The Journey of “Negative: Nothing”

Initially in August 2011, our documentary was supposed to be a 5-10 minute video. But very quickly the project became bigger and bigger. It took over our lives and my brother Jan Knuesel who co-directed the film with me even gave up his full time job as a journalist. We realized how Thomas’ poetic journey struck a chord in Japan and Switzerland. Thanks to our generous facebook and twitter followers we were able to raise enough money to complete the film and even organize premieres in Winterthur, Zurich and Tokyo one year later. Now two years later down the road “Negative: Nothing” has gained a serious following in Japan and Switzerland. We kept on getting warmhearted emails and requests for more screenings so we kept on organizing more screenings. So far we had the opportunity to screen the film at 30 sold out screenings at commercial theaters and cultural centers in both countries. A total of 6,000 people have so far seen the film and every major radio program, newspaper and magazine in Japan and Switzerland have written about our project at least once and often multiple times (See a selection of press coverage here:

This experience has taught us the importance of valuing the connection to our audience. We did spend a lot of our savings and time in making the film but in the end without our audience there would be no film. The people who wanted to see the film trusted us and paid for it up front. This really means a lot to us filmmakers. Unfortunately we were largely ignored by the traditional film industry (grants, foundations, buyers, distributors, film festivals, etc…), even smaller film festivals in Switzerland and Japan have turned us down. At the same time being connected to our audience from the beginning allowed us to skip the whole film festival circuit and distribute the film ourselves in a non-traditional new way: Organize less screenings but make each screening an experience for everyone. We treat the screenings more like a concert.

Watching “Negative: Nothing” in a theater with 200-300 people is an experience. It is an uplifting, inspiring and sometimes funny documentary taking place in post-tsunami Japan.

The video above “The Journey of Negative: Nothing” highlights all our screenings up to date. It includes a selection of quotes from all those warmhearted emails we received from our audience as well as a few interviews with 8th Graders from screening at the American School in Japan, easily one of the most memorable screenings.

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