If you’ve seen LMU SFTV’s website lately, photos on our social channels, or even a recent ad campaign then you’re most likely admiring the work of ace behind-the-scenes (BTS) photographer and producer Po Wei Su ’21 MFA.
Through his lens, Su has captured many of his fellow graduate and undergraduate students in their natural surroundings–on a film set. We recently caught up with Su to learn more about what inspires him and how he came to be the BTS extraordinaire.
When did you get your first camera? How much photography did you do before coming to SFTV?
I got my first camera in my senior year [of high school] and it totally blew my mind although it’s just a Canon 700D. I had it for at least four years because I didn’t have money to buy or upgrade to a better one, but during that time period, I learned to play with whatever equipment you have and made the most of it. I had been working as a producer and BTS photographer for two years before coming to SFTV, mostly with commercials and music videos.
How was your experience working on your thesis? What are your long-term goals as a filmmaker?
My thesis “Before Night Shift,” follows a man who, after a post-work conversation over a late-night snack, realizes he must come to a critical decision about his relationship with his boyfriend. It’s currently in post-production but I hope to be able to share it with everyone soon. I want to keep working as a producer, no matter what format it is. I’d loved to stay in the States so I’m working on my working visa.
What do you enjoy about taking pictures on film and TV sets? What do you look for when taking these photos for SFTV students?
I love to observe people’s interaction, I think that’s an important skill for a producer which helps me as a BTS photographer. I feel that a good BTS photographer should be able to capture those great moments of true reactions on-set, for example, the struggle of the director, the relief after a DP gets a great shot, a dialed-in gaffer who doesn’t even notice this BTS guy walking around.
What can good BTS photos do to help support a film or TV show?
I’d say good behind-the-scenes content is a powerful mechanism for building a connection with the audience, even the cast and crew, by sharing the memory of an experience. A good BTS photographer should always be unnoticed, documenting everyone while working in the background.
Who inspires you? (Whether filmmaker or photographer etc.)
I watch a lot of random stuff. I think watching different formats of art makes me more creative when I’m doing BTS on set. Here are some photographers/painters/animators I like:
- Gregory Crewdson: https://gagosian.com/artists/gregory-crewdson/
- Edward Hopper: https://www.edwardhopper.net
- Kevin McGloughlin: https://www.kevinmcgloughlin.com
- Yat Ng: https://www.instagram.com/yat_ng/?hl=en
- Ben Zank: http://www.benzank.com
- Vilhelm Hammershøi: http://www.artnet.com/artists/vilhelm-hammershøi/
- Robby Müller (cinematographer of Paris, Texas): https://www.bjp-online.com/2019/06/robby-müllers-unseen-polaroids/
How has SFTV supported your career goals and learning?
I’d say Visual Design Class is my favorite class so far. I want to give a shout-out to professor Mikael Kreuzriegler, he always supports and guides without showing the direction, which is really helpful.
Top image: Portrait of Po Wei Su by Fiori Carmen; All other images by Po Wei Su