To help promote the project, a diverse team of “ambassadors” – creatives in different fields – was appointed. Their roles were not limited to pumping out messages; they participated as applicants in the award to heat up to competition!
Quality management of submissions
With the winning entries set to be aired on the Discovery Channel, steps were taken to ensure that submitted works were of acceptable quality for television broadcasting. The quality management process consisted of two parts:
Step 1: Recommendations for team submissions
We encouraged applicants nominating themselves to form a team with a DoP. This was to ensure that applicants with incredible ideas – but lacking the technique to produce broadcast-ready video – would not be eliminated as a result. Through this measure, the quality of submitted videos improved and the number of submissions from artists and performers increased, thus diversifying the framework of the award.
I want to work with the Discovery Channel! I want to go pro! I want to produce a program!
→ Use this opportunity to try filming an extraordinary subject matter.
People with special skills
I want to let the world know about my amazing and special skills! I want to show them off on film!
→ Try making a piece by filming it yourself or try applying with a friend or team who can shoot.
Step 2 – Mentorship system
For this project, one of the most important and effective tools for quality management was the mentorship system. Applicants who passed the first round of judging were able receive technical assistance and advice from the available mentors, and polish their works accordingly.
Vikram Channa – Head of Production, Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific
Channa is responsible for the production of all original content for Discovery’s Asia-Pacific region. He has produced hundreds of documentaries since he joined the company in 1995 – many of which award-winners at the Asia Television Awards, New York Festival, Omni Intermedia and the Academy Awards. Channa has a Master degree in history, a Master in film and television production, as well as an MBA from the University of Chicago. He was a former professor at the Anaheim University’s Akira Kurosawa School of Film.
Harajuku – Omocoro chief editor
Editor-in-chief at Omocoro, a web media company specializing in comedy entertainment content that began in October 2005. They like videos of people building a house from scratch, in the jungle.
Miyako Hattori – Executive Producer for Discovery Japan Inc.
Hattori is a Japanese original program producer for the Discovery Channel and Discovery Japan Inc.’s Animal Planet. She also oversees the art direction for channel brand commercials. She has won awards at Promax, New York festival, Asian Television Awards and the Summit Awards. She has a Master in media studies from Goldsmiths, University of London.
Ayaka Allison Sakakibara – Senior Manager of Digital Marketing at Discovery Japan
Sakakibara helms the digital marketing strategies, including growing Discovery Channel Japan’s YouTube channel. Before joining Discovery, she was active as an adviser to over 300 YouTube creators all around the world.
Alongside the key selection criteria of “Interesting” and “Beautiful”, judges made considerations to the following questions, in both the first and second rounds of judging.
- Is it still not widely recognized throughout the world?
- Did you capture the eccentricities of your subject matter in a moving manner?
- Does it have the film quality needed to be broadcasted on the Discovery Channel?
For the judges, all the works reflected a high degree of passion from both the entrant and their mentors. Originally, the airtime for the award-winner had been undecided; during the judging process, it was decided that the works be aired during primetime, when the channel has the highest viewership.
“I felt the sensitivity and passion of the creators from their award-winning pieces in the Discovery Awards. I also felt deeply moved, as well as a sense of understanding. I am very grateful for the wonderful opportunity that Loftwork gave us. I would definitely like to continue the Discovery Awards together with everyone and the Discovery Channel.”
David McDonald, Discovery Japan Inc President and Representative Director