Live Chat with Best Doc Oscar Nominee Lucy Walker

walker_lucy-filmmaker-bio.jpgFilmmaker Lucy Walker joined us for a live chat on Wednesday, February 9 to talk about her film Waste Land. The documentary, which airs April 19 on Independent Lens has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
The film follows Brazilian artist Vik Muniz, who travels to his native Rio de Janiero to embark on an ambitious mission to create portraits of the local trash pickers out of the garbage they collect the world’s largest landfill.
After the jump, replay the chat or read the transcript!



Just want to read a transcript? Here you go:
Independent Lens:
Hey everyone, the chat will begin at 1 PM but feel free to submit your questions now. We’ll moderate them so we can cover the most ground we can during the time Lucy is here!
Independent Lens:
Lucy will be with us shortly. Meanwhile, start submitting your questions NOW so we can get to all of them in the next hour.
Independent Lens:
Please join us in congratulating Lucy Walker and the Waste Land team on their recent Academy Award Nomination for Best Documentary Feature. Waste Land will air on Independent Lens on April 19 and you can find more info on the program and series here: http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/waste-land/
Independent Lens:
Brazilian artist Vik Muniz is the star of Waste Land. He was also featured in the ITVS film – Worst Possible Illusion: The Curiosity Cabinet of Vik Muniz. Find more info on the film here: http://www.itvs.org/films/worst-possible-illusion
You can also find some interesting video of Vik form TED TALKS back in ’07: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ik9x-eu49_c
Lucy Walker:
Hello!
Independent Lens:
Welcome Lucy, to this live chat. Allow me to say for all of us, congratulations on your nomination!
Lucy Walker:
Thank you so much! It’s like a fairytale…
Lucy Walker:
from the largest landfill in the world to the biggest red carpet on the planet!
Lucy Walker:
And we have AMAZINGLY GOOD NEWS
Independent Lens:
Tell us!
Lucy Walker:
which is that the President of the Association of Pickers of Recyclable Materials, the star of our movie Tiao, has just got his US visa so he can be my date to the Oscars
Independent Lens:
That is fantastic! What a fairytale indeed!
Independent Lens:
Here we go with some questions from viewers …
Lucy Walker:
Great! I’m ready
[Comment From Jaimie: ]
My question/s: How did you decide which workers to include in the film and that Vik would create a portrait? How much time did you spend with the workers before you began filming? Are you still in contact with the people in the film and how are they doing now?
Lucy Walker:
Thanks Jamie! Well it was the artist Vik who decided which workers to include, and he chose partly based just on whose photograph he thought he could turn into a good picture. Aren’t the people featured in the film amazing!
[Comment From Harold S.: ]
What made you want to make a film about Vik? Where did you first hear about him?
Lucy Walker:
I first heard about Vik because I used to live in NYC when I went to film school at NYU and he had some great pieces in a photo show
Lucy Walker:
I just really liked his work and thought it was really visual, really cinematic, and it was through our co-producer Peter Martin and producer Angus Aynsley that I met him a couple of years later in Newcastle, England
Lucy Walker:
Going back to Jamie’s question if anyone would like to be in touch with the catadores they should go to our facebook page http://www.facebook.com/WasteLandMovie
because the people in the movie read it and are very happy when people write on the wall their comments about the film. And I’m pleased to say that everyone in the film is doing very well — except sadly Valter, who passed away when we were making it but we will always remember, especially his saying “99 is not 100″
[Comment From Cat: ]
As Vik Muniz believes, art can be transformational and so can money received — in this case from the sale of art — and given to people in poverty. How have their lives changed?
Lucy Walker:
In lots and lots of ways….
Lucy Walker:
Tiao when he heard about the Academy Award nomination said that he thought maybe the clock would tick to midnight and he’d lose his shoes and things would go back to the way they were before….
Lucy Walker:
but then he said that things will NEVER go back to the way they were before. They can’t because so much has happened — lots of money raised, lots of awareness of the amazing jobs as environmental stewards that these people are doing so brilliantly, and even right now the recycling laws in Brazil are changing!
Lucy Walker:
And I think for the people, you can really see with your own eyes watching the film and witness the life-changing effects of this project on the people in the film — Vik as well as the catadores…
Lucy Walker:
as Magna says in the movie, she used to be ashamed and hide the fact that she worked at the landfill from her family, but now she tells everyone with pride
[Comment From fariba: ]
Were you surprised that Waste Land was nominated? With two films this year, did you think your film Countdown to Zero had a better shot?
Lucy Walker:
Gosh, I love both my films and I’d have voted for both!!!! Countdown To Zero – as you know but perhaps not everyone does – is about nuclear weapons and is such an important subject — I actually think THE most urgent and important subject — but it is very scary and difficult to talk about, whereas WASTE LAND, even though it is filmed partly in a landfill, is really inspiring and uplifting, so perhaps that’s why it was a bit tougher for COUNTDOWN…
Lucy Walker:
Of course in my ideal fantasy world BOTH films would have been nominated but it’s a dream come true for WASTE LAND — for the pickers to come to the Kodak theater, WOW. They suffer such ostracism and prejudice, and to be celebrated by the Academy is the hugest honor.
[Comment From Blaze: ]
If you don’t win (not that that’s going to happen) which other documentary would you like to win the oscar?
Lucy Walker:
Hi Blaze, and THANK YOU!. And we will only win if lots of Academy voters agree with you so please spread the word….
Lucy Walker:
honestly, what an honor this year to be nominated. What amazingly, amazingly good company… but I couldn’t pick another film that isn’t WASTE LAND!!!
[Comment From Eugene Hernandez: ]
Hi Lucy!! Congrats!! A two pronged question: Its been an incredible 15 years for non fiction film. As a filmmaker, how do you define ‘documentary’? And can you talk about some films & filmmakers that influence your viewpoint?
Lucy Walker:
Great question! And I agree this is the golden age of docs. Some films that have had a HUGE impact on me:
Lucy Walker:
HOOP DREAMS — because the twists and turns of real life can be just as edge-of-the-seat thrilling as any fiction script. I just saw Steve James’s new film at SUndance, THE INTERRUPTERS, and that’s mindblowing as well
Lucy Walker:
Barbara Kopple’s films AMERICAN DREAM and HARLAN COUNTY USA. she was my teacher and taught me everything
Lucy Walker:
and STREETWISE about homeless kids in Seattle — I couldn’t believe how intimate it was
Independent Lens:
(fyi…The Interrupters is another ITVS film and it showed wonderfully at sundance)
[Comment From Gary: ]
Since art and film are so transformational – what transformations/changes did you experience in making this film?
Lucy Walker:
Hi Gary! Well I’m definitely a bit better at recycling now! And a lot more conscious of consumption and waste. But more than that, just INSPIRED. The catadores have had so much challenge in their lives yet are the most dignified, inspirational, courageous people I can imagine…
Lucy Walker:
it’s hard not to feel truly awed and humbled by the way they have faced difficulties in their lives, to emerge as the coolest people i’ve ever met.

[Comment From Heather H.: ]

Hello Lucy – first of all, great film. Congratulations! Wanted to ask about funding: was it hard to find initial money for the film? Did your “name” help? (I saw your film “Blindsight” and it was very good). Did you find all the money before the shoot, or were funds coming in as you were filming? And what about distribution – did you have a distributor before you started, or at least some people who have expressed interest in distributing it? Also, how long did it take you (and the producers) to make the film – from and to?
Lucy Walker:
Hi Heather. I’ll answer your great question in chunks… here goes
Lucy Walker:
It definitely helps having made a film before when you are getting funding for the next one. But what helps the most is just having a good project. If you have a good project then you WILL find funding. Sometimes it’s slow – i always encourage myself that cream only rises to the top SLOWLY. but there’s no doubt that people funding want to fund good projects, so they need YOU.
Lucy Walker:
we got seed money to start the film and make a little trailer, which is basically the very beginning of the movie in New York, then got in touch with our Brazilian co-production company O2 Filmes, and got the rest of the money through brazilian tax incentives
Lucy Walker:
our US distributor ARTHOUSE FILMS – who are GENIUS by the way – came on board after we premiered at Sundance, thanks to our genius sales agent E1 Charlotte Mickie…
Lucy Walker:
and the whole journey was almost five years!
[Comment From Jaimie: ]
How involved were you in the editing process and structuring the story? Was it hard to pull the story together or did it flow naturally?
Lucy Walker:
Hi Jamie! I was super involved in post. Our AMAZING editor Pedro Kos and I had a dream collaboration and worked very closely together. There was a very strong chronological story which we followed and we really tried to use that and work that.
[Comment From Jan: ]
I would like to know more about how Moby got involved to write the music for the film.
Lucy Walker:
hi Jan!! I can’t believe my luck because I’m a very old friend of Moby’s from back when I moved to NYC and was supporting myself DJing at night and going to film school by day, and he’s as generous as he is genius because he GAVE us all the music to the film. I just asked him….
Lucy Walker:
but the good news for everyone who isn’t lucky enough to have Moby as their friend is that he has a site called Mobygratis.com where he gives students and independents lots of his music for free — it’s BRILLIANT and i highly recommend it!
[Comment From Quinn: ]
Have you seen the other nominees? Do you know the directors, and have you spoken to them?
Lucy Walker:
Hi Quinn. I knew Tim from Oxford! I was friends with his roommate at University in England. And I’d met Sebastian the other RESTREPO director and admired his writing. I met Josh last year at True/False and we became friends on the festival circuit all year. And i just met the Banksy team and Charles Ferguson at the nominees lunch last monday…
Lucy Walker:
an amazingly cool bunch of guys! But I tell you what, I’m the only woman and i’m so glad that there’s at least one woman in that line-up to keep em honest!!!
[Comment From Paula: ]
Do you find that funders accept women more readily as producers than directors? What challenges did you face as a woman specifically?
Lucy Walker:
Hi Paula! I think a lot of funders tend to be really enlightened and progressive folks, in fact some grants and opportunities are ONLY for women like Chicken & Egg Pictures…
Lucy Walker:
But at the high-status, high-budget end I fear that it tends to get less female-friendly…
Lucy Walker:
and the challenges can vary from external to internal… sometimes it’s an internal challenge to muster the confidence and persistence you need…
Lucy Walker:
but what helps me is knowing that it’s extra-important and extra-exciting to get women’s voices out and listened to, and that there are different stories and views that are not being adequately represented, so we have an extra incentive to help us with the extra challenge!
[Comment From artlover: ]
what does vik muniz think about the film? was it difficult to get him to participate?
Lucy Walker:
thanks artlover! Vik is as proud and happy about the film as we all are — which is an awful lot :0)
Lucy Walker:
and it wasn’t too hard to get him to participate, but then again maybe that was because he really liked my first two films DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND and BLINDSIGHT and was really respectful of my process as a filmmaker, for example not interfering with our edit with any silly vanity concerns. Just really cool artist to artist stuff, which was awesomely helpful.
[Comment From Anna: ]
What is your next project(s)?
Lucy Walker:
Hi Anna! I’ve got a couple of really really cool projects that I’m itching to tell people about but they are not quite ready to talk about yet.
[Comment From C.: ]
Hello – Congrats Lucy! What was it like working with Fernando Meirelles (wow!) on this film? Could you see yourself eventually creating more fictional features as he has done since his early TV / documentary career?
Lucy Walker:
Hi C! Well I started out with theater and fiction short films and always thought that was what I wanted to do, and would really like to make a fiction film — but then again, I couldn’t have had a better time than with these docs, so ideally I’d love to work on both and see what sticks…
Lucy Walker:
And isn’t Fernando amazing! CITY OF GOD was so brilliant and we’re so proud he’s an Executive Producer of the film!
Independent Lens:
And because no film chat is complete without discussion of gowns and jewels …
[Comment From Danelle: ]
It must be asked … “who” will you be wearing on the red carpet?
Lucy Walker:
Oh dear… the terrible truth is that there’s LOTS of work to do and I haven’t gotten around to figuring it out yet. I might have a designer design a beautiful recycled dress… trying to keep highlighting the themes of the movie… but there’s a lot of work to do still!
[Comment From Scott: ]
What do you think is the best investment a filmmaker can make? Grad School for Film or a film?
Lucy Walker:
Hi Scott. Good question. I was super-lucky as I had scholarships to help pay for most of my going to NYU Grad Film school, and also I had a lot to learn as I had never made a film before, and also I got a visa to come to NYC so for me film school was a dream package…
Lucy Walker:
but it is awfully expensive and if I’d been in a different position I wouldn’t have been able to go to NYU – i just advised a friend to leave film school and spend the money on a project – it can be a lot of debt to build up and head into an uncertain industry. But then again, what’s GREAT is that you learn a lot, meet a great group of peers, and it really FORCES you to concentrate on making your projects. If i hadn’t been at film school it would have been so much harder for me to actually finish my short films, concentrate on my own projects not work for other people, all that. So it’s a really personal individual case-by-case question.
Independent Lens:
OK, Lucy, thank you for all of your thoughtful answers! Great chat. We wish you the best of luck at the Oscars, and can’t wait to see the film on Independent Lens on April 19!
Lucy Walker:
THANKS! I hope everyone tunes in. OOH and WASTE LAND is still in theaters in LA, NYC and around the country so please watch it on a big screen if you can!!! check out wastelandmovie.com for showtimes and screenings! And then tell your friends and to watch it on PBS Independent Lens on April 18th!
Lucy Walker:
Whoops April 19th!! Sorry, Oscar-brain :)
Independent Lens:
Understood! Thanks everyone for joining us to ask Lucy questions (and wish her luck for the Oscars!) Here, once again, is the trailer for the Oscar nominated doc Waste Land…Enjoy!

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  • http://www.youtube.com/KAJALCHOUDHURYFILM KAJAL CHOUDHURY

    Hi! Lucy Walker,
    This is really amazing job you have done….congratulation for the documention and your mind blowing brilliant work.
    we expect more work from you and show to the world of injustice to those people around us are helping in our daily life.
    we must honor and respect to them and do something for them.without them world is empty …they are beauty of the reality and they save our soul.
    Lovely work…I love to watch the complete film.
    Have a great time.
    Thanks
    Kajal

  • http://www.monsoonvt.com julia Genatossio

    I am so sorry to have missed this conversation. I only just saw the film this morning and I feel so overwhelmed by how close you brought us to the trash pickers.
    I work with trash, our pickers are in Jakarta, Indonesia. I would love to do a project with the Brazilian pickers.
    Congratulations on your wonderful work, I hope it’s impact is deep and contributes to the much needed change for the trash pickers of the world.