Redirected Director: Brian Ivie
When Brian Ivie first read about Pastor Lee Jong-rak’s story in the Los Angeles Times, he immediately thought it would be his ticket into a big film festival. As a young director just finishing film school, Ivie gathered some friends and flew to Seoul, Korea,to make a documentary about the work the pastor was doing. What started out as a ten-minute short film soon became a full-length feature. Just as the direction of the film changed, God used the experience to change the director’s heart. Ivie sat down with Risen and shared how he went from making a movie to realizing how he needed a relationship with Christ after witnessing firsthand the way Pastor Lee and his wife loved children.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine in San Diego, California
Risen Magazine: How did you first hear about Pastor Lee?
Brian Ivie: I read his story in the LA Times on June 20, 2011. The article was about a pastor who had built a mailbox for unwanted babies. More specifically, it was a depository for the disabled babies. So it was like a bin for the most disposable kids. I was eating my breakfast and I just kept rereading the article. But I felt like it really applied to me even though I wasn’t Korean and I didn’t have any Korean friends to my knowledge. I had no idea that this man would change my life forever. But I did know that it compelled me. The courage displayed was that of the classics where it wasn’t a one time heroic effort, but an ongoing courage. I decided to email him. I heard back a month later. He replied back, “Dear Brian, I don’t know what it means to make a documentary film, but you can come live with me for a month.” That would become the second most important decision of my life.
RM: What was it in the article that resonated with you? Had you been adopted?
BI: I had no reason to connect with this story. I was compelled by the story of love. I had seen love depicted in films, but I had never seen a love like this before. It was gritty and messy. I wanted to know what motivated him to do it. I realized too that if I didn’t do something about this everyone would forget this story.
RM: Pastor Lee invited you to come live with him. How did that transpire into a movie?
BI: It started out as a short film. Maybe five to ten minutes long. It became an eighty-minute feature. We didn’t think that we would raise very much money. We also didn’t want to spend that much time on it. We just saw it as a way to get to a big film festival. I wanted to help these kids, but I wanted to also become famous. It was a cocktail of motivations. I would come to understand later what those motivations really were. I later saw how dark those motivations were of using people to get something that I wanted. We started out with a Kickstarter campaign to raise $5,000 and get some cameras. We would fly out over our Christmas break as we were still in college. We ended up raising $65,000. Another person connected us with a woman who gave us a red camera to use. We flew to Seoul, Korea, to start filming about a man who built a mailbox for abandoned babies.
RM: You became a Christian while you were filming. What was that process like?
BI: I thought I was a Christian because I was good. In America, it is easy to think that you are a Christian because it is decorative. It was ironic that I got saved while making a movie because movies were my god. They were everything to me. It was what I worshipped. I was very wary of born-again evangelical Christians. But then I met some Christians that were different including my college roommate, Will. He showed me that Christians were people that aren’t afraid to be known. When I got to Korea, I met a man that wasn’t afraid to be known. He had a past. He was drunk for most of his twenties and chased skirts. I could relate to that. I was interacting with a reality that was more real than any of the dreams I had ever had for my life. Before I went on the trip, I bought a cross necklace because I wanted to be Christian director. I wanted to be that guy that others could trust. At some point, the cross can’t just be something that you buy at a store; it is what bought you. What changed my life was after seeing these disabled and broken children being dropped off, was that I was broken too, and that I had just as much going on inside of me. What the church never told me was that who you are inside, is who you are. I heard a sermon about how Jesus Christ took my place and died for my sins. I didn’t think I had any sin. I had been addicted to pornography for years. I hit my knees for the first time. I experienced the Father’s love. I saw it through Pastor Lee who took all these kids into his home.
It was ironic that I got saved while making a movie because movies were my god.
RM: What do you hope this movie accomplishes?
BI: I would hope that people see what God’s love is really like and what the Gospel is. Film has the ability to reach people that might never go to church. I hope that we can show that people matter to God and that they are significant. I think when people see how this man gives everything for these kids they will see how they matter too. Focus on the Family and Kindred Image have started the Global Orphan Fund and use the movie as a platform to help children that are forgotten and discarded in Korea and children in America in foster care that are forgotten. We want to help kids in our own backyard as well as overseas. We can put an end to these things. Stories are rare, but suffering is not.
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