Aaron Wang Is A Student To Be Remembered

Graduate cinematography student at Chapman University, Aaron Wang, who died on a University of Southern California film set earlier this spring. Photo courtesy of Dodge College.

When I started film school, everyone seemed so intimidating. 

Everyone seemed to know what they were doing, seemed to know more, and had even seen more movies than me. 

But I was a freshman and I knew as I learned and grew, that would change. 

It didn’t. Now, as a rising senior, I still feel intimidated every time I meet someone new. 

There was only one instance where that wasn’t the case. 

Myself on the set of “The Dark Room.”

Last November I had the chance to be a script supervisor on a junior film. I didn’t know anyone else on set. The only person I did know I was subbing for because she couldn’t be there that weekend. 

And on my first day, I had to carpool with two grad students. 

I don’t think anyone can be more intimidating than a grad student. 

It was early on Friday morning, a light fog covered the sun making it all the worse to be awake before 7 a.m. 

I sat in the parking lot of Marion Knott Studios to meet one of the grad students I’d be driving with to set. 

When he got there I got out to let him know it was me he was meeting (despite no one else being in the parking lot) and he came over, hopped in the back seat and fell asleep. 

Any intimidation I was facing by driving these grad students to set disappeared. 

I almost didn’t know how to react. I just turned my music down and drove to pick up the other student and we headed over to Riverside. 

It was funny to me. He didn’t try to stay awake. Start a conversation. He just hopped in some strange girl’s car and immediately let his guard down. 

The other kept a light conversation with me but eventually it was quiet in the car while Harry Styles serenaded us for the whole 40-minute drive. 

When we got there, my backseat passenger immediately got to work. He was the key grip so he was doing all the heavy lifting and busy work for the camera team. 

Aaron Wang and some of the crew from the junior AP “The Dark Room,” last November when the film was in production.

Just watching him made me exhausted. I understood why he needed the extra nap time in my car. 

Also throughout the day, I watched him stay focused on everything. I knew as a grad student he would be dedicated, but I’d never seen a camera team work together so well, all matching a fantastic energy that they seemed to share exclusively. 

Then at the end of the day, I had to sit out by my car as he and the camera team carefully packed away all of the camera equipment for safekeeping overnight. I was done with my work as soon as the director yelled cut, they weren’t. So I had to do a lot of waiting. 

But it was because of the time and dedication my passengers had that cinematography always ran smoothly on set.

It was too short of a weekend to truly appreciate Aaron Wang’s passion for his craft. 

And he lived too short a life for everyone in the world to realize how ready he was to make some incredible things. 

When I heard of his passing a few weeks ago I really couldn’t believe it.

For someone so young and with so much potential to lose their life…

For someone I knew, if only for a short while, to pass away…

I still can’t even come to terms with it. 

But I feel honored that I got to witness his talent. His dedication.

I learned after he passed that his focus was cinematography. 

While he was a key grip on the set I worked on and not the main director of photography, I could tell from the work I saw him put in that he was ready for so much more outside of film school.

I believe that the work he put into this world while he was still here will live on. Someone with that much passion definitely left a lasting impression on so many people he met. 

He was on the verge of stepping out in the world; and despite his physical self not being able to make what he was destined to, I know that the influence he had on others around him will be carried through their work.

May he rest in peace, the work he left behind inspire many, and his passion live on in others that knew him.

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Natalie Cartwright is a film production major with an emphasis in editing and a minor in visual journalism. In her free time, she enjoys watching movies and going to Trader Joe's.