Los Angeles, California | Film Short

Drama, LGBTQ

Michael Sasaki

1 Campaigns | California, United States

Green Light

This campaign raised $10,558 for post-production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

100 supporters | followers

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Masculinity in many cultures has harshly dictated how men should behave. Whether you're gay, straight or somewhere in between, we have all been pressured to act a certain way in order to fit in, which usually excludes femininity. Join us in dismantling the confining ideologies of masculinity!

About The Project

  • The Story
  • Wishlist
  • Updates
  • The Team
  • Community

Mission Statement

MASARU aims to open the discussion of questioning and reframing our current views on masculinity. Especially in sports, we see an overwhelming pressure to conform to masculine behaviors. MASARU tells a story about overcoming the shackles we've placed on ourselves and living true to oneself.

The Story

Danny Morisaki is a major league baseball player who has dedicated his whole life to his successful career. At the height of his prime, he questions whether he wants to continue playing when he rediscovers his suppressed childhood passion for Nihon Buyo, which is traditional Japanese dance. Having watched his late mother perform in Nihon Buyo, Danny always admired this art form, however, he was too scared to show any interest as his conservative father was strict about how boys should behave.

When Danny discovers some of his mother's old kimonos she used to perform in, he gets the idea of taking lessons in secret from Iwamoto Sensei who was also his mother's teacher. After months of training with Iwamoto Sensei, he is invited to perform at the yearly recital. If he performs, it could cause havoc in the baseball world as well as damage his relationship with his father. Will it be worth it? 


The themes of this film are breaking self-imposed barriers and self-acceptance. In a society that enforces a strict model of behavior, especially in the world of sports, it can be suffocating to keep up with appearances. Finding yourself amidst the myriad "rules of society" can cause mental anguish and severe inner conflict. In many cultures in the Americas, there's hypersensitivity when it comes to living up to society's expectations as a male. The Pan American World Health Organization reported that: 

"societal expectations of men to be providers, to engage in risk-seeking behaviors, to be sexually dominant, and to avoid discussing their emotions or seeking help—behaviors commonly referred to as “toxic masculinity”—are contributing to higher rates of suicide, homicide, addictions, and road traffic accidents, as well as chronic non-communicable diseases among men." (2019, PAHO/WHO) 

The story of Masaru aims to rip apart this societal construct in hopes to further the discussion of how toxic masculinity is TRULY TOXIC. By helping us share this story, we are encouraging more and more people to examine whether this ideal we have socially imposed upon our men needs dismantling and redefining. 

Growing up as a competitive figure skater, I was often teased by my peers at school for choosing a sport that they thought was feminine. I wanted desperately to fit in, so I tried to act as masculine as I could. But the truth was, I DID naturally gravitate towards things more feminine, whether it be having more female friends or taking interest in things that mostly females enjoyed. Why don't we live in a society where it's encouraged to just be yourself? Who cares if men like feminine things or if women like masculine things? Now, having finally embraced myself as a Japanese-American Queer male, I feel emboldened to create a new era. Toxic masculinity has caused many years of mental anguish in my life, and I feel truly passionate about challenging these unhealthy norms that our society has created. Masaru takes many of my personal experiences and shapes them into a story about becoming the hero of your own life.

-Michael Sasaki, Producer, writer and lead actor

The tone and mood of Masaru were inspired by these films: 


We are currently in Pre-Production and are fully cast! We are finalizing the crew and hopes to have our first department head meeting very soon! Our timeline goals are as follows: 

With an anticipated cast and crew size of 25 people and 3 locations including post-production and festival costs, we are targeting a budget of $15,000. We have raised most of the funds that will cover immediate production costs such as hiring the cast and crew, but there are still plenty of hidden costs that add up. With your contribution, we will be able to do this story justice and ensure the production value and quality it deserves. 

Our GOAL is to raise $10,000 so that we can hit our budget!! 

1. Follow this page! Once we hit 250 followers, regardless of how many people pledge, we'll start unlocking creator discounts for this and future projects.

2. Follow us on Instagram at @masarushortfilm

3. Share this page with your friends and peers who might be interested in our project! 

4. Reach out to us with any ideas, questions, or points of collaboration :)


Thank you so much for your contribution! 


Use the WishList to Pledge cash and Loan items - or - Make a pledge by selecting an Incentive directly.

Theater rental

Costs $2,000

The main location for MASARU is on a stage. Most spaces charge $1.8k on average + additional costs.

Professional Editor

Costs $2,500

Professional editing costs include paying for music rights, color grading, and revisions.

Festival Submissions

Costs $1,500

We hope to showcase MASARU to as many festivals we can for audiences all over the world to enjoy.

Set Dressing

Costs $1,000

MASARU includes flashbacks from the 90s. Period items and prop purchases are essential to the story.

Cast and Crew Meals

Costs $400

We need to ensure out talent and crew of 30 are well fed for their efforts for 2 days of shooting.

Rental Equipment

Costs $1,500

Camera and lighting equipment are necessary to ensuring the quality of our production.

COVID Sanitation Supplies

Costs $100

Extra COVID precautions are necessary while filming during a pandemic to ensure everyone's safety.

External Hard Drives

Costs $500

Hard Drives and backup drives are important to manage and retain the footage during file transfers.

Insurance and Permit fees

Costs $500

General Liability insurance and permit fees are expected cost for any production.

Cash Pledge

Costs $0

About This Team

Michael "Masaru" Sasaki (Writer, Producer, "Danny") is a Los Angeles native who was a competitive figure skater before becoming an actor. He won the Junior Olympics at 14 and later traveled the globe skating in world class shows. He receives his B.A. in Liberal Arts at Soka University of America, a university dedicated to buildling peace and fostering global citizens. At Soka, Michael developed the passion to become an artist for peace. Michael began acting in 2008, and has appeared on tv shows such as S.W.A.T., Cobra Kai and Shameless. Michael is passionate about truthful storytelling and is looking forward to delving into topics like LGBTQ identity, gender identity, and the Japanese-American experience. Michael hopes MASARU will encourage people to really listen to what's in their hearts and live true to themselves. 

Ruben Navarro (Director) Born in Malaga, Spain, Ruben is an enthusiastic filmmaker based in Los Angeles since 2010. “Of Hearts and Castles” is his 3rd short film as writer/director and it has its World Premiere at Outfest LGBTQ Film Festival in August 2020. He previously wrote and directed “In Tune With You” (2012), and directed “Monsters of the Night” (2015). All his films screened at more than 50 festivals and received 9 awards. Ruben is also a highly experienced editor. His recent work includes editing
the first season of the show "East of La Brea" (SXSW) for executive producer Paul Feig and directed by Emmy nominee Sam Bailey ("Dear White People"). Ruben has also worked on Fox, Netflix and Quibi shows. Mr. Navarro's work as an editor has been showcased in more than 80 official selections. He is currently editing the last short film he directed "i am", he has just finished writing a feature film he will be directing called “Me, After You”. He is also a 2018 Film Independent Project Involve Fellow.

Camila Villanueva (Producer) is a former biomedical engineer turned filmmaker. She is so happy to have made the switch pursuing a life that sparks a fire in her soul and hopes to inspire more people to do the same through her films. She has worked in the industry as a First AD and Producer for many short films, feature films, music videos and commercials. Some of her work include Steve Aoki ft. Lay Zhang's "Love you More" music video and "Ashley Jones is Perfectly Normal," a feature length comedy featuring a Japanese-American lead coming to theaters and streaming platforms soon. As a Filipino-American writer/director/producer, Camila is so excited to be a part of another Asian-American production and can't wait to bring the MASARU Short Film story to life for audiences of all backgrounds to enjoy.

Maxim Varen (Director of Photography) is a cinematographer and director who was born and raised in Ukraine. He moved to the US in 2017 to pursue his career in film. He has been extensively working on film sets for the past 2 years and is currently studying at UCLA Extension. His directorial debut short film “The Outcoming” has been accepter to multiple film festivals and has been declared as a finalist in two of them. As a cinematographer, he always looks for a unique way to tell the story through the camera lens and strives to create a strong visual language in all of his work.

Gigi Harding (Costume Designer) is a French/American costume designer and skilled seamstress who grew up in Paris, studied in Rome and worked in London before relocating to Los Angeles over a decade ago. She prides herself on consistently crafting an appropriate aesthetic in a collaborative process that helps actors realize their character while bringing a director’s creative vision to life. Gigi has a particular expertise in historical costume and is fascinated by how costumes can facilitate the telling of a story. 

Mari Villanueva (Art Director) has worked as a Production Designer for several short films, feature films, and music videos. Her keen eye for detail helps her add to the narrative and scenes for her sets. She's known for working on music videos like Steve Aoki's "Love U More Ft. Lay Zhou &" and Coco Quinn's "All I Want For Christmas (Cover)", and feature film "Ashley Jones is Totally Normal". When she's not working sets, she's finding anything creative to do with her time like dance, pottery, and art.

Current Team