Our Crowdfunder Pick of the Week highlights Robbie Bryan’s new Seed&Spark-backed project, Black Hat, which pushes its strong anti-bullying message through the perhaps unexpected medium of Japanese anime.

The film’s protagonist is 16-year-old highschooler, Dandi (played by Jodelle Ferland of the Twilight franchise), a socially-damaged outcast who enters a contest to turn her manga comic book into a feature film. Part of a recent spate of films taking a hard look at bullying, led most notably by Matt Johnson’s award-winning The Dirties, Black Hat examines this theme through the lens of anime, a vehicle to explore adolescent rage and regret with what Bryan hopes is a greater sense of optimism. In fact, the subject has a tragic real-life resonance for the filmmaker—the character of Dandi herself, he writes on the campaign’s ‘Story’ section, is based on “a wonderfully alternative teen named Vada, who I had the honor of meeting a few years ago. She was the victim of a horrific act of violence that left her in a coma several years ago.”

Selecting the world of anime as the setting and medium for this story wasn’t initially the most intuitive choice for Bryan, but as he developed his narrative, he serendipitously fell into a fascination with the popular Japanese art – one he “really knew nothing about, apart from seeing Kill Bill 2.” Bryan’s wholehearted embrace of this foreign medium – one that, due to its massive worldwide popularity, would seem a daunting arena to enter – is one of the most interesting things about Black Hat. Determined not to let his newfound anime community down, the director has managed to acquire the involvement of real-life anime legends director Shinichiro Watanabe and Madhouse Studio animator Masao Maruyama (who will personally create the anime scenes of the film). Talk about going big or going home!


While Black Hat‘s official campaign began just two weeks ago, the director of 2007 flick iMurder had already started cultivating buzz for the project way back in 2011 via Facebook. The project’s page has now amassed over 230,000 followers (the anime community has proven pretty enthusiastic) with periodic posts and personal interaction with followers. Those high follower numbers are matched by a high crowdfunding goal: almost $350, 000, making Black Hat the largest campaign to date to raise funds on Seed&Spark.

We’re interested to see if the campaign can translate its hordes of Facebook supporters into tangible dollar bills (needed for production elements like Maruyama’s animation and various voice-acting work). With the campaign two weeks in and about a third of the way through, $33,000 has been raised, only 10% of the final mark (with a long way to go to meet Seed&Spark’s 80% minimum requirement to take home the earnings). Still, a lot can happen in two weeks.


Synopsis: “Desperate to get to an anime convention halfway across the country, a quirky teen artist “borrows” her sister’s car, kidnaps her wily, black sheep grandfather and together they embark on the road trip of a lifetime.”

Campaigners: Robbie Bryan, writer-director

Target Amount: $349,445

Amount Currently Raised: $33,101

Campaign Opening Date: Jan. 8, 2014

Campaign Closing Date: Feb. 21, 2014

Funding Goes Toward: Cameras, Props, Locations, Post Productions, Talent, Publicity and Advertising, Crew, Catering, Special Events, Anime Artists

Donor Reward Highlights:

$250 or more: (plus previous awards) “I GOT A THOUGHT: Come join the director and select crew for a special VIP private screening of an advanced rough cut of the film in Louisiana. Afterwards, we’ll all hang out, have a cocktail, and you can tell us YOUR thoughts on how to make the film even better!!”

$1000 or more: (plus previous awards) “VIRTUAL VISIT – You will spend three hours of a shooting day of BLACK HAT, “Skyping” with the cast and crew and turning the camera around so you can view all the fun from your comfy sofa. REAL interaction with the VIP’s!!”

$1500 or more: (plus previous awards) “CHECK OUT MY DATE! – You will be the special guest of the lovely and talented “Scream Queen” BROOKE LEWIS, and escort her to the premier of BLACK HAT or the Film premier of her choosing, as she has multiple films debuting in 2014. This will include the premier after party. Be a gentleman! Or lady!”

$ 50000 or more: (plus previous awards) “YES I’M AN EP!! – Be an Official Executive Producer of the film. Credit placement at discretion of the Producers. Appear on all artwork, poster IMDB etc. You’ll have your opinions asked for through Production and put up for up to one week in Louisiana by us during shooting. An extraordinary opportunity to break into the film business from the ground up for this price and film’s budget. Invitation for two for premier as well.” MM

MovieMakers, keep them coming! We welcome any crowdfunder campaign submissions for spotlighting consideration in our Trailblazer Tuesday series. Email [email protected] with your pitch! Help us to help you get your films made.

To subscribe to MovieMaker Magazine, click here.