Ping-Wen Wang (PROD – M.F.A. ’15) received the opportunity of a lifetime landing a position as a production assistant on Martin Scorsese’s new movie Silence, filmed in her native Taiwan. The film, currently in theaters, tells the story of two Jesuit priests (played by Liam Neeson and Andrew Garfield) who endure violence and persecution while attempting to spread the gospel of Christianity in Japan during the seventeenth century.
While in Taiwan visiting her family in 2015, fellow student Kuan-Fu Lin (PROD – M.F.A. ’15) recommended Wang to the production supervisor on the film. Two days before Wang was scheduled to return to LMU, she was offered an interview. After two rounds of interviews, Wang was offered the position of on-set production assistant in the assistant director crew. “I was unsure whether I should take it or not, but my parents, Assistant Professor Kennedy Wheatley, Associate Professor Swanson, Professor Gebhard and Dr. Shin gave me full support and encouraged me to take the opportunity,” said Wang.
As a production assistant, Wang’s primary duties included controlling noise on the set, helping the assistant directors, managing up to 200 extras and handling the crew’s walkie-talkies. She credits her education at LMU with helping her excel in the role. “The pre-production class in the first year at SFTV really helped. We used one-line schedule and breakdown from Movie Magic scheduling software in the AD crew. It’s easy to understand since we learned it at LMU. Also, the experience on LMU student sets made it easier to handle tasks and helped me be very proactive at work.”
Although days on set ran anywhere from 16 to 20 hours, she managed to work on her senior thesis during her days off. “Irma Pužauskaitė (PROD – M.F.A. ’15) was editing my thesis film with me long distance,” said Wang. “On my days off we Skyped, I gave her notes and we discussed the film. I also had my composer, sound designer and colorist in Los Angeles. They were ready to work on my film once the picture was locked. It’s amazing that we can do everything long distance.”
When asked about what she enjoyed most about the experience, Wang said, “My favorite days were when we were shooting the big scenes. There was a day when we were filming the opening scene. They built the whole street to represent the seventeenth century and used special effects to create rain and smoke all over the street. I was assigned to direct a few extras. It was really unforgettable.”
In 2015, Wang was named one of Variety’s 110 Students to Watch.