How a regular office worker born and raised in Japan began a company together with multinational staff members

My name is Mariko, president of Panic Ball Productions. One of the characteristics of Panic Ball is that we are a company made up of staff members from different backgrounds.

“Why did you start Panic Ball Productions?” 

This is a question I am often asked in conversation with those who connect with me.

So, I thought I would take this opportunity to write a little about how I became president, the kinds of services that Panic Ball offers, and what it’s like working with an international staff as my own take on the usual message from the office of the company president.

Why did you decide to work with international staff members?

It all began with me wanting to help. I didn’t “decide” to work with our staff members because they were international; I did it because they were my friends. Lilou and Lisa had founded the company and needed help with editing emails and submitting applications, so I wanted to help them out.

Before Lilou founded Panic Ball, it was often the case that even if foreign workers were made to work unreasonably long hours risking their mental and physical health, they couldn’t simply quit their jobs because those jobs are sponsoring their visas. I also learned that there weren’t really any environments where they could confidently work safely and securely as professionals. These truths weighed heavily on my heart, and I felt a mix of both anger and sadness about this unfortunate reality.

As long as there are those in need who ask for my help, then I want to do what I can to support them.

I don’t think it’s fair to decide job opportunities based solely on individual preconceived notions about roles or titles outside of work, whether it’s because someone is male or female, married or unmarried, has children, has a disability, is young, or is foreign. 

You hear this kind of thing in conversation every day:

  • You drive a big car for a woman!”
  • “That lighting equipment is so heavy! Pretty impressive for a woman to carry that by herself.”
  • “You’re a man, you should be able to handle grueling work on location.”
  • “You’re a man and you don’t drink?!”
  • “They have a kid, so I don’t think we can ask them to handle this job.”
  • “They’re not married, so it probably doesn’t matter how late we call them!”
  • “They’re a foreigner, so they’re probably not very hardworking.”

While I realize that none of these things are said out of malice, assumptions like “they’re X, so they must be Y” or “because they’re X” are preconceived biases, and it’s notions like these that cause talented creators to lose out on opportunities. This is why I personally make sure to be aware of these notions when working so I don’t end up merely tolerating or being complicit in them.

By running this company together with people from around the world, I hope to connect with others who value people for who they really are, not just the title on their business cards. These are the kind of people I want to make amazing visual works with together.

“Because that’s the rule” doesn’t fly here.

Before working at Panic Ball, I worked with a lot of people who weren’t Japanese. Japan is a monoethnic island country where people generally feel that there is safety in being the same as everyone else. The Japanese tend to see those with differing opinions as a problem and the opinions of minorities are often not reflected in society on the whole.

When working with multicultural staff, differences in values, processes, and customs are the norm. In fact, it’s often the case that because having differences is accepted, we can find better ways of working because we are willing to listen to the opinions of others and respect one another.

At work on location with international staff, there is a lot of discussion which goes on. Opinions are given regardless of department. You hear things like “Why are we doing this like that?” or “Is there a better way we can do this?” or “What is this system for?”

Once, we were asked to submit an application via fax machine. Aside from the obvious opinion that Japan is behind the times because using fax machines is still a thing, the request didn’t bother me as long as there was a reasonable explanation or background as to why, like perhaps they were somewhere where they couldn’t use the Internet.

But, as for the question of why we needed to submit via fax machine, when the answer is “Because that’s the rule,” I sometimes think that maybe what we should be doing instead is rethinking those rules. From an international perspective, if the reason why those rules exist isn’t convincing, then more often than not, the work gets bogged down.

I believe this is proof that international teams work under the premise of questioning what they see and ensuring that the rules are made so that they can perform at their very best, and I truly feel that the ability to think about and question the reasons behind each step in the process, and how they lead to the next one, is vitally important when working with an international team.

If doing something one way is better, then it’s perfectly okay to change the rules as many times as necessary, and I am confident that people perform better when you value them and their time.

How to value and care for your staff – Never underestimate the importance of food!

When it comes to providing a safe work environment, health is wealth, especially when it comes to the health of your staff. I didn’t realize this before working with an international team, but on-location meals are incredibly important.

Today, vegan, halal, and food allergy-friendly restaurants are on the rise in Tokyo, particularly in central Tokyo. However, when traveling to other regions in Japan, it can be pretty difficult to find restaurants that cater to these needs.

In the case of food allergies that carry the risk of potentially fatal anaphylactic shock, finding the right restaurant is crucial.

So, what is important when considering how to keep staff members safe, both mentally and physically, while they are working? Personally, I consider the following jobs to be of the utmost importance: 

  • Confirming any allergies or dietary restrictions in advance.
  • Confirming routes for loading and unloading when scouting for locations.

Ensuring that drivers are able to rest during their breaks.

  • Instead of forcing a long, jam-packed one-day filming schedule, breaking the schedule up over the course of two days.
  • Knowing how much budget will be necessary to ensure all of these things.

Panic Ball’s tenets for making high-quality content

“Provide an environment where everyone can safely and securely share and demonstrate their ideas and skills”

“Support and better the creator community”

“Be as prepared as possible and have contingency plans for any and all circumstances that can be expected”

Video production is many things: it is entertainment, PR marketing, documentary work, journalism, and art. It is a product described vaguely as “content,” yet it is actually an artistic collaborative work which is created by many people putting in countless hours. In this industry, intangible skills are where value lie. The industry itself is complex with countless elements and goals for each project, but when teams with different backgrounds come together, they can produce magic beyond imagination.

What makes our clients’ ideas and thoughts into something tangible within the limits time and budget is the power of every single person involved in our projects. That is precisely why we pride ourselves on providing a work environment where everyone, regardless of gender, nationality, age, or background, can work fairly, comfortably, and safely to allow talented creators to do what they do best.

It is because our on-location staff are also members of management that they can control the hours, meals, and working conditions on location, as well as have an accurate grasp of overtime hours. I believe that it is these steady efforts and awareness that lead to the creation of high-quality visual works.

In addition, Panic Ball actively takes on creating works about social issues and works that define them, such as mental health, LGBTQ+, SDGs, disabilities, and body positivity. In fact, we seek to create more works that provide viewers with the opportunity to think about these issues.

Making something is important, but who you make it with is more important.

I am committed to all of this in my role as president.

I will keep working hard to ensure production that values people and to provide an environment where work can be carried out safely and securely while giving my full support and making sure no staff member is left behind or loses their way.

Together, let’s make magic happen!

Thank you for reading all the way to the end.

If you want to read more about our incredible team members, the Panic Ballers, click here!

Words from the President 

How a regular office worker born and raised in Japan began a company together with multinational staff members

My name is Mariko, president of Panic Ball Productions. One of the characteristics of Panic Ball is that we are a company made up of staff members from different backgrounds.

“Why did you start Panic Ball Productions?” 

This is a question I am often asked in conversation with those who connect with me.

So, I thought I would take this opportunity to write a little about how I became president, the kinds of services that Panic Ball offers, and what it’s like working with an international staff as my own take on the usual message from the office of the company president.

Why did you decide to work with international staff members?

It all began with me wanting to help. I didn’t “decide” to work with our staff members because they were international; I did it because they were my friends. Lilou and Lisa had founded the company and needed help with editing emails and submitting applications, so I wanted to help them out.

Before Lilou founded Panic Ball, it was often the case that even if foreign workers were made to work unreasonably long hours risking their mental and physical health, they couldn’t simply quit their jobs because those jobs are sponsoring their visas. I also learned that there weren’t really any environments where they could confidently work safely and securely as professionals. These truths weighed heavily on my heart, and I felt a mix of both anger and sadness about this unfortunate reality.

As long as there are those in need who ask for my help, then I want to do what I can to support them.

I don’t think it’s fair to decide job opportunities based solely on individual preconceived notions about roles or titles outside of work, whether it’s because someone is male or female, married or unmarried, has children, has a disability, is young, or is foreign. 

You hear this kind of thing in conversation every day:

  1. “You drive a big car for a woman!”
  2. “That lighting equipment is so heavy! Pretty impressive for a woman to carry that by herself.”
  3. “You’re a man, you should be able to handle grueling work on location.”
  4. “You’re a man and you don’t drink?!”
  5. “They have a kid, so I don’t think we can ask them to handle this job.”
  6. “They’re not married, so it probably doesn’t matter how late we call them!”
  7. “They’re a foreigner, so they’re probably not very hardworking.”

While I realize that none of these things are said out of malice, assumptions like “they’re X, so they must be Y” or “because they’re X” are preconceived biases, and it’s notions like these that cause talented creators to lose out on opportunities. This is why I personally make sure to be aware of these notions when working so I don’t end up merely tolerating or being complicit in them.

By running this company together with people from around the world, I hope to connect with others who value people for who they really are, not just the title on their business cards. These are the kind of people I want to make amazing visual works with together.

“Because that’s the rule” doesn’t fly here.

Before working at Panic Ball, I worked with a lot of people who weren’t Japanese. Japan is a monoethnic island country where people generally feel that there is safety in being the same as everyone else. The Japanese tend to see those with differing opinions as a problem and the opinions of minorities are often not reflected in society on the whole.

When working with multicultural staff, differences in values, processes, and customs are the norm. In fact, it’s often the case that because having differences is accepted, we can find better ways of working because we are willing to listen to the opinions of others and respect one another.

At work on location with international staff, there is a lot of discussion which goes on. Opinions are given regardless of department. You hear things like “Why are we doing this like that?” or “Is there a better way we can do this?” or “What is this system for?”

I believe this is proof that international teams work under the premise of questioning what they see and ensuring that the rules are made so that they can perform at their very best, and I truly feel that the ability to think about and question the reasons behind each step in the process, and how they lead to the next one, is vitally important when working with an international team.

If doing something one way is better, then it’s perfectly okay to change the rules as many times as necessary, and I am confident that people perform better when you value them and their time.

I believe this is proof that international teams work under the premise of questioning what they see and ensuring that the rules are made so that they can perform at their very best, and I truly feel that the ability to think about and question the reasons behind each step in the process, and how they lead to the next one, is vitally important when working with an international team.
If doing something one way is better, then it’s perfectly okay to change the rules as many times as necessary, and I am confident that people perform better when you value them and their time.

“Quote Text“

How to value and care for your staff – Never underestimate the importance of food!

When it comes to providing a safe work environment, health is wealth, especially when it comes to the health of your staff. I didn’t realize this before working with an international team, but on-location meals are incredibly important.

Today, vegan, halal, and food allergy-friendly restaurants are on the rise in Tokyo, particularly in central Tokyo. However, when traveling to other regions in Japan, it can be pretty difficult to find restaurants that cater to these needs.

In the case of food allergies that carry the risk of potentially fatal anaphylactic shock, finding the right restaurant is crucial.

So, what is important when considering how to keep staff members safe, both mentally and physically, while they are working?

Personally, I consider the following jobs to be of the utmost importance:

  1. Confirming any allergies or dietary restrictions in advance.
  2. Confirming routes for loading and unloading when scouting for locations.

 

Ensuring that drivers are able to rest during their breaks.

  1. Instead of forcing a long, jam-packed one-day filming schedule, breaking the schedule up over the course of two days.
  2. Knowing how much budget will be necessary to ensure all of these things.

“Support and better the creator community”

Panic Ball’s tenets for making high-quality content

“Provide an environment where everyone can safely and securely share and demonstrate their ideas and skills”
“Support and better the creator community”
“Be as prepared as possible and have contingency plans for any and all circumstances that can be expected”
Video production is many things: it is entertainment, PR marketing, documentary work, journalism, and art. It is a product described vaguely as “content,” yet it is actually an artistic collaborative work which is created by many people putting in countless hours. In this industry, intangible skills are where value lie. The industry itself is complex with countless elements and goals for each project, but when teams with different backgrounds come together, they can produce magic beyond imagination.

What makes our clients’ ideas and thoughts into something tangible within the limits time and budget is the power of every single person involved in our projects. That is precisely why we pride ourselves on providing a work environment where everyone, regardless of gender, nationality, age, or background, can work fairly, comfortably, and safely to allow talented creators to do what they do best.

It is because our on-location staff are also members of management that they can control the hours, meals, and working conditions on location, as well as have an accurate grasp of overtime hours. I believe that it is these steady efforts and awareness that lead to the creation of high-quality visual works.

In addition, Panic Ball actively takes on creating works about social issues and works that define them, such as mental health, LGBTQ+, SDGs, disabilities, and body positivity. In fact, we seek to create more works that provide viewers with the opportunity to think about these issues.

Making something is important, but who you make it with is more important.

I am committed to all of this in my role as president.

I will keep working hard to ensure production that values people and to provide an environment where work can be carried out safely and securely while giving my full support and making sure no staff member is left behind or loses their way.

Together, let’s make magic happen!

Thank you for reading all the way to the end.
If you want to read more about our incredible team members, the Panic Ballers, click here!