The Student News Site of Malvern Preparatory School

Friar's Lantern

The Student News Site of Malvern Preparatory School

Friar's Lantern

The Student News Site of Malvern Preparatory School

Friar's Lantern

    Alex “Iggy” Igidbashian (’09) on His Upcoming Film- Haenyeo: A Documentary

    The Friar’s Lantern had the opportunity to interview Alex Igidbashian, Malvern alumnus of the Class of 2009 and film student at Drexel University, about his upcoming senior film thesis Haenyeo: A Documentary. Igidbashian has launched a Kickstarter campaign along with his co-director/producer Kevin Sawicki to fund the project.

    Why did you get into filmmaking?

    It was actually a bit of a round-about journey. Someone once told me my writing (storytelling) was half decent, so I decided to pursue it. I had written short stories, poetry and other things, but they weren’t quite what I wanted to do. I have always had a fondness for films and images (I do a lot of photography as well) and decided to try my hand at Screenwriting, which ended up being my declared major upon entering Drexel University. However, the more I was surrounded by the production aspects of film, the more I was drawn to the hands on and more visual work of actually making movies, not just writing them. I ended up changing my major to Film & Video and declared a minor in Screenwriting. Since then I haven’t looked back. Filmmaking is the perfect blend of my passions of storytelling and photography.

    Was there a specific moment in your life or film that you saw that strongly influenced you?

    Though I cannot say there was one specific moment, I do remember certain films having an effect on me when I was younger. It sounds a bit cliché for my generation but Fight Club was one of those films. It struck a chord with me and I couldn’t help but think “Wow, films, like any great piece of art, can really affect you emotionally. They can change the way you feel, the way you think about things.” It gave birth to a desire to create something that would affect people in the way that I was affected. There were other films of equal importance that influenced me for different reasons. For instance, Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings introduced me to the idea of telling an epic story on a universal scale, all while pushing the bounds of what is possible in the art of filmmaking. They showed me that you can create your own world where anything is possible, you have full reign to make the rules. It’s amazing, there really are no bounds in this medium, if you can dream it, and you have the money, you can do it.

    How did you learn about the Haenyeo divers? You have to admit, the subject matter is pretty obscure to the average person.

    I agree, outside of the Korean & Japanese cultures, and especially in the west, the Haenyeo are completely unknown. The existence of the Haenyeo and the idea for this project were presented to me by my friend and co-director/producer, Kevin Sawicki. Kevin’s mother is a native of Korea who grew up knowing about the divers, and his father was actually one of the first Americans to scuba dive with these women. Growing up, Kevin was told stories and shown pictures of Jeju Island and has since had a passion to further explore this culture.

    Why travel all the way to South Korea? Why this project?

    This film will serve as my (and Kevin’s) Senior Project for Drexel Film & Video. These thesis films are meant to be ambitious— it’s the time to pull out all of the stops or prior hindrances that we have experienced as young filmmakers. While the idea of writing and directing a scripted narrative was appealing, the allure of traveling across the world to make a film is overwhelming. It’s simply an opportunity that I could not pass up.

    What first attracted you to this project?

    The chance to share with the world an extremely unique culture that is completely different from anything I, and most, have ever experienced. The history, occupation, and lifestyle of the Haenyeo are so unique that they deserve to be documented. The very existence of these women was enough for me to be awestruck, but the opportunity to travel to Korea to make a film about them is absolutely amazing.

    What is the main message of the documentary?

    The goal of this project is the preservation of a fleeting culture. Though some of the women see their work as outdated and are willing to let it fade into history, we want to document and share it with the world while it is still around. Understanding people who are different from you can completely change your perspective. It can make the world a smaller place and maybe even push you to question what is important your life.

    How long do you plan to shoot in Korea?

    We will spend just under three weeks in Korea: March 19th – April 6th, which in terms of making a documentary is practically no time at all. However, considering the scheduling and budgeting conflicts that we have encountered, I am grateful to have this opportunity at all.

    What are some of your favorite films and favorite directors?

    Oh man, always a tough one, but I’m glad you asked about directors because I prefer that question over specific films! The great thing about film, well all art actually, is the amazing diversity available within the medium. With that in mind, directors such as: Akira Kurosawa (JPN), Stanley Kubrick (USA), Chan Wook Park (KOR), Werner Herzog (GER), Guy Ritchie (ENG), and Wes Anderson (USA) are just a few of my favorites who all use this art form in different ways, yet are still able to get their story and their message across to the audience.

    In your opinion, what makes a good film?

    Story. Whether it’s a scripted narrative or a documentary, the most important thing is story. It is the driving force that should influence all other creative decisions that are made. Even if you have the most amazing camera, the perfect subject matter, the best lighting team, or unbelievable special effects, they may seem hollow if they are not supporting a good story.

    How would you describe your film education?

    Education in a creative or artistic field is very difficult because of subjectivity. Though there are techniques and skills that can be taught and learned, the validity of your end product lies with the viewer [teacher or otherwise]. That being said, the most important lesson that my education in film has taught me is that the amount of effort and time that you put into your work will undoubtedly affect the level of your finished project. This seems like a hackneyed notion, especially in terms of education; however, I think that no matter the person or the venture, you should put everything you have into what you are doing because in the end, your product speaks louder than anything else. In short: it doesn’t matter what you are doing, just make something you are proud of!

    Who has been your biggest inspiration?

    There are many figures from many different facets of life who inspire me. For starters, my loving parents, incredible brothers and ever supportive family push me to keep pursuing my dreams. On top of that, there are artists, filmmakers, photographers, writers, historical figures, even random people I meet in the street who greatly inspire me, but they all have something in common: they found something that they believe in, something they love, something that makes them happy, and they pursue it to its fullest extent. If you are doing that, I don’t think much else matters.


    Any other comments?

    I wish the best to the Malvern Community! I cannot thank you enough for giving me this opportunity to spread the word and for supporting Haenyeo, I hope everyone finds it as interesting and inspirational as I do.

    We are still accepting online donations until Feb. 24th:

    There is no donation that is too small, every penny counts!

    For more information / updates about the project and our journey please check out our Facebook page:

    Thank you again!

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