When friends Brent Green and Jeff Goldberg were looking to kick-start their careers, they wanted to do something that would have a positive impact.
In 2009, they started Toy Gun Films, a nonprofit production company based in Oklahoma City and Los Angeles, aimed at producing films that tell stories of moral courage and overcoming social injustices from around the world. Green said that being a nonprofit was an ideal way to get their content out there for people to see and make a difference.
“One of the reasons we wanted to be a nonprofit company was so that we could give our films away and it would reach a wide audience,” he said. “Also, the types of films we make are there to make a difference. It would feel wrong to charge people.”
Their first project, 2010’s “En Tus Manos,” follows a young man living in the slums of Bogotá, Colombia, who struggles with having to commit murder in order to join a gang. The picture received eight awards and was an official selection in 14 film festivals.
Toy Gun Films partnered with One Hope, an organization dedicated to spreading the message of nonviolence globally, and since then, “En Tus Manos” has been seen by 3 million people worldwide — a number that is unheard of for a short film, said Green.
The duo’s latest work, “Paper Flower,” tells the story of Asuka and Michi, two best friends growing up in Tokyo where a form of prostitution called enjo-kosai, or “compensated dating,” has become a common occurrence. In the practice, young women from middle-class families go on dates with men, and receive money and gifts in exchange for sex.
“These girls aren’t doing this to survive or provide for their families,” Green said. “They do it so that they can have designer clothing and subsidize their income. We wanted to address the issue of how society has made us associate our material possessions with our own feelings of self-worth.”
Written by Goldberg and directed by Green, “Paper Flower” was shot entirely on location in Tokyo, something Green said he had wanted to do for a long time.
above “Paper Flower”
“When I was searching for a project, I knew that I wanted it to be in Tokyo,” he said. “I was very attracted to the aesthetics of the city, and thought that it would be a great place to shoot a film.”
As far as future projects, he said that Toy Gun’s goal is to complete one short film a year, and already has a project in development in South Africa.
“Our goal is to show that no matter how extreme the situation or what you’re going through, there is always the opportunity to make the right decision,” Green said. “We want to show that there is good in the world.”