From 2002 – 2003, Elena taught English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in a Korean hakwan, a privately owned and operated educational institution. Her experiences, thoughts and reflections form the basis of this documentary, which depicts the extraordinary lives of ex-pat EFL teachers in S. Korea.
"When I joined the community of ex-pats in Ulsan, I discovered that there are as many reasons for coming to Korea as there are ex-pats living and teaching there. Over the course of my year in Korea, I realized that my fellow teachers, travelers, adventurers and cultural anomalies had unique stories to tell. Stories, including my own, that I would like to share with an international audience. The personalities, tales and thoughts of these teachers are as varied as their reasons for coming, staying and eventually, going home, and no one goes home from Korea quite the same person as when she arrived."
The (56:40) film will be arranged loosely around descriptions of the EFL field in Korea, and the accepted culture shock model. Each section will include some or all of the following: interview clips of the EFL teachers, filmmaker’s personal photos and voice-over journal entries, poetry in English and Korean (graphics and voice-overs), manipulated natural sound, footage shot in 2002-2003, and footage which will be shot this summer. The intended effect is a layered texture of sights and sounds, with interviews and personal reflections interwoven. The result will be a personally-grounded film, as opposed to a “personal documentary” or a straight interview piece.
The intended audience comprises a general and international demographic, with particular interest in current, former or prospective EFL teachers. The film may also be used as a culture shock primer for organizations such as NAFSA, or for teacher orientation for organizations such as KOTESOL or recruiters in Korea.
A combination of handheld and locked-down camera, as well as the use of professional HD and comsumer-grade miniDV equipment will reflect the contrasting cultural and personal elements and experiences of life as an ex-pat. Natural lighting and minimal interview lighting will be used to maintain a realistic canvas. This shooting style will also facilitate manipulations in post that may be applied to reflect themes and motifs.
Domestic distribution outlets will be approached, including: Documentary Educational Resources, Women Make Movies, The Cinema Guild, Inc., ITVS, POV The American Documentary, and local television programming, such as WETM-NBC TV in Elmira, NY and WCNY, the PBS affiliate in Syracuse, NY. Preliminary contacts with WETM and WCNY have been made, with interest expressed by both stations.
Korean distribution outlets will be approached as well, including Arirang TV, Korea’s English-language television station. Other Korean distribution opportunities will be identified and contacted in the coming year.
The film will be entered into international, national and regional competitions through Withoutabox.com, as well as local festivals such as High Falls Film Festival and Movies on a Shoestring, based in Rochester, NY.
NOTE: Originally, this film was conceptualized as a possible teacher-orientation video, and although I may eventually edit an orientation video out of the footage I shoot, it is not currently the project I am working on. Perhaps for the future...
Elena C. Pizarro is a late-blooming filmmaker with an M.F.A. from the Rochester Institute of Technology, and an M.A. in Linguistics from Ohio University. She produced her first international documentary, a grant-funded short on the ancient spiritual monuments of Ireland, in 1998. She is also a feature-length screenwriter.
Currently, Elena teaches academic English at Ithaca College, where she has also taught screenwriting. She has taught ESL (English as a Second Language) at Binghamton University, Ohio University and Cornell University, as well as English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in S. Korea and at Wuhan University in P.R. China.
Email Elena at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to make a contribution to the cause of making this documentary.