Richard Zajac of Missouri travelled to Japan in September 2011 to film his documentary on the Fukushima disaster and its aftermath. © Photo courtesy Richard Zajac.
As an 18-year-old senior student at Whitfield School in Creve Coeur, Missouri, SEJ member Richard Zajac was already considering filmmaking as a career. After the tsunami disaster, Richard researched the ramifications and decided to head to the Fukushima Prefecture to film help out and inspire others to do the same. He connected with the non-profit Safecast, which was measuring radiation levels.
Next, Richard travelled to California, where he interviewed ocean expert Jean-Michel Cousteau on the effects on marine life of radiation in the waters.
Later in October, he attended the Society of Environmental Journalists' annual conference  in Miami. There he previewed his documentary film "New Hibakusha."
- More information: "First-time Filmmaker Takes on Tsunami,"  Suburban Journals, November 17, 2011, by Mary Shapiro.
Watch "New Hibakusha: High School Student's Quest for Fukushima Truth,"  a video clip of Richard's documentary:
Richard's comments on SEJ and participating in SEJ's 21st Annual Conference:
"I recently attended SEJ’s conference in Miami where the oceanic environmental focus provided me eye-opening access to top experts in the field. The opportunity to network with fellow members brought depth and breadth to my current project addressing Japan’s recovery from the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis. It’s never easy gathering facts for an untold story, but SEJ provided me with the resources I needed to develop the plot and form friendships and contacts around the world. During just one of the conference’s ‘field trips’ I attended a panel where Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials and townspeople alike discussed expansions at Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant, and I had the opportunity to present a short teaser video of my documentary-in-progress to conference attendees. I credit the Society’s vast portfolio of knowledge and members for helping me work to finish this project on a rapid timetable."
More photos of Richard's trip to Japan:
Visit SEJ's youth corner: Young Journalists in the News