Westmont Magazine Producing a Future in Film
by Darshana Chetti ’04
Iris Ichishita ’02 recently produced a short film, “Heaven Cent,” for the 168 Hour Film Festival sponsored by Bel Air Presbyterian Church in California. This comedic film, based on Proverbs 13:1, is about an unlikely friendship between a man struggling to support his ailing wife and a young girl with an old soul who runs a lemonade stand. The child teaches the adult what it means to be open to opportunities, to let go of pride, and to accept a less prestigious job.
After graduating from Westmont with a degree in English and a strong interest in theater, Iris became a freelance production assistant and actor. She explains her decision to pursue production: “You must create your own projects to create your own destiny.”
While producing “Heaven Cent,” Iris also worked 60 hours a week at two jobs, waking up early and staying up late to complete the film. She credits her success to flexible jobs, understanding bosses and a great film team.
“It was the right time to make a film,” she said. Her involvement with the Westmont theatre department gave her valuable skills that helped her throughout the process. “I was able to shape myself through my experience at Westmont,” she explains.
As a Christian filmmaker, Iris relates her faith to everything she does. “Faith is integral, so I can’t help making a ‘Christian film,’” she says. However, “Heaven Cent” is not a blatantly “Christian film” such as “The Passion of Christ” or “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Rather it’s the story of humans interacting in a real-life setting who experience the ups and downs of life. Iris believes that Christian and secular producers make different types of films but that both are equally valuable.
Being a young, ethnic minority female, Iris has faced the liabilities of her mixed race, youth and gender. She has learned what it means to be underrepresented in the film industry. At the film festival, some people didn’t take her seriously, and she received comments about being too young and inexperienced.
Iris recently finished a horror film, “Unwelcome”; her partner for this project was a student from USC. She is now producing a music video for the band “The Sun,” which is on the Warner Brothers label. In summer 2005 she will work with several friends on a docudrama/ethnography in Cairo, Egypt, about women who need encouragement to emerge from oppression, start their own businesses, raise their own families and discover independence. She is raising funds independently for the upcoming venture.
While Iris admits that she could go to school forever, she also says there are many things she still wants to do. She plans to apply to law school in October. She would like to study entertainment or international law and become involved in politics later in life. “A background in law will make me a better producer and allow me to be an ambassador in the future,” she says.