How God Used a Pastor to Change a Filmmaker
Meet Brian Ivie. He is the award-winning 20-something-year-old filmmaker who became a Christian while filming The Drop Box, a feature-length documentary about a South Korean pastor who gives his life to save the lives of unwanted babies.
The film is a story of hope that both inspires and challenges. Watching it is painfully good for the soul. It was released by Focus on the Family in association with Pine Creek Entertainment, Kindred Image and Fathom Events earlier this year in select theaters. The DVD can now be pre-ordered for release on June 1, and church licensing is available.
While the film is a must-see, the story behind the story is definitely one worth telling. Listen as director Brian Ivie tells The Stand how God changed his life through The Drop Box.
The Stand: Why did you decide to make a film about Pastor Lee Jong-rak?
Brian Ivie: One morning over breakfast, I read an L.A. Times article titled “South Korean pastor tends an unwanted flock.” It was all about this man in South Korea who had built a depository for babies with disabilities. I couldn’t believe it. I was haunted by the image of this man reaching into a box that held a baby. At the same time, I was compelled.
The images from this story got into my bones the way the best movies did. It was like I was seeing real courage for the first time in my life. Courage displayed on a battlefield that I actually understood: a normal neighborhood. Not Gettysburg. Not Iraq. It was just someone’s neighborhood, but the stakes were high – a matter of life and death.
TS: So what did you do?
BI: I immediately sent an email to the L.A. Times, and a Korean correspondent got right back to me with Pastor Lee’s personal contact information. I didn’t waste a minute in firing off impassioned emails to the pastor himself.
I could see it all in my mind. I was going to take this story and make it into the next Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize documentary. In a selfish way, I was going to use this story and the people in it to get where I had always dreamed of going.
A month later, I got an email from Pastor Lee, which basically said this: “Dear Brian, nice to meet you. I don’t know what it means to make a documentary film exactly, but you can come live with me if you want. Sincerely, Jong-rak Lee.”
I responded, “See you soon.”
So on December 15, 2011, 10 friends and I flew to South Korea to make a documentary about saving Korean babies. What I didn’t know then was that God was planning to save me through the making of this film.
TS: How was your life changed?
BI: A few nights ago, a little eight-year-old kid asked me what my greatest mistake in life was. A little shaken up by the question, I paused before answering. But after a few moments, I told him that my greatest mistake in life was thinking I was “too good to need God’s forgiveness.”
[M]y story … is the story of a normal kid seeing his spiritual brokenness in the physical brokenness of disabled kids. It’s the story of a regular guy seeing God’s sacrificial love in a compassionate pastor.
It’s the story of a sinner coming to the understanding that Christians aren’t “the perfect people” but the ones who know they need to be saved.
TS: I saw a video where you said that you thought you were a Christian because you didn’t smoke and you watched Fox News. That’s a provocative statement. Please explain in greater detail.
BI: People may be offended by this statement, but my point is really that lots of people think they’re Christians just because they were born here.
And quite honestly, that’s probably the most dangerous position to be in – thinking you’re somebody you’re not.
When I make this statement, I mean it as a funny but equally serious wakeup call to those that grew up in church or self-identify as Christians. Because what I know now about Jesus versus what I used to know is the difference between life and death. When you truly repent of your sin and truly believe that Jesus is the only way you’re not going to be punished for it, the transformation is incredible. It’s like being born again. It’s like walking out of the grave.
TS: What was so different about Pastor Lee that made such an impact on you?
BI: Pastor Lee helped me make sense of the Bible. He made sense of this “Father” that they kept talking about. He made sense of this “renewed life” that Christians were supposed to have.
He was a man unafraid of being known. He talked about his past as a drunk, as an abuser, as a failed father. But he wasn’t bragging about it. Why? Because he was no longer defined by those things.
Meeting Pastor Lee was like meeting the real thing. What you always hope Christians are like.
TS: In what ways has your filmmaking focus changed since your conversion?
BI: I’m not my work anymore. I don’t have anything to prove anymore. For me now, film is just another way I share the Gospel. The cool thing about that medium, though, is that it actually gives people their sight back. It gives their faith some hooks to hang on.
TS: What do you desire for people to take away from The Drop Box?
BI: All over the Internet, people keep talking about how much they love the way Pastor Lee loves those children. And my response is simple: Of course you do! You were made for it. … So, when we see God’s love on display, it attracts us at the soul level. We are drawn to it.
So for me, this movie is a love letter. It’s a letter to people with broken hearts and to people who think they don’t matter. It’s a letter to those who think their lives are meaningless. And all the letter says is this: “You’re not random. No matter what the world says, you matter, especially to Me.”
TS: What future projects do you have in the works?
BI: This year I’m starting a script about the Jesus Freaks of the 1960s. It’s about people who were lost and finally found an everlasting hope. People like me.
TS: How can our readers get involved with your efforts?
BI: They can help Pastor Lee by visiting thedropboxfilm.com and follow me on Facebook or Instagram. I’m brianivie1990.
The Pastor & the filmmaker