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Generation Change: Lucy Walker

Film inspirations from the guest judge of our TOMS and Dazed film competition

Lucy Walker is our guest judge on the Generation Change film competition with TOMS, where you have the chance to win £5,000 to make a film about an inspiring British individual or collective that has started something that matters. Walker is one of Britain’s most celebrated documentary filmmakers whose honest and cinematic approach to exploring the most challenging stories has garnered her a reputation for films of epic beauty. Her latest, 'The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom' is an enthralling short that captures the inspiring stories from the survivors of last year's Japanese tsunami and it earned a her second successive Academy Award nomination after the Vik Muniz documentary 'Waste Land', that also won awards at Sundance, Berlin and Full Frame film festivals.

If you make interesting films then everything else will follow, because the world is very hungry for good work. I always encourage myself that if I keep trying as hard as I can then eventually something good has got to happen, even though it's easy to get daunted sometimes

Dazed Digital: When you started making documentaries, what were your initial goals with filmmaking?
Lucy Walker:
I always wanted to be a proper filmmaker and make fantastically engrossing, moving big screen films that let you experience the world from a different perspective. I just happened to get more opportunities to make non-fiction than fiction films. When I was a teenager films and music were the portal to everything that was exciting in the world.

DD: What inspires you to make films that document socially active initiatives?
Lucy Walker:
I met the artist Vik Muniz and was trying to figure out how to make a good film about him. I was worried that even the best artists don't usually make for very interesting films, unfortunately. A survey of great art is better experienced at an art show not in a film. But then I figured that following one big challenging art project from start to finish would be the best way I could try to make a film about making art. One day I had a lightbulb moment and asked Vik if he'd ever worked with rubbish as a material, or a landfill as a backdrop, 10-years-earlier I had visited a landfill and had a profound realisation that it was a fascinating place and would be an important location for a movie, and that became Waste Land.

DD: Can you tell us about how you found your inspirational story in Japan?
Lucy Walker:
Last year I was supposed to be going to Japan around cherry blossom time for a press junket for my film 'Countdown to Zero', about nuclear weapons. It was such a grim and important topic that I knew I wanted a little creative relief so I decided to go and visit the cherry blossoms all over Japan and make a film about it. I hatched that plan on 3rd March, then on 11th March the Great East Japan Earthquake struck - at magnitude 9.0 the worst in Japanese history. The junket was cancelled but felt that I shouldn't run away. Instead I wanted to continue with my trip to express our solidarity with Japanese people and appreciation of Japanese culture. I kept trying to follow my gut about what was right, and I found that everyone wanted to know how the survivors of the tsunami were doing, right when the cherry blossom season was hitting so that's what the film came to be about.

DD: What did you take away most from the people you met who had lived through such a disaster?
Lucy Walker:
The community-mindedness and resiliency of the survivors I met was truly awe-inspiring. They had witnessed unimaginable horror and lost loved ones and their entire towns and livelihoods, and yet they were focused on helping one another through it all. 

DD: What advice do you have for young filmmakers?
Lucy Walker:
If you make interesting films then everything else will follow, because the world is very hungry for good work. I always encourage myself that if I keep trying as hard as I can then eventually something good has got to happen, even though it's easy to get daunted sometimes.

Submissions are open now and the closing deadline is Tuesday 28 August. All details are below.

Submit a one-page pdf including:

- Title

- 250 word treatment

- Reference images

- Additional links to existing films in a similar style

- Personal showreel / website URL

- CV

Email: toms@dazedgroup.com with your proposed treatment

Deadline: August 28, 2012

Winner announced: September 11, 2012

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