Students are in mourning and Chapman University film school officials are reviewing already strict safety rules after a student died in a dune buggy accident on April 15 while helping students from USC on a movie set.
Peng “Aaron” Wang, 29, from China, was the cinematographer for a production in the desert community of Imperial County Glamis. The dune buggy was cruising through sand dunes when it crashed, the California Highway Patrol said. The three USC students in the vehicle were wearing restraints, but not Wang, the CHP said.
“It was one of the most horrific days of my experience here,” said Stephen Galloway, who has been dean of the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts since March 2020. “Our students were in tears.”
Chapman officials are helping Wang’s parents come to the United States. The university plans to hold a memorial service upon their arrival, Galloway said on Tuesday, April 19.
He said the students and teachers were very fond of Wang, who was a third-year graduate student who was due to earn an MFA this spring.
Wang had volunteered to work on what Galloway said was the USC student project. There is a close bond between Chinese students at Southern California film schools, and several Chinese students were on a roster of students working on the film, Galloway said. Students from Loyola Marymount University and the New York Film Academy also participated, Galloway said.
He said since the tragedy there have been discussions about whether to allow Chapman students to help film films for students at other universities. In practice, Galloway said, this could be difficult to enforce, especially on projects that are done outside of class.
It was unclear whether the USC students were shooting a movie for school credit or doing it alone, and what security measures were in place. A message was left at the USC School of Cinematic Arts on Tuesday requesting this information.
Galloway said students are “hyper, hyper, hyper supervised” at Chapman.
“We have extreme security protocols. We would not allow a shoot without all aspects of security being covered,” he said.
The Chapman Film School employs a full-time security guard who reviews permits, staff, filming plans, insurance and other details, but is not always present during filming, Galloway said. .
Galloway said he did not know the specific details of Wang’s accident, but said the security guard would not allow anyone to film from a moving vehicle without being restrained by a harness.
“Never,” he added.
Following actor Alec Baldwin’s accidental murder of a cinematographer on the set of the movie “Rust” in October, in which he used a gun Baldwin said he believed was not loaded, Galloway called a safety meeting. All usable firearms and all weapons that could be mistaken for firearms have been banned from Chapman productions, he said.
Recently, Galloway added, a student was reprimanded for going over the daily 12-hour deadline for filming a movie.